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Buick hoping Ribchester can stay in cruise control

31 Jul 2017

Jockey aiming for third Series win over mile this year aboard Richard Fahey-trained colt in Qatar Sussex Stakes

Buick and Ribchester have forged a great partnership. Picture:

William Buick has acclaimed triple Group 1 winner Ribchester as the horse with the highest cruising speed he has ridden ahead of the colt attempting to cement his position as Europe’s top miler in the Qatar Sussex Stakes on Wednesday.

However, the jockey is wary of the challenge Ribchester faces in conceding 7lb to Churchill, the QIPCO 2000 Guineas victor, in the £1 million mile showpiece, which has attracted a final field of nine and forms part of the QIPCO British Champions Series.

“When you are at the top of your game there are always people trying to knock you down,” Buick said. “Ribchester has yet to take on the three-year-olds this year and we go there with plenty of respect for Churchill. His defeat in the St James’s Palace seemed a big shock to his team, and you only have to go back to Newmarket to see what he is capable of.

“A dual 2000 Guineas winner? You don’t take them lightly and I certainly don’t underestimate him. He gets the weight and he’s a big horse, a strong horse. The weight concession is massively in their favour [three-year-olds in general] and from this time of the year onwards they are maturing all the time.”

Buick first rode the Godolphin-owned Ribchester, when the Richard Fahey-trained son of Iffraaj finished third in the QIPCO 2000 Guineas last year and has partnered him on six further occasions, including for his two Group 1 wins this term in the Al Shaqab Lockinge and Queen Anne Stakes.

“He’s improved in every department since I first rode him, both mentally and physically,” he said. “He used to be a bit immature, very energetic, and it was hard to channel it in the right direction all the time. Now he’s really matured and he has turned into top-class horse.

“Richard and his team have done a fantastic job with him. A lot of it is down to them that he is so adaptable in a race. He seemed to enjoy it from the front at Newbury but, equally, he can come from behind. He has got the highest cruising speed of any horse I’ve ridden and he can quicken off it as well, which is a great asset for a miler.”

A feature of Ribchester’s triumphs at Newbury and Ascot – he had Lightning Spear and Kool Kompany well behind on the latter occasion – is that he has hung in the closing stages, but Buick is unperturbed.

The 29 year-old, who has enjoyed 16 victories in the QIPCO British Champions Series since it was initiated in 2011, said: “He went right at Newbury on very soft ground after being in front a long way, then at Ascot he went slightly left, but he’s always been slightly playful. He’s not a horse who stops and looks, he keeps going.”

In last year’s Qatar Sussex Stakes, Ribchester finished with a flourish after having to wait for a run and was beaten a neck and a short head in one of the best finishes of the season. At the time, Buick was suspended and had to watch from the sidelines.

“He was a bit unlucky 12 months ago, but he was not the finished article then,” he said. “Even so, it was still a very good performance – he nearly ran down The Gurkha and Galileo Gold.”

Godolphin’s previous three winners of the race include Aljabr, whose time of 1min 35.66sec in 1999 remains a record.

Before his surprise reverse at Royal Ascot, when he started at 1-2, Churchill had won seven races in succession – four of them at the highest level. Aidan O’Brien, his trainer, remains puzzled by his subdued effort at the Royal Meeting, but has suggested that an extremely hot day in Ireland and England, with travelling in between, might have been a factor.

Churchill bids to become the ninth QIPCO 2000 Guineas winner to go on and win the Sussex Stakes in the same season since 1945. The past three to do so have been Rock Of Gibraltar (2002), and Henrythenavigator (2008) – both trained by O’Brien – and the mighty Frankel (2011).

O’Brien is also represented by Lancaster Bomber, who finished a length second to Barney Roy in the Queen Anne Stakes, having previously finished behind Churchill the five previous occasions they had met.

Zelzal, who had Zonderland well adrift when winning the Group 1 Prix Jean Prat at Chantilly last year, flies the flag for France. The last French-trained winner was Solow in 2015.

The field is completed by Toscanini, deployed as a pacemaker for Ribchester last time, and Here Comes When.