Ribchester romps home on a quality-packed Al Shaqab Lockinge Day
The weather may not have been perfect, but the 12,109 racegoers who attended Al Shaqab Lockinge Day witnessed racing of the highest class.
Godolphin won the two biggest races of the day impressively, the feature G1 Al Shaqab Lockinge, worth £350,000, with the 7/4 favourite Ribchester, trained by Richard Fahey, and the £100,000 G3 Al Rayyan Stakes with another market leader, the Charlie Appleby-trained Hawkbill, who started at 3/1. Both were ridden by William Buick, a 10/1 double.
It was fitting that Al Shaqab Racing should have a winner on the day, with two-year-old Denaar, trained by Richard Hannon and partnered by Frankie Dettori, taking the £50,000 Olympic Glory Conditions Race, the second year in a row that a Richard Hannon-trained, Al Shaqab-owned horse has won the race.
1.50pm Al Rayyan Stakes (Group 3) 1m 4f £100,000
Hawkbill gained an impressive victory in the G3 Al Rayyan Stakes, with the 3/1 favourite making nearly all the running in the 12-furlong race.
Godolphin’s four-year-old colt, trained by Charlie Appleby and ridden by William Buick, stepped back up in trip after coming home fifth in the G1 Prix Ganay over an extended 10 furlongs at Saint-Cloud, France, on May 1, his seasonal return.
The winner of last year’s G1 Eclipse Stakes at Sandown Park over 10 furlongs soon disputed the running and went into the lead after a furlong.
He travelled strongly turning for home and, after entering the straight, powered steadily clear of his five rivals and had the race won a long way out.
4/1 chance My Dream Boat (Clive Cox/Dam Kirby), also a previous G1 winner, was the only challenger to close the gap but he could never get to grips with Hawkbill who galloped on relentlessly before being eased on the line to come home two lengths ahead in 2m 42.75s on ground officially described as soft, good to soft in places, with the same margin back to Midterm (Sir Michael Stoute/Ryan Moore, 7/2) in third.
John Ferguson, Chief Executive and Racing Manager of Godolphin, said: “It is great to see Hawkbill back to winning ways and hopefully he has a great year ahead of him.
“At Sandown, when he won the Eclipse, he put in a really great performance and Charlie carried on running him to give him experience and get some miles on the clock because he was a relatively mentally immature horse then.
“This year, Hawkbill started out in France and ran OK but he has come here and is a different horse. The ground is important to him and he quickened off the soft going. There are plenty of options for him now.”
Appleby said: “I am delighted and full credit to the team – Mauritzio who rides him and Shane who looks after him.
“I was confident going into the Prix Ganay but they went a steady pace over 10 furlongs which did not suit us and I knew that stepping him back up to a mile and a half was going to be his game.
“William went out there purposefully into the lead. I said ride Hawkbill with a lot of confidence and just see if the rest of them can stay in this ground. Hawkbill is proven on this ground and has gone and put up a good performance today.
“The French race did not work out but, most importantly, he got a run under his belt and definitely came forward for it.
“He was sweating in the paddock and I would have been worried if he hadn’t been – that is just him.
“William rode in a piece of work last week – he sat in behind and tried to join Hawkbill but couldn’t – so he said he knew that the horse was back on his ‘A’ game.
“Hawkbill is entered in everything. I am not saying he is ground dependent but he is a better horse with ease in the ground. So we will just have to see what the weather does. He can go over 10 or 12 furlongs as long as he has his ground, which is the key thing.
“Hawkbill is one of the few horses that can actually quicken on soft ground and that is what he has shown today.
“We know that he got a bit of a soft lead today but, when they came to him, he quickened up the straight and the rest of the field plugged on. If we are going to compete at the top level, there needs to be a bit of ease in the ground.”
Buick added: “Charlie was very positive about going on, making the running and letting the horse prick his ears in front.
“Hawkbill has come forward from his run in the Ganay and it has done him the world of good. He goes in the ground and won well.
“It looked like he stayed well, so we are very happy with his performance. The ground doesn’t have to be as soft as today; he just likes to get his toe in. It’s hard work out there and very soft.
