Ribchester romped to a stunning Lockinge success on Saturday, endorsing his status as Britain and Ireland’s leading miler.
Despite pace-making stablemate Toscanini missing the break, the winner rarely looked threatened. And making all his own running, William Buick asserted from the two-furlong pole, powering clear to win by just shy of four lengths. Lightning Spear got closest to the winner, again putting in a solid performance in Group 1 company. Breton Rock revelled in conditions, and finished well for third.
Galileo Gold had kept tabs for the first five furlongs, but soon came under pressure and could only finish fifth. It was a hugely disappointing performance from Hugo Palmer’s Guineas winner, not least because I had tipped him to win in my Friday Preview piece.
Palmer was left scratching his head after such a lacklustre display. “He's pulled up in good shape. Like his team, he's a little bit deflated, but he's sound and he ate up and we look forward to another day,” he said.
Palmer went on: “Royal Ascot is obviously an option. I know he won the 2000 Guineas last year, but conceivably the best run of his two-year-old career was at Goodwood. The St James's Palace he won last year was over the old (round) mile and the Queen Anne is over the new mile (on the straight course). This all needs to be discussed. There's a lot of water to flow under the bridge. There's just a chance the horse might be better with a bend. He ran very well in the Sussex last year.”
There’s just a chance the horse isn’t quite as good as he first appeared. There’s no doubting that Ribchester has progressed past him, and it’s hard to imagine Galileo Gold ever winning at a mile when the Godolphin star is in opposition.
Harry Herbert, racing manager for owners Al Shaqab Racing, confirmed that all options were now open, and that the team had plenty to ponder: “It's a shame because he's physically done very well and Frankie (Dettori) said he could not operate on that ground. It was very sticky and I wouldn't rule him out just because of that run.”
“We've got to get him back on decent ground and take a view about whether we go to Royal Ascot or whether we take another route. It was a shame as he was in such good form. We will regroup and have another shot. Maybe he'd be better on a turning track, we'll see.”
Richard Fahey was rather more pleased with the victor, saying: “I was quite nervous as it was a big day and we wanted him to perform. He (Toscanini) missed the kick but I always felt Ribchester could do something like that. He is mentally mature and he's physically getting better. We've always liked him. He's gone a bit lazy on me at home, but we are happy where he is now.”
Of future targets, the trainer added: “It looks like we will go there (Queen Anne) but I won't say definitely, as we've got to speak to John (Ferguson, Godolphin racing manager) and Sheikh Mohammed. We'll see how he comes out of this, but the Queen Anne looks likely. I've got to say he's the best horse I've ever trained.”
Yesterday, talk turned to a possible shot at the Juddmonte International at York later in the campaign. He certainly wasn’t stopping on Saturday, and has always given the impression of looking at his strongest at the end of a mile. He lacked a run when third at Meydan in March over a mile and one furlong. It’s likely he’ll strengthen further as the year progresses, and a trip to the Knavesmire is certainly on the cards.
“The Juddmonte International at York was on my mind over the winter. As you saw at Newbury, he appreciates a long straight and he stays well. You could see in the Lockinge how well he saw out his race. So maybe York could suit but that's a long way off,” said Fahey.
For now, it seems likely that Ribchester will look to cement his position as ‘King of the Milers’. Should he prove dominant over the summer, there’s no reason why he shouldn’t take his chance, and head North in an attempt to emulate Frankel by taking the prestigious and valuable Juddmonte International.