Ribchester blows rivals away to give Iffraaj another Group 1
Four-year-old colt is from the family of Classic winner Mehthaaf
Godolphin’s domination of the Lockinge Stakes continued on Saturday as the Richard Fahey trained Ribchester ran out a commanding winner of the early season highlight to add a second top-level success to his record.
With Toscanini fluffing his lines as pacemaker Ribchester was forced to cut out the running with his old adversary Galileo Gold. But with that rival wilting with around two furlongs still to go it was left to Lightning Spear to throw down the final challenge, though as the three and three quarter length winning margin suggests, Ribchester ultimately proved a class apart.
Bred by Andrew Thompson and Mike O’Brien, Ribchester is one of eight Group 1 winners sired by Darley’s Iffraaj, a 16-year-old son of Zafonic currently standing his third covering season at Dalham Hall Stud in Newmarket, where his fee is £27,500.
Fahey has been an instrumental figure in the rise of Iffraaj, having also overseen the career of his first-crop star Wootton Bassett, who became the sire’s first Group 1 winner when landing the 2010 Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere. Wootton Bassett has since gone on to make his own impact at stud, most notably as the sire of the top-class Almanzor.
Iffraaj, who is due to resume shuttle duties when travelling to Haunui Farm in New Zealand later this year, has also enjoyed a productive spell in the southern hemisphere in 2017, with his sons Gingernuts and Jon Snow bagging three Group 1s between them. The former landed the Rosehill Guineas and New Zealand Derby, while the latter won the Australian Derby.
Iffraaj may have become adept at siring horses capable of winning at the highest level, but he was unable to gain a Group 1 win himself, although he was beaten just a head by Les Arcs in the 2006 renewal of the July Cup. Perhaps his finest day on the racecourse came on his penultimate outing, when he landed the Lennox Stakes by an impressive four lengths. He finished his racing career with a trio of Group 2 successes, before retiring to Darley’s Kildangan Stud in 2007.
Ribchester is the first foal out of Mujarah, an unplaced daughter of Marju. Despite Ribchester’s two Group 1 victories being gained over a mile, Mujarah is related to a host of talented middle-distance performers, notably her half-sisters Tactic, who won the Group 3 Curragh Cup over 1m6f, and Yaazy, who landed the Listed Prix Joubert over 1m4f.
However, his pedigree is not completely devoid of high-class miling blood, as Ribchester’s third dam is Mehthaaf, a daughter of Nureyev who reversed the form with her Newmarket conqueror Las Meninas to land the 1994 renewal of the Irish 1,000 Guineas.
Saturday’s result also gave further indication of the prowess of Marju as a broodmare sire. Daughters of the late Derrinstown Stud resident have supplied a whole host of talented runners, including the other top-level winners Canford Cliffs, Marsha, Marcel and Ribbons.
Thompson and O'Brien also bred Ribchester's half-brother Golconda Prince, a son of Arcano, but Mujarah was subsequently acquired by Darley. In 2016 she produced a filly by Raven's Pass, and earlier this year foaled a colt by the operation's flagship stallion, Dubawi.
Ribchester has twice changed hands at public auction, first when signed for as a foal by Jamie Railton at €78,000, and then as a yearling when bought by former owner David Armstrong’s Highfield Farm for €105,000 from the 2014 Goffs Orby Sale. Having twice raced in Armstrong’s silks, Godolphin purchased Ribchester privately prior to him shedding his maiden tag in the Mill Reef Stakes.
Three of the last five winners of the Lockinge now stand under the Darley banner, but before Ribchester takes his place at stud alongside his own sire, it only looks a matter of time before he adds a third Group 1 to his already enviable CV.