“He is back on track now. This was his first win since the Eclipse last year, although he has run a lot of good races in between. I would say that he has opened up the mile and a half door for himself and all those top races will be considered.”
Clive Cox, trainer of the second My Dream Boat, remarked: “I am very pleased with that performance. It confirmed that he got the trip well.
“The early pace was not that generous and Adam had to ask him to stretch on that ground – yes he did have to get serious but we were the only horse that made up ground on the winner in the straight
“We are going forwards and hopefully we will get our day in the sun again with him over a mile and a half.
“The soft ground helps but I think he also has a turn of foot which today might have been harder to show. It is pretty soft out there and it was a good race.
“He will go for the Hardwicke Stakes at Royal Ascot if the ground is not too firm.”
2.20pm Shalaa Carnarvon Stakes (Listed) 6f £70,000
There was an exciting finish to this Listed sprint for three-year-olds. Outsider Just An Idea (Harry Dunlop/Josephine Gordon, 40/1) went to the front from his seven rivals and was not headed until inside the final furlong.
4/1 chance Visionary (Robert Cowell/Jamie Spencer), pushed along at half-way, made headway from the quarter-mile marker and ran on to take over the advantage.
The Dream Ahead colt faced a strong challenge from Simmie (Karl Burke/Richard Kingscote, 7/1) in the closing stages but held on by a head, with Florida Times (David O’Meara/Andrea Atzeni, 11/1) one and a half lengths back in third and Just And Idea fourth.
Jamie Spencer, the winning rider, said: “Visionary was off the bridle a long way down and is a very lazy sprinter.
“When he came good, I got through the gap quicker than I probably wanted to and he just idled and almost gave the race away.
“I have only ridden him twice and won on him twice, so he has been good to me.
“He is a powerful horse by Dream Ahead, has handled the conditions well and is very stocky.
“Robert’s dad hasn’t been very well and they will both be at home watching, so I hope this is a good tonic.”
The winning time was 1m 16.27s.
2.55pm Al Zubarah London Gold Cup Handicap 1m 2f £70,00
The valuable and competitive handicap for three-year-olds, the 10-furlong Al Zubarah London Gold Cup, went to 8/1 shot Defoe (Roger Varian/Andrea Atzeni) who came through strongly in the closing stages to overcome 12 rivals.
The lightly-raced grey Dalakhani colt, having his first start of the year, came to challenge 7/2 favourite Mucho Applause (Andrew Balding/Oisin Murphy) just inside the final furlong before taking the lead with a half-furlong to race.
He ran on well to beat Mucho Applause by a length and a quarter in 2m 14.57s, the pair clear, with another thee and a quarter lengths back to the third Time To Study (Mark Johnston/Franny Norton).
Roger Varian, Defoe’s Newmarket-based handler, said: “He was very tough. It was quite hard work out there for these three-year-olds going a mile and a quarter on that ground.
“He stays well, has a very good attitude and is comfortable on this ground, so it was a good performance.
“We will see how he comes out of this race – that’s the most important thing – and I will speak with owner Sheikh Mohammed Obaid and make a plan.
“He has been a frustrating at home because he has been ready to run for a month or so and it has been so dry, so we have had to be patient with him.
“He has rewarded us today and is a good, tough horse.”
Andrea Atzeni added: “We had a good draw – Roger and the boss were very keen to make plenty of use of stall one – and we managed to get a good position and follow the favourite through.
“Oisin’s horse kept hanging towards us and, to be fair to this horse, he got his head down as soon as I got the rail and was always going to win.
“He stays well and loves the ground. This horse was ready to run two or three weeks ago but unfortunately we couldn’t run him on the ground -we were waiting for it to come right and it has paid off.
“He is a horse that will get better as he gets older. This race has been won by some nice horses and who knows?
“He has got a good mind and is very brave. We will take it step by step and see where we go next time.”
