Galileo Gold & Ribchester head nine in the Al Shaqab Lockinge Stakes

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Group One winners Galileo Gold (Hugo Palmer/Frankie Dettori) and Ribchester (Richard Fahey/William Buick) head nine runners in Newbury’s richest race of the Flat season, the £350,000 Al Shaqab Lockinge Stakes (3.30pm) on Saturday, May 20, Al Shaqab Lockinge Day.

Staged over the straight mile at the Berkshire course, the Al Shaqab Lockinge Stakes is the second race of the mile category of the 2017 QIPCO British Champions Series.

Owned by Al Shaqab Racing, Galileo Gold lifted both the mile Classic, the QIPCO 2000 Guineas at Newmarket, and the G1 St James’s Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot in 2016 and is having his first start since finishing fifth in the G1 Queen Elizabeth II Stakes at Ascot in October.

Ribchester is making his second appearance of 2017, having finished a close third in the G1 Dubai Turf over nine furlongs at Meydan at the end of March. The Godolphin-owned colt recorded his greatest triumph in August last year, when taking the G1 Prix Jacques Le Marois at Deauville in August and was also the half-length runner-up in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes.  He has course form too, having won the G2 Dubai Duty Free Mill Reef Stakes at Newbury as a two-year-old.

Trainer Richard Fahey said today: “Everything has gone according to plan with Ribchester – there have been no issues.

“I am very happy – his work is good and he is good. I don’t think the ground will bother him so we are comfortable going into the race.

“Toscanini is running to make sure they go a gallop and he seems to do that job well. We gave him a run at Doncaster and then went to France to lead one of Andre Fabre’s.

“Ribchester won the Mill Reef (G2 at Newbury as a two-year-old) and it was quite heavy that day so this probably won’t be the softest ground he has raced on. I don’t see the ground as a problem at the moment.

“We thought about giving him a break after Dubai but he came back so fresh and well that we carried on and did not back off too much.

“Physically he looks better this year – he has done real well since coming back from Dubai and physically he is starting to mature. We are happy and everything is going easy with him.”

The blue Godolphin silks are also due to be carried by Dutch Connection (Charlie Hills/Adam Kirby), successful in the seven-furlong G2 Lennox Stakes at Goodwood last season, and likely pacemaker Toscanini (Richard Fahey/Paul Hanagan).

Both of the two G1 contests staged in Britain so far in 2017, the QIPCO 2000 and QIPCO 1000 Guineas, have gone to Aidan O’Brien-trained horses. O’Brien is represented in the Al Shaqab Lockinge Stakes by four-year-old filly Somehow (Ryan Moore), who was also successful at Newmarket when the comfortable winner of the G2 Dahlia Stakes over nine furlongs.

Trainer David Simcock has two runners – G2 Celebration Mile victor Lightning Spear (Oisin Murphy), who has been G1-placed including when third in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes, and Breton Rock (Andrea Atzeni), who has twice triumphed in G2 company including the 2014 Hungerford Stakes over seven furlongs at Newbury.

Completing the Al Shaqab Lockinge Stakes field on Saturday are Aclaim (Martin Meade/Jamie Spencer), who will be making his first start since winning the G2 Challenge Stakes over seven furlongs at Newmarket in October, and Mitchum Swagger (David Lanigan/Tom Queally), who was fifth in the G2 Sandown Mile last month.

Al Shaqab Lockinge Day gets underway at 1.50pm with the 12-furlong G3 Al Rayyan Stakes (six runners). Heading the strong field for the £100,000 contest are My Dream Boat (Clive Cox/Adam Kirby) and Hawkbill (Charlie Appleby/William Buick), who were both G1 winners over 10 furlongs in 2016.

There are three £70,000 races on Al Shaqab Lockinge Day, with eight runners set to go to post in the Listed Shalaa Carnarvon Stakes (2.20pm), staged over six furlongs for three-year-olds, and 14 lining up in the ultra-competitive Al Zubarah London Gold Cup Handicap (2.55pm) over 10 furlongs.

There could be some clues for next month’s Investec Oaks in the Listed Haras De Bouquetot Fillies’ Trial Stakes (4.40pm, six runners) over 10 furlongs. Aljezeera (Luca Cumani/Frankie Dettori), Gracious Diana (John Gosden/William Buick) and Prosper (Roger Varian/Andrea Atzeni) were all successful on their latest start and hold entries in the fillies’ Classic at Epsom Downs on June 2.

Also run on Al Shaqab Lockinge Day are the £50,000 Olympic Glory Conditions Race (4.05pm, eight runners), a six-furlong contest for two-year-olds which could provide pointers to Royal Ascot, and the concluding £40,000 Toronado Handicap (5.10pm, 17 runners) over a mile.

There is a Retraining of Racehorses parade at 1.00pm, which features amongst others, Carruthers, the winner of the 2011 Hennessy Gold Cup, the race that has now become the Ladbrokes Trophy. The famous Newbury after party will follow the racing action.

Newbury also races tomorrow, Friday, May 19, 2017, Starlight Charity Raceday.

A high-quality eight-race card is run on the day held in support of the charity Starlight, which does remarkable work granting the wishes of terminally ill children.

The racing highlight is the six-furlong Starlight Handicap, worth £30,000, at 2.35pm (15 runners).

Tomorrow’s last thoroughbred race will be at 5.20pm, with a charity race in aid of Starlight at 5.40pm. The charity raised £150,000 from the day last year.

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