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Ribchester aiming to go one better in £1.1m QEII on Champions Day

9 Aug 2017

Richard Fahey says richest mile race in Europe is "first choice" target for continent's top miler

Ribchester Queen Elizabeth II Stakes

Richard Fahey is still to decide upon immediate plans for dual 2017 QIPCO British Champions Series winner Ribchester after his defeat in the Qatar Sussex Stakes at Goodwood last week, but the trainer says that the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes on QIPCO British Champions Day, the richest Group 1 mile race run in Europe, is the “first-choice” target for his high-quality four-year-old.

Second to Minding in the race 12 months ago, Ribchester followed up his success in the Al Shaqab Lockinge Stakes at Newbury when taking the Queen Anne Stakes at Royal Ascot but was not able to land the treble when lining up in the Qatar Sussex Stakes in extreme conditions.

“He’s absolutely fine after the race,” reflected his trainer. “He could go for the Prix Jacques Le Marois at Deauville and then go to Ascot, or I might give him a break and wait for the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes, but either way Champions Day is the first choice.

“I haven’t entered him for the QIPCO Champion Stakes as I think we’re going to stick at a mile with him for the time being. Ribchester ran very respectably in the race last year against a filly who was something special and I honestly believe he is a better horse this year.

“Quite what happened at Goodwood I’m still not sure, but I suspect it was a mistake to try and make the running and that was my mistake. It was a horrible, horrible day, not just in terms of the going, but also with the weather, and he may have just got sick of having the rain and the wind blowing right into his face up the straight. They were proper extreme conditions. It was just one of those things and we all live to fight another day.”

Churchill, the winner of the QIPCO 2000 Guineas winner and the Darley Irish 2000 Guineas, is one of a number of top-class horses who could oppose Ribchester among a record entry of 48 horses for the £1.1million contest.

His trainer Aidan O’Brien has also entered dual Guineas winner Winter, while at the same time giving her options over longer trips in the QIPCO Champion Stakes and QIPCO British Champions Fillies & Mares Stakes.

However, Churchill and Winter are not the only Classic winners with entries, as UAE 2000 Guineas and Derby winner Thunder Snow has been entered here and in the QIPCO Champion Stakes.

Thunder Snow won the Group 1 Prix Jean Prat at Chantilly on his most recent start and trainer Saeed bin Suroor said, “He worked really well on Saturday and has been a star horse for me this year. I would like to run him at Ascot on QIPCO British Champions Day and we will look at both the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes and the QIPCO Champion Stakes nearer the time.

“He has only run over a mile in Europe this year, but he saw out the extended nine furlongs strongly in the UAE Derby and I don’t think stamina will be any problem over a mile and a quarter if we go for that race.”

Those who believe that Here Comes When’s victory over Ribchester at Goodwood was no fluke could get the chance to be proven right, with Andrew Balding very much eyeing this race for his charge, along with the fast-improving Beat The Bank, winner of the Group 3 Thoroughbred Stakes at Goodwood, and owned by Leicester City football club’s billionaire chairman Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha.

“The Queen Elizabeth II Stakes will come under very serious consideration for both of them,” said Balding. “Here Comes When is absolutely bouncing after Goodwood – he’s in great form and QIPCO British Champions Day is attractive for him. He’s better when lightly-raced and if he were to run at all before, it might be in a Group 2 race in Milan, where he doesn’t have to carry a Group 1 penalty.

“Beat the Bank is only a three-year-old and we have to be careful not to overface him this year as there is lots to look forward to. But he seems versatile and Ascot will certainly be coming under consideration.”

Others with the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes on their agenda include Falmouth winner, Roly Poly, and French raiders that include Le Brivido and Al Wukair.

FULL LIST OF RUNNERS

Afjaan (IRE), Alice Springs (IRE), Al Wukair (IRE), Barney Roy (GB), Beat The Bank (GB), Benbatl (GB), Breton Rock (IRE), Cape Byron (GB), Churchill (IRE), Cliffs of Moher (IRE), Deauville (IRE), Dicton (GB), Dream Castle (GB), Gabrial (IRE), Gold Luck (FR), Hathal (USA), Here Comes When (IRE), Hydrangea (IRE), Inns of Court (IRE), Lahore (USA), Lancaster Bomber (USA), Laugh Aloud (GB), Le Brivido (FR), Librisa Breeze (GB), Lightning Spear (GB), Massaat (IRE), Mitchum Swagger (GB), Morando (FR), Nathra (IRE), Persuasive (IRE), Rhododendron (IRE), Ribchester (IRE), Roly Poly (USA), Sea of Grace (IRE), Senga (USA), Shutter Speed (GB), Sir John Lavery (IRE), Siyoushake (IRE), Success Days (IRE), Taareef (USA), Thunder Snow (IRE), Toscanini (IRE), Trais Fluors (GB), Victory Bond (GB), War Decree (USA), Winter (IRE), Zelzal (FR), Zonderland (GB).