If William Buick eventually decides to appeal against the ban ruling him out of both the Derby and the Oaks, he will be able to pay his legal fees from the percentage of prize money he won on Saturday’s card here, when he bagged the big races aboard Ribchester and Hawkbill. Ribchester’s success in the Lockinge means Godolphin have lifted this particular trophy four times in the past five years and Sheikh Mohammed’s team seem in buoyant spirits before the Epsom Classics that are now a fortnight away.
As was noted on Guineas weekend earlier this month, Godolphin have yet to acquire the tactical mastery that their Irish rivals Coolmore often display when it matters most and things threatened to go awry for them as soon as the stalls opened in the Lockinge. Toscanini, brought over from Ireland in the winter specifically to be a pacemaker for Ribchester, fluffed the start and was in last place throughout while Ribchester was left to do his own donkey work out in front.
Making his own running had seemed to be the undoing of Ribchester in Dubai earlier this year but he settled much better this time and finished strongly, coming home almost four lengths clear of Lightning Spear and Breton Rock. It was the colt’s second Group One success from his last four starts and he looks sure to be a formidable opponent in any top-class mile contest this year.
His emergence has clearly meant a lot to his trainer, Richard Fahey, long established as a prolific winner of juvenile races and northern handicaps but still fairly new to competing at the highest level. “I was quite nervous today and I don’t do nerves,” Fahey said. “It was a big day, you just want to perform and, God, he did. This guy’s special.”
Ribchester is now the 2-1 favourite for the Queen Anne, the opening race at Royal Ascot next month, while everything else is 10-1 or bigger. Surprisingly stepping him up in distance for the alternative Prince of Wales’s the following day remains an option, according to John Ferguson, Godolphin’s chief executive, though it does not seem a likely move, even allowing for the fact that Godolphin also have the André Fabre-trained Jimmy Two Times for the Queen Anne. “My personal feeling at this moment is, stick to what we know you’re good at,” Ferguson added.
Godolphin also won a Group One in France last weekend, with Sobetsu in the Saint-Alary, and those involved can now savour the luxury of having to sort through a handful of possible Derby runners, including Dubai Thunder, who made such an impressive debut here on Friday. “We’ve obviously got Permian, Benbatl, Best Solution,” Ferguson said. “And Dubai Thunder comes into the reckoning. It’s great to be in a situation whereby we’ve got some horses with genuine chances and I would say that he is one but it’s a big ask.”
Ferguson added that Hugo Palmer is also keen on a Derby bid with his Godolphin-owned Best Of Days, unraced since September, and that colt will be tested around Epsom on Tuesday morning at the Breakfast With The Stars media event.
In the circumstances, it seems likely Godolphin will have plenty of work at Epsom for its retained jockeys and one or two others. But as things stand, Buick will have to miss the two-day meeting because of a five-day careless riding ban handed out after the last race at York on Friday. The jockey said here he had deliberately postponed thinking about the matter, to maintain his focus on an important race day.
Buick has until Tuesday to lodge an appeal but it must be long odds-on that he will do so. Some of his weighing room colleagues feel he was guilty of nothing but, even if he succeeded only in reducing the ban by a single day, he would then be allowed to move the ban on to non-Group One days, freeing him to compete at Epsom.
Palmer, meanwhile, could do with a change of luck, as his stable has been short of recent winners and his Galileo Gold, a Guineas winner last year, was a tame fifth in the Lockinge. Frankie Dettori reported the chestnut was unsuited by the “gluey” ground.
Palmer added: “Anyway we hope this is just the first run of what’s going to be a long campaign. We’ll go back and regroup and think about what happens next. The Queen Anne would seem the obvious next step but Frankie’s thought last year was that he might prefer running round a bend, so we might just wait for the Sussex.”
Chris Cook’s tips for Sunday
MARKET RASEN 1.50 Bellamy 2.20 Too Many Diamonds 2.55 Always Lion
3.30 Oscar Sunset 4.00 Gowanauthat 4.30 Ultimatum Du Roy 5.00 Another Crick
RIPON 2.00 Way Of Wisdom 2.35 Urban Spirit 3.10 Alshibaa (nap)
3.40 Gurkha Friend 4.10 The Feathered Nest 4.40 Materialist 5.10 Entertaining Ben