Ribchester to stamp authority on QEII


Richard Fahey’s Ribchester can confirm his billing as the best miler in Europe by taking away the prize in Saturday’s Queen Elizabeth II Stakes on British Champions Day at Ascot.

Ribchester was denied in this contest a year ago by the outstanding filly Minding, but he can exact some revenge on trainer Aidan O’Brien by taking the measure of dual 2,000 Guineas winner Churchill, amongst others, this weekend.

Ribchester, the 15/8 favourite, has already pocketed a hat-trick of Group 1 successes this season and it would surely have been a perfect four from four but for the unseasonably testing ground he met in the Sussex at Glorious Goodwood – where he nonetheless went down all guns blazing.

His defeat to Minding in the QEII a year ago is the sole blemish on his Ascot record to date and Fahey has been purring this week in the run-up to Champions Day with his Godolphin-owned colt seemingly thriving for this mission.

With pacemakers Lancaster Bomber and Sir John Lavery in the field, 7/2 chance Churchill rates as the big danger under Ryan Moore ahead of rapid improver Beat The Bank, a 9/2 chance for trainer Andrew Balding, who may just see his momentum checked at this elite level.

O’Brien heads to Ascot on Champions Day with the dream of achieving a world record haul of Group 1 winners in a calendar year. He stands on 24, one shy of Bobby Frankel’s record, and would dearly love to equal or better that feat on this grand stage.

His best chance of victory, however, might just come in the opening Long Distance Cup, a Group 2 contest, where 5/6 favourite Order Of St George is the main attraction.

He was turned over in this race a year ago but has delivered more polished performances this season, including a third in the Arc recently.

His Ascot Gold cup conqueror Big Orange isn’t going to get his favoured firm surface and Order Of St George can instead outstay St Leger third Stradivarius, 8/1 here for Sir Michael Stoute, to land this prize.

Frankie Dettori is always worth following at Ascot and the veteran Italian has been trumpeting the claims of Journey, 7/2 to retain her crown in the Fillies & Mares Stakes.

Dettori feels John Gosden’s charge comes alive at this time of year, something that was borne out a year ago when she emphatically won this contest, though she faces a big challenge from French raider Bateel, the 9/4 favourite, who had her number last time out.

Dettori and Gosden also team up Cracksman, the 15/8 favourite to win the feature Qipco Champion Stakes (3.50).

The son of Frankel has looked every inch a mile-and-a-half type of colt in recent times and may have his measure taken by Richard Hannon’s St James’s Palace Stakes winner Barney Roy over this shorter trip.

James Doyle is set to hold onto Barney Roy for as long as he can in the hopes that his speed will be the defining attribute to take away the big prize at 4/1.

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