Ribchester leads powerful Godolphin first day challenge at Royal Ascot


Godolphin starts Royal Ascot 2017 with a 10-strong team on Tuesday, June 20, and has participants in all three of the G1 races.

Ribchester goes for the G1 Queen Anne Stakes over the straight mile after his impressive G1 Lockinge Stakes success at Newbury last month and has stable companion Toscanini (Paul Hanagan) as a pacemaker, with Dutch Connection making his seasonal debut.

The four-year-old Iffraaj colt, drawn one and seeking his third G1 victory in the 16-runner race, is trained by Richard Fahey in Yorkshire and ridden again by William Buick.

Richard Fahey commented: “Royal Ascot is a big meeting for us all, trainers, owners and jockeys. 

“Ribchester ran last month and to win a G1 race by over three lengths was a huge performance – we were delighted with him and he now has a rating of 125 and quite a good speed-rating as well. 

“We have a pacemaker, Toscanini, in the race but I am not particularly bothered whether Ribchester goes to the front again or takes a lead. I am quite comfortable with him as he is relaxing at home now.

“I am very happy with Ribchester ahead of the Queen Anne Stakes – he has done his last bit of work. The ground is different from last time but he has form on fast ground as well.”

Five-year-old Dutch Connection (Charlie Hills/James Doyle) found the tight turns of Santa Anita, USA, against him when 12th of 14 in the G1 Breeders’ Cup Mile on November 5, his latest start.

Charlie Hills said: “Dutch Connection has been fine, and is fit and ready to race again.

“The ground became soft for the Lockinge so he couldn’t go for that race and we have been patient. We are starting off in the Queen Anne and there are plenty of options later in the season.”

Thunder Snow (Saeed bin Suroor) and Barney Roy (Richard Hannon) finished second to Churchill in Classics last time out and take on the same opponent again in the G1 St James’s Palace Stakes over the round mile.

Three-year-old Helmet colt Thunder Snow, winner of a G1 last year, started 2017 with wins in two UAE Classics, the 2000 Guineas and the Derby, on dirt at Meydan.

On his return to grass, Thunder Snow chased home Churchill in the Irish 2,000 Guineas over a mile on yielding ground at the Curragh on May 27, going down by two and a half lengths.

He is the mount of regular rider Christophe Soumillon and trained by Saeed bin Suroor who said: “Thunder Snow is doing great and working well.

“He was second in the Irish Guineas at the Curragh last time and has to take on the winner again and other stars in the St James’s Palace Stakes.

“He is a class horse – a G1 winner already – though he would prefer good to soft going, which he is unlikely to get.”

Barney Roy got within a length of Churchill in the first British Classic, the 2000 Guineas, over the straight mile at Newmarket on May 6 despite not having the smoothest of runs. He won on his previous two starts.

James Doyle rides the lightly-raced colt again and Richard Hannon remarked: “I hope Barney Roy can get us off to a good start in the St James’s Palace Stakes. He had a nice breeze over seven furlongs at Kempton last week and James Doyle was delighted with him. 

“We pinpointed Royal Ascot after his run in the 2000 Guineas and have never been in a hurry with him. He became very unbalanced when he went through the dip at Newmarket and, in the circumstances, Barney Roy did exceptionally well to finish only a length behind Churchill. 

“He stumbled so badly that I thought he had broken a leg. He ducked down and somehow managed to stay upright before finishing so well. 

“Ascot will suit him much better where you don’t have the ups and downs at Newmarket and he was only having the third run of his life there so we will know more this time. 

“He has come out really well from the Guineas where, with a stronger pace, he would have finished closer. The mile at Ascot is right up his street and I can see him putting it up to Churchill in a big way.’

The Godolphin duo have six rivals in total including Churchill.

There is a bigger field for the G1 King’s Stand Stakes over five furlongs, with the 2016 winner Profitable, now racing for Godolphin, taking on 17 opponents from stall one.

The five-year-old Invincible Spirit horse, trained by Clive Cox and partnered by James Doyle, has had one run for Godolphin, finishing a creditable second to Signs Of Blessing, who re-opposes on Tuesday, in the G3 Prix de Saint-Georges at Deauville on his May 13 return to action.

Clive Cox reported: “I am very happy with Profitable. I think the run at Deauville has put him bang on – he did very well over the winter and I am really thrilled with the way he has been training. 

“I hope that Royal Ascot starts with nice ground. They will be putting plenty of water on in this weather and I am pleased that Profitable is running on the first day with that in mind. 

“He has a real spark in his eye and I am very happy. He is a proven G1 horse.”

The Godolphin team on Royal Ascot’s first day is completed by four two-year-olds trained by Charlie Appleby, Aqabah (William Buick) and Zaman (James Doyle) in the G2 Coventry Stakes over six furlongs, plus Sound And Silence (William Buick) and Roussel (James Doyle) in the furlong-shorter Listed Windsor Castle Stakes.

There are 16 other runners in the Coventry Stakes, with Aqabah and Zaman exiting from stalls 10 and seven respectively.

Charlie Appleby explained: “Aqabah won on his first start at Ascot so he has course experience and then he went to the Curragh and finished fourth but I wasn’t disappointed because the ground went against us. He has an American pedigree and the soft going did not suit him. I have been happy with him since the Curragh. 

“Zaman won on his only start at York last month and, as he was purchased at the breeze-up sales, he knew his job first time out and looks to have strengthened since."

The Windsor Castle Stakes sees Sound And Silence drawn 12 of the 24 runners, while Roussel is in stall five.

Charlie Appleby added: “Sound And Silence broke his maiden on debut at Newmarket but then was a little disappointing when fourth in the National Stakes at Sandown and post-race showed a dirty scope. I have been pleased with his preparation for Royal Ascot and, if he brings his A game to the event, he will run a big race.

“Roussel is another who came from the breeze-ups and has lots of natural pace which he showed when winning on his only start at Leicester, as well as a bit of greenness. He has done well since and I couldn’t be happier with him.”