Sunday 21 January 2018

Ribchester ready to prove a canny buy for Godolphin

Fahey: Sends Ribchester to Newbury for the Mill Reef Stakes
Fahey: Sends Ribchester to Newbury for the Mill Reef Stakes

Wayne Bailey

A relation of mine, who has since passed on to his eternal reward, used to swear blindly that he bought his first car from the money he made backing Mill Reef to win the Epsom Derby in 1971.

I used to believe every word out of his mouth as a youngster, but when I visited his grave a few years back I realised he was born in 1960 so his glorious tale of bashing the bookmakers over in England and bringing a car back on the ferry doesn't quite add up.

But who was it that said we should never let the truth stand in the way of a good story?

With a Timeform ratings of 141, Mill Reef sits at number nine in their list of all-time greats (which is 1lb higher than Shergar and Sea The Stars) and even though I was only a child when Mill Reef died in 1986, I can appreciate the impact the Ian Balding-trained champion had on the betting public, not least my relation.

The race named after the great horse (2.15 Newbury) is a Group Two for two-year-olds and this year's renewal includes some promising sorts - although as has been the case in the last couple of years, the field is quite small with just six going to post.

For quite some time now, this has been remarkably punter-friendly and you have to go as far back as 1985 to find a winner priced above 10/1.

With the market proving to be a very strong as a guide to how well or otherwise a horse might perform, it's best to stick with those near the top of the betting in this particular race, rather than wasting time looking for an angle which produces a big-priced outsider.

Expected to go off around 11/8, Ribchester catches the eye for Richard Fahey with James Doyle on board. Fahey took this race with Supplicant a couple of years ago so he knows the type it takes to win, and Ribchester ran much better than expected when second in the Group Two Grimcrack Stakes at York last time, having gone off unfancied at 25/1.

After that race, Godolphin decided to buy him so he obviously has plenty of promise and gets an early entry for the Group One Middle Park Stakes later on this month.

At York, he seemed to be gaining ground in the dying stages of the race and it will be interesting to see what happens when he's eventually stepped up to 7f.

Richard Hannon has Log Out Island entered and if his latest Group Two race at Doncaster (in which he came third to the talented Gutaifan) is anything to go by, he'll be breathing down the selection's neck.

But he's not one I fully trust and among some very promising performances, he's had a few off days where he just didn't show up. He may be the most experienced horse in the field but his inconsistency must be a big worry for connections so I'm happy to stick with Ribchester which seems to have more room for improvement.

At Ayr, Priceless is a worthy favourite around 9/4 for the Group Three William Hill Firth Of Clyde Stakes (2.0). She stormed clear to win her debut maiden at Haydock and is definitely one to keep onside for now.


Richard Fahey's Don't Touch is an exciting three-year-old which has won all four starts to date although bookmakers are taking no chances, and the Dutch Art gelding was trading around 6/1 yesterday evening for the William Hill Ayr Gold Cup (3.45).

It's not an easy race to win so considering trainer Kevin Ryan has landed the spoils three times in the last eight years, his charges Blaine, Lexington Abbey and Glory Awaits are all respected. Of the trio, Lexington Abbey looks a great each-way bet around 14/1.

Trained particularly for this race, he slips in nicely at the bottom of the weights off 97, which is a very fair mark considering his best form to date has come in his last two races.

Today's selections

1.45 Newbury: Eagle Top

2.0 Ayr: Priceless

2.15 Newbury: Ribchester

3.10 Ayr: Chil The Kite

3.25 Newbury: Steps

3.45 Ayr: Lexington Abbey (e/w)

Irish Independent

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