Global Weekly Preview: Fahey bubbling over 'good mover' Ribchester
Trainer Richard Fahey could not be happier with Godolphin flagship Ribchester as he aims at victory in Saturday's G1 Queen Elizabeth II Stakes at Ascot to consolidate his position as Europe's champion miler.
"He's a four-time Group One winner and the best horse I've ever trained," Fahey said in praise of the four-year-old on the eve of this 7th British Champions Day.
One of the advantages of having a collection of championship races at the end of the season is the opportunity it presents for comparing the best of different years when they are near or at their peak.
Coupled with the fact that some keep targeting the same races, it makes for interesting investigation into the relative merits of contenders at the highest level.
Twelve months ago, Ribchester was beaten into second place in the QEII by the outstanding filly Minding. There does not appear one of her calibre in the field this time.
"I have to say I am happier with Ribchester coming into the race this year than I was at the same time last season," Fahey said.
"I'd say his demeanour is better, and he's stronger in himself. He's a very good moving horse, and in a perfect world, I'd love to see him running in this QEII on genuine good fast ground, but the weather forecast says that is very unlikely to happen.
"I have always felt his best run this year was when he won the G1 Queen Anne Stakes on quick ground at Royal Ascot.
"He can handle soft ground, but I think he's better on good ground," the trainer added.
Ribchester has drawn stall 13, which means he starts on the stands side of the 15-runner field, with his pacemaker Toscanini drawn 4.
"Unfortunately, they are wide apart, which is not ideal. But there is nothing you can do about that," Fahey said.
Ribchester, together with Harry Angel in the Sprint, represent the two best Godolphin hopes at this showcase meeting, which, unfortunately, again comes with the disadvantages associated with staging a championship day in inclement weather conditions.
Barney Roy carries the Godolphin banner in the G1 Champion Stakes, with his task made theoretically slightly easier with the surprise absence of Ulysses, who connections have said goes directly to the G1 Breeders' Cup Turf at Del Mar on Nov 4.
Trainer Richard Hannon remains bullish about Barney Roy's chances, even with the rapidly-improving Cracksman emerging as the main danger. Maverick Wave is again in the line-up to provide the pace angle.
Several hours earlier, on the opposite side of the world, a field of 17 will line up for the G1 Caulfield Cup, first leg of Melbourne's traditional Spring Double.
It has often been likened to a 2,400m (mile and a half) sprint, with the pace on all the way.
Three Northern Hemisphere-trained runners take their chance but I feel the New Zealanders will have a glory day, with stablemates Jon Snow and Bonneval fighting out the finish. Winners of the ATC Derby and Oaks, respectively, they are trained by Murray Baker and Andrew Forsman.