3.30pm Al Shaqab Lockinge Stakes (Group 1 – QIPCO British Champions Series) 1m £350,000
Top miler Ribchester continued Godolphin’s domination of the Al Shaqab Lockinge Stakes with a decisive all-the-way success in the first British G1 of the season for older horses, run over the straight mile at Newbury.
The Richard Fahey-trained colt, successful over the same trip in the G1 Jacques Le Marois last season, broke smartly and immediately led for William Buick as stable companion and intended pacemaker Toscanini (Paul Hanagan) missed the break.
The four-year-old son of Iffraaj quickened well under William Buick to open up a clear advantage passing the two-furlong marker and soon had the rest of his rivals in trouble, despite drifting right to the stands’ rail, with only Lightning Spear (David Simcock/Oisin Murphy, 9/2) able to mount any serious challenge.
After straightening up inside the final furlong, Ribchester ran on again for to score impressively by three and three quarter lengths over Lightning Spear in 1m 43.00s, with another two and a half lengths back to the third home Breton Rock (David Simcock/Andra Atzeni, 25/1).
Al Shaqab Racing’s Galileo Gold (Hugo Palmer/Frankie Dettori, 9/2) had drifted in the betting and raced very keenly towards the stand’s side in second. He was taken wide by his rider to try and settle but weakened to fifth inside the final furlong.
Somehow (Adrian O’Brien IRE/Ryan Moore, 100/30) was the best backed in the race but the four-year-old filly could only stay on for fourth.
John Ferguson, Chief Executive and Racing Manager of Godolphin, said: “Ribchester proved here in the Mill Reef Stakes as a two-year-old that he would go on the soft ground and he has gone and really done it again today.
“The thing about this horse is that he appears to be getting better and better. It is so exciting when you have got a really top miler who is getting better and better.
“It is dead exciting – his run in Dubai definitely gave us encouragement and something we have to talk about is the distance he races over.
“My first reaction is that we remain at a mile but he is a horse that William has always said would get a mile and a quarter. So we have the Queen Anne and Prince Of Wales’s Stakes at Royal Ascot to think about.
“While he is winning over a mile like this, it is hard to change but I think he will definitely get further. I think he is one of those very special horse who go on any ground. We are thrilled with him.”
Fahey commented: “I was quite nervous today – I don’t do nerves but it was a big day and you want to perform and, thank God, he did.
“It was a huge performance. We felt that there was one in him and it has all come together.
“Toscanini missed the kick, so it was plan B for Paul Hanagan, but I always felt that Ribchester could do something like he did today, which was grand. Paul was clever enough to let the race go along and these things happen.
“Mentally, Ribchester is maturer and getting better physically. We have always liked him – he won a Mill Reef here as a backward two-year-old – and we feel that he is getting better, better and better.
“He excites me at home. He has just gone a little bit lazy on me at home – he used to work with a lot more enthusiasm last year – but we spent our time getting him to settle and then we want him to gallop well!
“We are happy with where he is. He is good in his mind and today would have done him the world of good.
“If we could get his mind right, we always felt that Ribchester would be special – that’s a strong word for a trainer to use but that was a special performance today.
“It’s a huge relief for me because I have always been ranting and raving about this horse. He got beat in the Sussex and was third in the 2000 Guineas last year but we always felt that he would get stronger.
The thinking behind his run in Dubai was that, if he got that trip, it would give us more options. I have to speak to Sheikh Mohammed and John Ferguson and we will work from there but I would love it in my mind to think that he would stay a mile and a quarter one day. We don’t need to go there at the moment, but it looks the obvious step now.
“I thought he would win in Dubai so I was disappointed but he was probably a bit fresh. Since Dubai he has thrived and mentally it did him the world of good going there and he picked up £500,000 for third.
“Today has to be one of the best performances of a horse from our place – Ribchester is special.
“Ribchester relaxed fine in front today. I wasn’t disappointed when Ribchester went into the lead – but a straight mile is very lonely and there was a bit of a headwind so it was not surprising that he came over to the rail.
“It looked to me that he went away at the end and this was solid form – he could mature more and I feel he will get better.”
Buick declared: “Ribchester is a very good horse and very versatile.
