Ribchester and The Corsican star in front of largest crowd at Newbury for three years
A huge crowd of 20,995, the highest since August, 2012, attended Newbury Racecourse on the second and final day of the Dubai Duty Free International Meeting on Saturday, September 19, being rewarded with thrilling racing and an after-racing concert by iconic band Madness.
Ribchester, making it third time lucky, lost his maiden tag in emphatic style with a last-to-first success in the Group Two Dubai Duty Free Mill Reef Stakes (2.15pm), earning quotes of 25/1 for next year’s Classic, the 2,000 Guineas at Newmarket (1m, April 30), in the process.
The Richard Fahey-trained colt, the 13/8 favourite, travelled well under James Doyle before quickening strongly to beat front-running 9/2 chance Log Out Island, trained by Richard Hannon, comfortably by a length and a quarter as Godolphin enjoyed a 1-2 in the six-furlong contest.
Fahey, who also saddled the winners of the Gold and Silver Cups at Ayr on a superb day for the Yorkshire-based handler, commented: “I think that Ribchester is on the way to being a nice horse.
“You can imagine how shocked I was when he was beaten at Doncaster on debut – we thought that he would win there – but he is a big baby and it’s amazing how a race can bring horses on.
“It was a brave shout to run him in the Gimcrack Stakes but his second verified where we thought the horse was. Today has just confirmed it.
“He is not a horse that will have a lot more racing this year. He is a big frame of a horse and a big baby, so we will get him home and make a decision from there.
“If I have a horse for the 2,000 Guineas, it is definitely him. He is a good quality horse who will get better with time and anything he does this year is a bonus.”
James Doyle added: “Richard told me he liked the horse and that I should settle him in and pick him up late on. It was a professional performance. He ran around a little bit at York but it was only his second run and he was much wiser today.
“When I picked him up, he ran straight to the line and pricked his ears – I moved him up earlier than ideal because I was just worried that he might get stuck in this ground a little bit.
“He actually surprised me because he coped with the ground quite well. I have definitely picked him up too soon because he pricked his ears in the last half-furlong and wasn’t doing a tap.
“It was a nice performance. He’s a big, raw type with plenty of scope and I would imagine that he will be much better next year. He is one I am looking forward to.”
The Corsican booked his place in the Group One Champion Stakes at Ascot on October 17 with a smooth victory over Godolphin’s Sky Hunter and odds-on favourite Eagle Top in the 11-furlong Group Three Dubai Duty Free Legacy Cup (1.45pm).
The four-year-old endured a troubled passage when finishing second on his previous start in the Group Three Glorious Stakes at Goodwood in July but had no trouble this time in scoring by a length and a half for Jamie Spencer.
Winning trainer David Simcock said: “We were a bit disappointed with The Corsican at Goodwood but I wasn’t going to blame the jockey in any sort of way – it just happens there.
“This was the next alternative and he was quite a fresh horse today with the gap but he has done it very well.
“The Champion Stakes is the likely target. There is no question at all in my mind that he is better over a mile and a quarter and Jamie said that he was treading water for the last half-furlong today.
“He travelled very well and handled the ground – I am not sure that he wants it at all – but we will have a go at the pot at Ascot and I am sure Dr Hay will enjoy the day.”
Jamie Spencer added: “The Corsican won today despite the ground. I rode him in work last weekend and was pleasantly surprised with how good he was.
“All week I have been worrying about the ground but David said he was going to run him regardless today because, if he wanted to go for the Champion Stakes, he wanted to get a run into him.
“He’s a good horse but I can’t emphasise how much he wants faster ground.”
Sky Hunter, who gave 5lb to the winner, is being aimed at Australia’s most famous race, the two-mile Emirates Melbourne Cup, at Flemington on November 3.