Top miler Ribchester continued Godolphin’s domination of the Lockinge Stakes with a decisive all-the-way success in the first British G1 of the season for older horses over the straight mile at Newbury on Saturday, May 20.
The Richard Fahey-trained colt, successful over the same trip in the G1 Jacques le Marois last season, broke smartly and immediately led for William Buick as stable companion and intended pacemaker Toscanini (Paul Hanagan) missed the break.
Ribchester quickened well under William Buick to open up a clear advantage passing the two-furlong marker and soon had the rest of his rivals in trouble, despite drifting right to the stands’ rail, with only Lightning Spear able to mount any serious challenge.
After straightening up inside the final furlong, Ribchester ran on again for to score impressively by three and three quarter lengths over Lightning Spear in 1m 43.00s on ground described as soft, good to soft in places, with another two and a half lengths back to the third home Breton Rock.
John Ferguson, Chief Executive and Racing Manager of Godolphin, said: “Ribchester proved here in the Mill Reef Stakes as a two-year-old that he would go on the soft ground and he has gone and really done it again today.
“The thing about this horse is that he appears to be getting better and better. It is so exciting when you have got a really top miler who is getting better and better.
“It is dead exciting – his run in Dubai definitely gave us encouragement and something we have to talk about is the distance he races over.
“My first reaction is that we remain at a mile but he is a horse that William has always said would get a mile and a quarter. So we have the Queen Anne and Prince Of Wales’s Stakes at Royal Ascot to think about.
“While he is winning over a mile like this, it is hard to change but I think he will definitely get further. I think he is one of those very special horse who go on any ground. We are thrilled with him.”
Richard Fahey commented: “I was quite nervous today – I don’t do nerves but it was a big day and you want to perform and, thank God, he did.
“It was a huge performance. We felt that there was one in him and it has all come together.
“Toscanini missed the kick, so it was plan B for Paul Hanagan, but I always felt that Ribchester could do something like he did today, which was grand. Paul was clever enough to let the race go along and these things happen.
“Mentally, Ribchester is mature and getting better physically. We have always liked him – he won a Mill Reef here as a backward two-year-old – and we feel that he is getting better, better and better.
“He excites me at home. He has just gone a little bit lazy on me at home – he used to work with a lot more enthusiasm last year – but we spent our time getting him to settle and then we want him to gallop well!
“We are happy with where he is. He is good in his mind and today would have done him the world of good.
“If we could get his mind right, we always felt that Ribchester would be special – that’s a strong word for a trainer to use but that was a special performance today.
“It’s a huge relief for me because I have always been ranting and raving about this horse. He got beat in the Sussex and was third in the 2000 Guineas last year but we always felt that he would get stronger.
“The thinking behind his run in Dubai was that, if he got that trip, it would give us more options. I have to speak to Sheikh Mohammed and John Ferguson and we will work from there but I would love to think that he would stay a mile and a quarter one day. We don’t need to go there at the moment, but it looks the obvious step now.
“I thought he would win in Dubai so I was disappointed but he was probably a bit fresh. Since Dubai he has thrived and mentally it did him the world of good going there and he picked up £500,000 for third.
“Today has to be one of the best performances of a horse from our place – Ribchester is special.
“Ribchester relaxed fine in front today. I wasn’t disappointed when Ribchester went into the lead – but a straight mile is very lonely and there was a bit of a headwind so it was not surprising that he came over to the rail.
“It looked to me that he went away at the end and this was solid form – he could mature more and I feel he will get better.”
William Buick declared: “Ribchester is a very good horse and very versatile.
“Richard and the team at home have done a fantastic job. He ran so well out in Dubai, where things probably didn’t quite work out for him, and he is just getting mentally better and physically stronger with every day that goes by.
“You would have to be very happy with that performance. He was in front the whole way basically and the ground is very testing. I am very, very happy to ride him.
“If you are going to compete in these G1 races and be successful, you have to be the complete package. The team at home have helped him become the complete package, which he is now.
