Dewhurst Stakes: Andrew Balding's South Seas can hold back Aidan O'Brien tide

By Cornelius LysaghtBBC horse racing correspondent
Churchill is one of the favourites at Newmarket due to his wins at Royal Ascot and in the National Stakes

Trying to hold back the swirling rip-tide that is Aidan O'Brien's domination of the flat racing year puts one in mind of King Canute as he sat on his beach, only a few miles down the road from Goodwood, trying to give orders to the waves.

The British and Irish champion trainers' titles and an historic one-two-three in France's Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe are already in the bag, and still the runners - and winners - flow forward from O'Brien's Ballydoyle base in County Tipperary.

The latest is the colt Churchill, early favourite to star in 2017 in both the 2000 Guineas and the Epsom Derby.

He defends a record of four wins from his last four starts when lining up at odds-on for Newmarket's Group One Dubai Dewhurst Stakes, the major autumn two-year-old prize.

The principal opposition also has a maritime theme as trainer Andrew Balding sends the unbeaten colt South Seas to the race - feature of flat racing's Future Champions Day - looking to emulate some big names who've sent the prize sailing off to Balding HQ at Kingsclere, Berkshire, in the past.

"Dad [Ian] won it with Silly Season [1964], Mill Reef [1970] and Dashing Blade [1989] so maybe we're about due another one," said Balding.

"I've only ever had one runner in the race: he was sixth, and not good enough, but we're hoping this guy really is."

South Seas has been standard bearer for a team of two-year-olds that the trainer, who's poised to reach a century of winners for the year, believes to be the most promising bunch he's had since taking over from his father in 2003.

They've provided 20% of his success with three of those wins clocked up by South Seas, racing in the claret and gold silks of the Al Thani family's Qatar Racing, at Windsor, Haydock and Sandown.

Air Force Blue
Trainer Aidan O'Brien tasted victory with Air Force Blue (right) in the 2015 Dewhurst Stakes

The chestnut-coloured colt, a son of stallion Lope De Vega, is already rated just behind Churchill in the reckoning for both the 2000 Guineas and the Derby next year.

"It's been obvious since early on, when we started working them on the gallops that they were nice," said Balding, whose previous best youngster was the Qatar Racing-owned Elm Park.

"And as soon as we started South Seas on grass, he looked nicer still," he added.

"He won at Windsor by eight lengths, which was obviously pretty exciting, and then we went to Haydock and then Sandown, which probably wasn't a bad effort as he missed the start badly, and the form's looking decent as the second [Salouen] was second again on Arc Day at Chantilly.

"He's a lovely horse and physically seems to be improving all the time, and he should be better still in 2017."

  • Listen to coverage of the Dubai Dewhurst Stakes on BBC 5 Radio live on Saturday 8 October at 15:30 BST

With the mainly dry autumn affecting Newmarket as much as anywhere else, big-race ground conditions are expected to be hovering between good and good to firm, rather drier than anything South Seas encountered during an often damp summer.

But as he considers the challenge ahead, Balding, who expects to have a number of his crack juvenile squad in action on the undercard to the Dewhurst Stakes, isn't put off about the colt's prospects.

He told BBC Sport: "I suppose I'd have more confidence if the ground was softer, but he's worked at home on fast ground and went very well.

"Aidan and the Coolmore team are having a fantastic run which is great for them, but someone's got to take them on, and we're going there with a horse that's done everything asked of him really nicely, and I couldn't be happier with him."

Seven Heavens
Seven Heavens (pictured with jockey Robert Havlin) will be ridden by Frankie Dettori

Absent from the track, but watching on from home, will be Ian Balding who's been in hospital following a serious fall while out riding. The 77-year-old suffered 14 broken ribs, plus a punctured lung but is now "on the mend".

As well as South Seas and Churchill, the Dewhurst field is due to include Blue Point, representing Sheikh Mohammed's Godolphin operation; the William Haggas-trained Rivet; and Seven Heavens, unbeaten in both of his races to date and looking to continue the impressive run of champion racehorse-turned-stallion Frankel by providing a first win for his offspring at Group One level.

Fourteen of Frankel's first 'kids' to race have between them won 23 times this season.

Seven Heavens is trained by John Gosden and the mount of Frankie Dettori, who'll ride in the silks of owner Saudi prince Khalid Abdullah - also owner of Frankel.

The prince's racing manager, Teddy Grimthorpe, said: "It would be incredibly satisfying if we could own his first Group One winner. Since his last race, Seven Heavens has been great in terms of temperament and work-wise, so we're looking forward to it."