Ribchester on top form
Ribchester bids to crown a memorable season with victory in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes at Ascot.
Richard Fahey's stable star looked set to dominate the mile division after facile victories in the Lockinge Stakes at Newbury and the Queen Anne at Royal Ascot earlier in the campaign.
He suffered a shock defeat in a monsoon at Goodwood, going down by a neck to Here Comes When in the Sussex Stakes, but regained the winning thread in the Prix du Moulin and is the hot favourite to claim his fifth Group One success in one of the highlights of Qipco British Champions Day.
Fahey, who might not enjoy the forecast for raceday, said: "Everything has gone according to plan. He's a very easy horse to train with no issues, touch-wood. I'm able to get the work into him when I want and he's a very willing horse who enjoys his work, which is a huge help.
"He tends to go on any ground. When he got beaten at Goodwood I'm not blaming the ground, I'm blaming the conditions – it was blowing a gale and pouring down with the rain. It was a horrible day.
"If you've ever run yourself in rain and wind, it's not comfortable and it just caught him out, but he's bounced back and won a Group One in France since so we are very happy and comfortable with him."
Aidan O'Brien won this prize for the fourth time with the brilliant Minding 12 months ago.
Heading this year's three-strong team is Churchill, who looked a potential superstar when completing the English-Irish 2000 Guineas double in the spring but has been beaten three times since, most recently finishing seventh in the Irish Champion Stakes.
O'Brien, who also saddles Lancaster Bomber and Sir John Lavery, said: "Churchill is in good form and everything has gone well with him since Leopardstown.
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"We're looking forward to seeing him run. Leopardstown was just a bit of a mess."
The most improved horse in the field is the Andrew Balding-trained Beat The Bank.
The gelded son of Paco Boy is four wins from five starts this season and looked ready for a step up to the highest level when he blew away his rivals in the Joel Stakes at Newmarket three weeks ago.
Balding said: "Beat The Bank has done very well for us this year. He's been very progressive and seems to handle any type of ground.
"He won the Joel Stakes emphatically and deserves a step up in class. Only time will tell whether he is up to it, but we hope so."
The Kingsclere handler also saddles shock Sussex winner Here Comes When and will be encouraged by the forecast.
"He's obviously a much better horse when there is a lot of rain around," Balding added.
"He's in great form and is a horse who historically goes very well fresh."
Andre Fabre's Al Wukair, third behind Churchill in the Guineas in May, has been targeted at this race since winning the Prix Jacques le Marois at Deauville in August.
Rupert Pritchard-Gordon, racing manager for owners Al Shaqab Racing in France, said: "This is likely to be his last race before retiring and a Marois-QEII double would be a fantastic way to go out.
"We know Ribchester's going to be a tough nut to crack and we respect him enormously, and Beat The Bank looks like a real improver, but our horse has a little bit of brilliance as well."
John Gosden's Persuasive has run several good races in Group One company, most recently finishing second in the Sun Chariot at Newmarket. The soon-to-retire filly is one of two runners for Cheveley Park Stud along with Clive Cox's Zonderland, who was narrowly beaten in the Celebration Mile on his only previous outing this season.
Cheveley Park managing director Chris Richardson, said: "Persuasive's been a bit unlucky this year. She ran a blinder last time and was bucking and squealing the very next day. This will be her final race.
"Clive has always believed in Zonderland and he's come out of Goodwood in good form. He's got the ability – it's just a question of whether we get a bit of luck in running. The plus side is that we've got a fresh horse."
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