06/20/2017 10:26AM

Royal Ascot: Ribchester too good for Queen Anne foes

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Ribchester cemented his position as Europe’s best miler with a definitive victory Tuesday in the Group 1 Queen Anne Stakes to launch the 2017 Royal Ascot meeting.

Ridden by William Buick for Godolphin and trainer Richard Fahey, Ribchester followed Miss Temple City through the early and middle stages of the straight-course mile as pacemakers Toscanini and Dutch Uncle shot off to a large lead over the main body of the field. Ribchester moved easily into contention about three furlongs from the finish – too soon for Buick.

“I got a nice tow into the race from Miss Temple City, but I knew we were going hard and she’d go away early,” Buick said. “I didn’t want to lose my momentum, but I knew we’d get there quickly.”

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Indeed, Ribchester struck the front with close to a quarter-mile left to run, and might have lost his focus, drifting left as Mutakayyef cut into his margin. But Ribchester found himself again in the final furlong and clearly was going best through the final strides, coming home 1 1/4 lengths clear of Mutakayyef. It was a neck farther back to Deauville, who ran one of his better races at a distance almost certainly shorter than ideal, and another length to fourth-place Spectre, a German filly who finished far ahead of the next horse.

Miss Temple City failed to quicken and finished 13th. American Patriot, the other U.S.-based runner in the race, never got involved and checked in 11th.

Racing over a sun-baked, fast-playing course, Ribchester was timed in a course-record 1:36.60. A 4-year-old bred in Ireland, Ribchester is by Ifraaj and out of the Marju mare Mujarah, and his record now stands at 12-5-3-3.

Under Fahey’s tutelage he has improved basically every step of his career. A good 2-year-old, Ribchester got better the more he raced in 2016, and he has reached the height of his powers this year, winning the Group 1 J.T. Lockinge Stakes over a soft course last out while racing on the lead, before skipping home a sharp winner Tuesday. A natural near-term target would be the Group 1 Sussex Stakes over a mile at Goodwood.

“He’s a fabulous horse,” said Buick. “He’s the best miler I’ve ridden.”

Rajasinghe wins Coventry

Rajasinghe’s first turf race provided a first Royal Ascot win for jockey Stephen Donohoe and trainer Richard Spencer when the 2-year-old nipped Headway to win the Group 2 Coventry Stakes.

Rajasinghe, who had won his lone prior start over the all-weather course at Newcastle, overcame a troubled start Tuesday to finish strongly and beat Headway by a head. Murrillo was another neck back in third, with Brother Bear, one of the favorites, drifting left in the final furlong and finishing fourth. Arawak, a Wesley Ward-trained colt, was prominent early but faded to 12th.

Rajasinghe is by Choisir and out of Soviet Star mare Bunditten. He ran six furlongs in 1:12.39.