“Richard and the team at home have done a fantastic job. He ran so well out in Dubai, where things probably didn’t quite work out for him, and he is just getting mentally better and physically stronger with every day that goes by.
“You would have to be very happy with that performance. He was in front the whole way basically and the ground is very testing. I am very, very happy to ride him.
“If you are going to compete in these G1 races and be successful, you have to be the complete package. The team at home have helped him become the complete package, which he is now.
“Sheikh Mohammed loves to win G1 races, he loves good horses, and this is what it is all about.”
It was a third consecutive victory for Godolphin in the mile contest, which is part of the IPCO British Champions Series, following on from Night Of Thunder (2015) and Belardo (2016), and eighth win in total.
David Simcock, trainer of the second and third, remarked: “I am very proud of both of them – they ran really, really well.
“Lightning Spear did get tired in the last half-furlong because of the round and it being his first run of the year. We were beaten by an exceptionally good horse, who probably did have a fitness advantage over us.
“Breton Rock has probably run to his best mark and he is a lovely horse to have around.”
Hugo Palmer, trainer of Galileo Gold, said: “It was a disappointing performance by Galileo Gold who got a bit lonely racing wide of the others.
“We will keep to the plan of going for the Queen Anne Stakes at Royal Ascot and then the Qatar Sussex Stakes.”
Frankie Dettori added: “Galileo Gold did not like the ground at all – it was very testing. He was fresh and I knew he wasn’t going to finish.
“I stayed away from the others, otherwise he would have been beaten further. It was one of those things – it rained and it can’t be helped.”
4.05pm Olympic Glory Conditions Race 6f £50,000
Al Shaqab Racing won this race for two-year-olds for the second successive year, with Denaar (Richard Hannon/Frankie Dettori, 2/1 favourite) following on from Mehmas from the same trainer/jockey combination.
Denaar, who had five opponents, won a shade cosily from Starlight Mystery (Mark Johnston/Franny Norton, 20/1) by three quarters of a length.
Dettori commented: “Denaar is a brave, little horse and he reminds me very much of Mehmas.
“He sticks his head out and is very tough. Adam (Kirby on the third Koditime) came to me with a double handful and I thought ‘Oh, no!’ but as soon as I said that, he came off the bridle and my horse kept going.
“He coped with the ground but it tested his stamina big time – his bravery got him there. I think that he will probably end up in the Coventry Stakes at Royal Ascot.
“The best quality he has is that he tries very hard and I am sure that there will be a nice race in him.”
Hannon added: “He looks a Royal Ascot horse now – we bought him at the breeze-ups.
“He has a heart like a lion – very like Mehmas. For stride there, it looked like he might be struggling but he got himself out of it.
“I will put him in the Norfolk and the Coventry at Royal Ascot. It is wonderful to win for the owner on this day.”
4.40pm Haras de Bouquetot Fillies’ Trial Stakes (Listed) 1m 2f £70,000
Lightly-raced Natavia (Roger Charlton/Ryan Moore, 9/4), having just her second start after finishing runner-up at Newmarket last month, ran away with this Listed race for three-year-old fillies, winning by three and three quarter lengths from Flood Warning (Clive Cox/Adam Kirby, 15/2).
Charlton said: “Winning any race is great – winning a stakes race for a big owner like Juddmonte Farms, who actually bought this filly, is very exciting.
“I was, like most trainers, worried about the ground. We have seen some funny results and it is tough out there. Ryan might come in and say she loved it but it was very pleasing.
“Her work has been very good and it is not my normal pattern to go into a race like this with a maiden but I felt that, if she couldn’t win this, we could always drop back to a maiden.
“The ground has affected the other a lot and they are well spread out. I think Ryan is one of the great judges – he spends a lot of his time riding very good horses – and he will say what I should do with this filly.
“We will consider what to do next. The Oaks is an option but I would prefer to run again over 10 furlongs next time rather than 12 furlongs.”
5.10pm Toronado Handicap (86-105) 1m £40,000
Fahey completed a double when 12/1 chance Withernsea (Richard Fahey/Paul Hanagan) won the last.