RIBCHESTER – We last saw this Godolphin-owned 4 year-old romping away in the Queen Anne Stakes at Royal Ascot and with the second – Mutakayyef – winning since to frank the form then he’s sure to be a warm order to follow-up. With winning runs this season on both good-to-firm and soft conditions then no matter what the Goodwood ground throws-up that shouldn’t be an issue either. He’s now won three Group Ones and with just three runs this year will also head here still fresher than most.
However, those looking to take him on will cling to the fact he has been beaten in this race before – when third 12 months ago to The Gurkha – so there is a small question mark over the track. Yes, he’s probably a stronger and better horse now, and is also another year older, but despite winning well last time out there is also an argument to say the Queen Anne opposition wasn’t the strongest. Also with this year’s 2,000 Guineas winner – Churchill – in the race he’ll have a different test this time. Okay, Aidan O’Brien’s 3 year-old flopped at Royal Ascot when only fourth in the St James’s Palace Stakes but if we can forgive that below-par effort then he rates a huge danger to Ribchester, especially receiving 7lbs from the Godolphin runner.
Plus, despite being beaten last time out at Ascot, the winner that day – Barney Roy – has since upheld the form by running a cracker in the Eclipse at Sandown, so although on paper Churchill’s 4 ½ length defeat was disappointing on the day for connections all-of-a-sudden it may not look as bad as first thought. In summary, Ribchester heads here with less risks and is certainly the form horse in the race, but having been beaten in this race 12 months ago and also having to give 7lbs away to the younger horses then at the prices he doesn’t look great value.
BIG ORANGE – The poplar Big Orange has won the Goodwood Cup for the last two years and really there is every reason to think he can land a famous three-timer in this 2m flat stayers race. Another horse that grabbed the racing public back in the 90’s was Double Trigger, who landed this contest three times too, but those victories didn’t come on the bounce so the Michael Bell-trained Big Orange will be looking to re-write the record books here. In recent years, Le Moss, Further Flight, Persian Punch and Yeats have also all been double winners of this race.
Back to Big Orange, and we last saw this 6 year-old win an epic Ascot Gold Cup after a cracking battle with Order Of St George. He got the job done by a short head that day over 2m4f to show just how gutsy a horse he is, while the time before that he was a 5 length winner of Henry II Stakes at Sandown. As mentioned, he’s landed this race for the past two seasons so we know the tricky Goodwood track suits. He’s a front runner that simply grinds it out from the front and we can expect more of the same this year. He beat another potential runner in Pallasator by 1 ¼ lengths 12 months ago and in 2015 he got home by a neck from Quest For More.
Looking at the opposition, Big Orange had a lot of these in-behind in the Gold Cup last time and with Order Of St George missing the race to focus on targets at the end of the season then his task has been made easier. Those against him will look to him having had a tough race last time out, but he’s had 40 days to get over that and really with just three runs this year he’s certainly not been over-raced. Another factor against him though would be the ground. His best form comes on good or a quicker surface, with his two recent victories coming on good-to-firm ground. Yes, he’s won on good-to-soft, but should conditions get any worse that would be a big worry with his form on soft or worse reading 4-6-5-4!
Therefore, overall a lot will depend on the ground – if it’s good or faster then I think he’ll be hard to beat, but if Goodwood get a significant amount of the wet stuff in the lead-up to the race, and we have soft (or worse) conditions, then I think he’s worth leaving alone.
VERDICT: BANKER (unless soft/heavy ground)
WINTER – The Aidan O’Brien yard have won this race three times in the last 13 years, including 12 months ago with Minding, and they will be looking to repeat the feat here with Winter. Just like Minding this 3 year-old landed the 1,000 Guineas that same season and will be looking at exactly the same double. We last saw Winter running away with the Coronation Stakes at Royal Ascot last month and with the second – Roly Poly – having since come out to win the Falmouth Stakes then the form looks rock solid. This will only be her eighth career outing and having won her last three races (all Group Ones) then there is a good chance this 3 year-old has not stopped improving yet.
She takes on the older horses for the first time so this is by-far her biggest test to-date, but as a result she also gets a handy 8lbs from the 4+ year-olds, including last year’s runner-up – Queen’s Trust. She’s won on yielding ground and also good-to-firm so no matter what the ground throws up she should also be fine on that score. Those looking to take her on might look to her running against the older horses, but the biggest question mark really surrounds the trip. This is a step up to 1m2f for the first time – with the furthest she’s gone in the past 1m.
That said, she’s certainly not been stopping in her races over a mile – winning by 4 ¾ and 2 ¼ lengths the last twice – while her Galileo pedigree is a further positive indication that this extra yardage should be well within range. Yes, last year’s second – Queen’s Trust – will be a big danger based on her recent close fourth to Highland Reel in the Prince Of Wales’s Stakes, but she’s got 10lbs more to carry than in the race last year and with just one win from her last 9 races suggests she’s not the easiest to catch right.
Of the rest, the improving Nezwaah caught the eye when winning the Group One Pretty Polly Stakes last time out at the Curragh and looks a big danger, but is another 4 year-old that has to give weight to Winter. So, the John Gosden trained Shutter Speed might do best of the rest. She’s only raced four times and was last seen running a close fourth in the French Oaks, while the time before was a decent winner of the Musidora. With proven form over this trip, winning on a variety of different ground, and also getting the weight from the older horses she looks a fair option against Winter. In summary, yes, there are questions to answer for Winter and some fair opposition to prove herself against, but she’s done little wrong this season and with this step up in trip looking likely to bring out even more improvement then I’ll be sticking with her to make it four wins on the spin.