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Thursday, 13 December, 2018

Rain sinks Ribchester after weather wipes out clash with Churchill

William Buick did not enjoy an easy time on Ribchester in the closing stages of the Sussex Stakes
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The Churchill team will have little doubt the late withdrawal of the dual Guineas winner from a sodden Sussex Stakes was the right decision.

Connections of Ribchester will perhaps wish they had done the same after the triple Group 1 winner succumbed to outsider Here Comes When in a contest that was neither Duel On The Downs nor Match Of The Day.

Despite the atrocious conditions, it barely crossed Richard Fahey's mind to pull out Ribchester, and in any case finishing second and picking up £213,300 was not exactly disastrous.

But this was an odd race, one that left many wondering if Ribchester ought to have won despite the ground for he was very strong again at the finish, where the winner had only a neck to spare, having made the running and crossed over to the stands' side. 

However the odds-on favourite failed to secure the rail which had earlier been such an advantage to Molecomb winner Havana Grey. The battle with Zelzal, who got up his inside, looked to unsettle Ribchester, and although William Buick was not making much of it afterwards, the stewards had a good look at the closing stages and inquired into why Buick "appeared to ease for a few strides approaching the final furlong".

They noted Buick's explanation that "the horse had lugged right-handed, and being mindful that he may run onto the heels of the winner, eased for a few strides before continuing to ride when the colt became re-balanced and ran straight again".

Without benefit of a replay, Buick was initially inclined to cite the ground for a performance he clearly found somewhat mystifying.

He said: "I was surprised they got to me and I wasn't comfortable from the three to the two pole. He didn't find as much as I thought he would and that's usually a very strong part of his race. Then he stayed on strongly again towards the end when the others got tired in front."

He added: "He's a gutsy horse, but they're terrible conditions. It's heavy ground, not nice."

Fahey, who had salt rubbed into his wound by a £1,000 fine for failing to parade his two runners in the correct order, described it as "a strange race".

He added: "I didn't think about taking him out, but they are extreme conditions, and maybe he shouldn't have made it out there. Maybe he should have taken a lead for a bit.

"It's not ground for a Flat horse, but he's run a mighty race and showed good heart to come back and nearly get up again. Maybe he got a bit lonely in front and perhaps pulled up a bit. I'm disappointed, don't get me wrong, but that's racing. We live to fight another day."

Fahey's "another day" could come soon in the Prix Jacques le Marois a week on Sunday.

"He's a tough horse and there's hardly a blow on him," he stressed. "He's entered in France and we'll see how he is."

Churchill's absence was no surprise given the conditions, especially as Aidan O'Brien had a potentially very able, although ultimately disappointing deputy in sixth-placed St James's Palace Stakes second Lancaster Bomber.

O'Brien said: "The conditions are extreme so we pulled Churchill out. There will be another day. If he goes up to a mile and a quarter we could look at the Juddmonte, if he stays at a mile he could go to France."

France means the Jacques le Marois. Perhaps we can look forward to the Duel at Deauville.

I didn't think about taking him out, but they are extreme conditions, and maybe he shouldn't have made it out there. It's not ground for a Flat horse
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