08/02/2017 2:09PM

Here Comes When slogs way to upset in Sussex Stakes

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Heavy rain Wednesday at Goodwood Racecourse in England turned the ground to mush. An hour before the Group 1 Sussex Stakes, the connections of star 3-year-old Churchill bowed out, but odds-on favorite Ribchester stayed in, and then went down to defeat, beaten by the unheralded 7-year-old Here Comes When.

Ribchester, ridden by William Buick for Godolphin and trainer Richard Fahey, went to the front in the one-mile Sussex, slogged through the swamp on the lead for three-quarters of a mile, was briefly overwhelmed by Here Comes When and Lightning Spear, but fought on in the final half-furlong to pass Lighting Spear and close the gap on Here Comes When. But Ribchester’s brave rally fell a neck short, and Here Comes When scored the most important win of his career.

"He won two Group 2's as a 4-year-old and has always been a handy horse, but he needs these conditions,” said winning trainer Andrew Balding. “We were lucky the race fell away a little bit, but you still have to run to a very good level to win it, which he did. It's one of my more improbable Group 1 triumphs.”

Here Comes When, a gelding by Danehill Dancer out of the Spinning World mare Quad’s Melody, won at the highest level for the first time while scoring his eighth victory from 29 starts. The winner’s share of the $739,000 Sussex about doubled his career earnings, and because the race is part of the Breeders’ Cup Challenge Win and You’re In program, Here Comes When earned a fees-paid berth in the Breeders’ Cup Mile at Del Mar. Should his connections choose to go, they are highly likely to encounter far different conditions.

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A win is a win, but it is hard to hold this defeat against Ribchester, as Europe’s best miler this year clearly failed to show his best over the going. Ribchester has raced effectively on the lead and over wet turf, but these conditions were extreme. The final time for the Sussex was 1:46.11, about nine seconds slower than standard.

"He is a gutsy horse,” said Buick. “The conditions are terrible out there. It is very heavy ground."

The French invader Zelzal moved with apparent authority 1 1/2 furlongs out, but could not sustain his bid and checked in fourth, 1 1/2 lengths behind third-place Lightning Spear.

Churchill, who won the English and Irish 2000 Guineas earlier this year, shipped for the race but was withdrawn after trainer Aidan O’Brien walked the Goodwood course following the first round of heavy rain. Choosing not to run turned out to be at least a small victory in itself on this day.