Connections of Here Comes When were left singing in the rain as the seven-year-old, trained by Andrew Balding and ridden by Jim Crowley, pulled off a stunning success in the Qatar Sussex Stakes at Goodwood.
The £1 million mile contest had been billed by many as a straight match between Ribchester, winner of the Al Shaqab Lockinge Stakes and Queen Anne Stakes, and Churchill, the QIPCO 2000 Guineas winner who followed up in the Irish equivalent.
The plug was pulled on that battle less an hour before the off, though, when Churchill was withdrawn after incessant rain had left the ground soft, bordering on heavy.
In his absence, Ribchester was expected to dominate the show but the 8-13 favourite was in trouble with two furlongs to run after making the running and, despite rallying, was beaten a neck by Here Comes When, who was returned at 20-1 but had been available at 80-1 in the morning. Lightning Spear was three quarters of a length further back in third.
“He was always travelling strongly through the race and that gave him a chance of being placed, but I thought Lightning Spear would beat us and then Ribchester,” Balding said. Happily they didn’t.
“This rain was forecast, so the conditions are not totally unexpected. We hoped he would run well, there’s good money all the way down and he loves the ground and likes the track. He’s been in great form this year. Jim [Crowley] thought we would be in the first three and he gave him a great ride.
“He has always been a handy horse, but he needs these conditions. We were lucky the race fell away a little bit, but you still have to run to a very good level to win it, which he did.”
Champion jockey Crowley, who is retained to ride all the Fitri Hay-owned horses, was all smiles.
“It’s tough conditions, it’s tough going, it’s proper heavy jumping ground,” he said. “The horse is very tough and he toughed it out. For every drop of rain that has come today, I was pleased.”
A philosophical Richard Fahey said of runner-up Ribchester: “It’s 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. We live to fight another day.”
Jockey William Buick added: “Ribchester has done it from the front before, but he wasn’t comfortable from the three [furlong pole] to the two. He didn’t find as much as I thought he would. It is usually a very strong part of his race.
“He stayed on again towards the end, the others got tired in front. The conditions are terrible out there. It is very heavy ground.”