It’s hard not to feel deflated after yesterday’s washout at Goodwood.
The heavens opened, and at the eleventh hour, Aidan O’Brien decided to protect a major asset, removing Churchill from the battlefield. It was probably a wise decision, as the remainder waded through mud, posting a winning time some 10 seconds slower than The Gurkha 12 months ago.
The seven-year-old Here Comes When caused an upset in defeating the red-hot favourite Ribchester, with Lightning Spear back in third. The favourite had loomed large a couple of furlongs out, but then appeared to almost pull himself up. Jim Crowley struck for home on the eventual winner, and looked to have the race in safe keeping, only for William Buick to summon a renewed effort from Ribchester. The line arrived too soon for the Godolphin colt, and it was Andrew Balding’s experienced campaigner that lifted the prestigious pot.
After the surprise victory, the winning trainer said: “He is here for a reason. We just prayed we got the rain and it's come in time. He is a very decent horse on this sort of ground. I think he has come back this season in better form than ever. When he won at York it was impressive on the time figures. He is stones better on this sort of ground.”
Fahey was philosophical in defeat, saying: “Its extreme conditions out there, I was very worried - it's not for a Flat horse to be racing on, it's National Hunt horses. But he's run a mighty race and he showed good heart to nearly get back up. Maybe he was a bit lonely in front and half-pulled up a bit, but that's racing, we live to fight another day. I'm disappointed, you come here expecting to win and you don't, so you are disappointed. It was a strange race. You see him now, he is hardly having a blow. He is in France in 11 days' time and we will see how he is.”
Aidan O’Brien was also left mulling over future options, and the possibility of that much anticipated clash with Ribchester, when saying: “It's extreme out there now. There are other races coming up for him. If he stays at a mile he will go to France (Prix Jacques le Marois, August 13), if he steps up to a mile and a quarter he will go for the Juddmonte (International, at York on August 23). We came here wanting to run and we're very disappointed that we're not running.
“The year is long and hopefully there'll be other chances. The ground didn't walk too bad, but there was a lot of water on top of it and it was loose and sloppy. It's probably going to get near heavy as they must have had nearly an inch of rain.”
That has to be a concern for the rest of the meeting. Other eagerly anticipated clashes are sure to be at risk, with conditions extremely testing. Today’s Nassau Stakes has already lost some of its sparkle with the withdrawal of Shutter Speed. Queen’s Trust is at her best on quick ground, and has to be a doubt. What looked a classy field of fillies, could very quickly be whittled down to less than a handful, with Ballydoyle’s Winter a virtual certainty.
With conditions likely to improve somewhat by Friday, it is hoped that the exciting field of sprinters in the Group Two King George Stakes, take their place at the start. Battaash has looked an exciting youngster, though his trainer Charlie Hills had voiced concerns over the prospect of testing ground. He looked incredibly quick in his two victories at Sandown, and it’s hoped he’ll take his chance. The Clive Cox trained Profitable is set to oppose. Runner-up in the King’s Stand at Royal Ascot last month, he’ll love the ground and should run a huge race.
Marsha is another for who conditions will prove something of an unknown. She’s a rapidly improving filly, but has yet to encounter soft ground in 11 starts on turf. She finished a head behind Profitable at Ascot, and has since run well in defeat at the Curragh.
Other notable entries for this tasty looking sprint are Priceless, Kachy, Washington DC and Take Cover. The last two were first and second 12 months ago, though that renewal was run on lightning quick ground.