Fahey excited by Queen Anne
Richard Fahey is relishing the prospect of saddling red-hot favourite Ribchester in the curtain-raising Queen Anne Stakes at Royal Ascot on Tuesday.
The four-year-old is odds-on across the board for the first race of the five-day meeting at the Berkshire circuit following a most impressive return to action in last month’s Lockinge Stakes at Newbury.
Fahey admits there is plenty of pressure on his shoulders as he bids to get the week off to a flying start for both himself and the Godolphin team, but insists he is more excited than nervous.
“He’s done his last serious bit of work and he’s good. We’re very happy,” said the Musley Bank handler.
“It’s probably an advantage getting it out of the way early, but I’m looking forward to it. This is what I get up at 4.30am every day for – to be part of races like this.
“If he gets beat, I might go home, but we’ll see.”
Fahey is no stranger to top-level success, having also landed Group One prizes with Wootton Bassett, Mayson and Garswood in recent years, but he feels Ribchester is top of the three in terms of ability.
“He’s the highest-rated horse we’ve ever had so you’d have to say he’s the best,” Fahey told Racing UK.
“He’s won over £1.5million already and he’s progressing along the right lines.
“To win a Group One like he did in the Lockinge was great. It was his first serious run back in England and you’re always anxious things won’t go right, but we’re pleased it worked well.
“We’re meeting some of the same horses. There are a couple of American horses there, but barring them there’s nothing new in the race.
“It’s a Group One and a tough one, but we’re happy going into it.
“It will be different ground to Newbury, but he has form on fast ground as well.
“It’s called racing for a reason and things can go wrong, but we’re very comfortable where we are.
“Someone said to me ‘we’ve looked after him well, he’ll look after you’, so let’s hope he does.”
Lightning Spear was a shade under four lengths behind Ribchester when second at Newbury last month, but connections are quietly confident he can at least close the gap.
Ribchester made all the running in the Lockinge after his stablemate and pacemaker, Toscanini, missed the break.
Toscanini is in the field again, but Lightning Spear also has something to aim at this time after Dutch Uncle was supplemented by owner Sheikh Fahad.
Trainer David Simcock said: “Lightning Spear worked very well last week and it’s exciting for everybody.
“Ribchester probably got his own way too much at Newbury and that probably won’t be the case in the Queen Anne.
“He’ll still take a lot of beating, but our horse will improve for the ground.
“That’s not to say it won’t suit Ribchester, but if we get a bit of pace on better ground, hopefully we’ll finish a bit closer.”
Sheikh Fahad’s racing manager, David Redvers added: “Lightning Spear is in fantastic nick and loves a good, sound surface so he will have that – it should be very different to Newbury.
“David and his team feel this is the horse’s year. He is the most heavenly horse to be around and is as genuine as the day is long.
“If there are any holes in Ribchester’s armour, he is there to expose them.”
Mutakayyef is an interesting contender for William Haggas.
The six-year-old won the Summer Mile at this venue last July before placing in the Juddmonte International and behind last year’s Queen Anne heroine Tepin in Canada.
He was a shade disappointing on his return to action in the Dubai Turf in March, but is expected to raise his game on the faster ground he will encounter on Tuesday.
“It’s a big day and the great thing for this horse is the ground is in his favour,” said Haggas.
“I’ve been very happy with him at home and he’s working very well.
“He’s got a nice draw, he’s won at Ascot on fast ground and I hope he’ll run another good race.”
There are two trans-Atlantic challengers in Todd Pletcher’s American Patriot, the mount of Frankie Dettori, and Miss Temple City from Graham Motion’s stable.
Pletcher’s assistant, Ginny DePasquale, said: “They’ve always thought a lot of the horse and he stepped up to the mark at Keeneland last time.
“He seems to handle things very well and takes things in his stride so I can’t imagine the different type of track will faze him.
“He’s used to being an underdog. There are obviously a couple of big players in here, but hopefully he’ll have a good trip with no excuses.
“He’ll probably be up close to the pace and I think he can run into a place.”
Aidan O’Brien sends both Cougar Mountain and Deauville into battle.
Other contenders include the Charlie Hills-trained Dutch Connection, Roger Varian’s Ennaadd and Jane Chapple-Hyam’s Kaspersky, who will be ridden by Melbourne Cup-winning jockey Michelle Payne.