Aidan O’Brien has given his strongest indication yet that 2,000 Guineas winner Churchill will stick to a mile for the time being rather than step up in trip to tackle the Investec Derby on June 3.
O’Brien’s comments came after stablemate Exemplar had finished eighth in the Dante Stakes at York on Thursday, the last key trial before the Classic in 16 days' time.
O'Brien has Derrinstown Stud Derby Trial principals, Douglas Macarthur, Yucatan and Capri, Chester Vase 1-2-3 Venice Beach, Wings Of Eagles and The Anvil, plus Dee Stakes winner Cliffs Of Moher, in the mix for the Derby, in addition to the exceptional Churchill.
"The lads will decide," said O'Brien of his possible Epsom team. "We've got the seven horses from the trials – the three from Leopardstown, the three from the Chester Vase and Cliffs Of Moher.
"The eighth would be Churchill, but there's a big chance the lads will keep him at a mile. He has a lot of speed and is very comfortable at a mile. He relaxes so well you'd think he would have no problem getting a mile and a quarter, but you never know about a mile and a half."
While Churchill still heads some Derby markets, stablemate and Dee Stakes winner Cliffs Of Moher is a shorter price elsewhere and O’Brien did nothing to dishearten his supporters.
He added: "It's going to be very interesting, especially if the lads decide to keep Churchill at a mile. The way I saw it, the three Leopardstown horses progressed from their first run to their second. The three Chester Vase horses were horses we always thought would stay very well.
"Going into Chester, Cliffs Of Moher was probably the rawest of ours. He was just ready to start and we felt if he did win we'd be very happy. Although he was very green that day he went to the line really well and probably learned a lot.
"Ryan [Moore] felt there could be a lot of improvement to come after Chester. He's started working again and everything looks lovely. I don't think there's any doubt there's great room for improvement with him."