“Sheikh Mohammed loves to win G1 races, he loves good horses, and this is what it is all about.”
Hawkbill made almost all of the running to gain a thrilling and decisive victory in the G3 Al Rayyan Stakes at Newbury, UK, on Saturday, May 20.
The four-year-old colt, trained by Charlie Appleby and ridden by William Buick, stepped back up to a mile and a half after coming home fifth in the G1 Prix Ganay over an extended 10 furlongs at Saint-Cloud, France, on May 1, his seasonal debut.
The winner of last year’s G1 Eclipse Stakes at Sandown Park over 10 furlongs soon disputed the early running before being sent into the lead after a furlong.
He travelled strongly turning for home and, after entering the straight, powered steadily and impressively clear of his five rivals and had the race won some way out.
My Dream Boat, also a previous G1 winner, was the only challenger to close the gap but he could never get to grips with Hawkbill who galloped on relentlessly before being eased on the line to come home two lengths ahead in 2m 42.75s on ground officially described as soft, good to soft in places, with the same margin back to Midterm in third.
John Ferguson, Chief Executive and Racing Manager of Godolphin, said: “It is great to see Hawkbill back to winning ways and hopefully he has a great year ahead of him.
“At Sandown, when he won the Eclipse, he put in a really great performance and Charlie carried on running him to give him experience and get some miles on the clock because he was a relatively mentally immature horse then.
“This year, Hawkbill started out in France and ran OK but he has come here and is a different horse. The ground is important to him and he quickened off the soft going. There are plenty of options for him now.”
Charlie Appleby said: “I am delighted and full credit to the team – Mauritzio who rides him and Shane who looks after him.
“I was confident going into the Prix Ganay but they went a steady pace over 10 furlongs which did not suit us and I knew that stepping him back up to a mile and a half was going to be his game.
“William went out there purposefully into the lead. I said ride Hawkbill with a lot of confidence and just see if the rest of them can stay in this ground. Hawkbill is proven on this ground and has gone and put up a good performance today.
“The French race did not work out but, most importantly, he got a run under his belt and definitely came forward for it.
“He was sweating in the paddock and I would have been worried if he hadn’t been – that is just him.
“William rode in a piece of work last week – he sat in behind and tried to join Hawkbill but couldn’t – so he said he knew that the horse was back on his ‘A’ game.
“Hawkbill is entered in everything. I am not saying he is ground dependent but he is a better horse with ease in the ground. So we will just have to see what the weather does. He can go over 10 or 12 furlongs as long as he has his ground, which is the key thing.
“Hawkbill is one of the few horses that can actually quicken on soft ground and that is what he has shown today.
“We know that he got a bit of a soft lead today but, when they came to him, he quickened up the straight and the rest of the field plugged on. If we are going to compete at the top level, there needs to be a bit of ease in the ground.”
William Buick added: “Charlie was very positive about going on, making the running and letting the horse prick his ears in front.
“Hawkbill has come forward from his run in the Ganay and it has done him the world of good. He goes in the ground and won well.
“It looked like he stayed well, so we are very happy with his performance. The ground doesn’t have to be as soft as today; he just likes to get his toe in. It’s hard work out there and very soft.
“He is back on track now. This was his first win since the Eclipse last year, although he has run a lot of good races in between. I would say that he has opened up the mile and a half door for himself and all those top races will be considered.”
Best of Days
Godolphin-owned Best Of Days is to be sent on a reconnaissance mission to Epsom’s ‘Breakfast With The Stars’ on Tuesday.
But trainer Hugo Palmer is warning that a start in the G1 Investec Derby on June 3 is far from certain.
“He worked at Chelmsford over a mile and a quarter and I was delighted enough with him to decide on sending him to Epsom next week to get a feel of the track,” Palmer said.
“There are then 12 days to the Derby after that, and he’s going to need every one of those days if he is going to get there,” he added.
The trainer said he would not run Best Of Days in the Derby unless he felt he had a chance of doing himself justice.
Michael Hills is to partner Best Of Days in the Breakfast With The Stars gallop.
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