Fahey's Ribchester should prove too strong for Royal Ascot all-comers
Ribchester is primed to prove himself not just the best of British in an all-comers mile clash at Royal Ascot, writes James Toney.
The Richard Fahey-trained four-year-old underlined his credentials with a storming victory in last month's Lockinge and will rightly start favourite to add to last year's Jersey Stakes triumph in the Queen Anne Stakes.
Fahey describes his stable star as 'a little Ferrari' - and he always seemed to shift to another gear when challenged.
However, he faces an international challenge with Todd Pletcher's American Patriot and Graham Motion's Miss Temple City both arriving from across the Atlantic to bid for a race won last year by US raider Tepin.
German entry Spectre is also one to watch but it's an Australian jockey who could provide the biggest story of the week, after the first of 30 races.
Michelle Payne became the first female jockey to win the Melbourne Cup on 100-1 chance Prince of Penzance in 2015 and rides another long shot, Kaspersky, for trainer Jane Chapple-Hyam, who landed an 80-1 winner at Newbury last week.
But Ribchester - under the careful charge of William Buick - should have nothing to fear from this foreign legion in the Qipco British Champions Series race, a prize once claimed by the legendary Frankel.
"Ribchester is the best horse in the race, he's quality on all fronts and he just keeps improving," said Buick.
"He's fast but he sees out the mile and the fast ground should be really in his favour. You've got to say we've got a very big chance when you put all that together."
Stablemate Toscanini will act as a pacemaker but Fahey is not getting ahead of himself.
"Barring the two American horses there's nothing in the race we don't know and we're very comfortable with where we are," he said.
"The ground is different to his last win at Newbury but he has form on fast ground, so that's no concern. Things can go wrong, that's racing, and you are always anxious but I like our chances."
Given the talent in the race, if Payne pulls off another shock it would probably eclipse her Melbourne Cup victory and force those penning a film about her career into a hasty rewrite.
"He couldn't be in better shape," she said, when asked about her 66-1 chance. "The beauty of racing is that it throws up long shots and you have to be positive that you'll be on one.
"It would be a fairytale. The Melbourne Cup is a holy grail for an Australian jockey but winning at Royal Ascot, I didn't think I'd get the chance to even race here."
When you call your horse Churchill then nothing less than victory will do - but the double classic winner won't have it all his way in the showpiece St James's Palace Stakes.
The English and Irish 2000 Guineas winner lost his maiden status with a Chesham Stakes triumph at last year's Royal Ascot but has really stepped up in class since.
Barney Roy, who finished a fast-finishing second behind Churchill when he won in Newmarket, and Thunder Snow - well beaten into the minor places at the Curragh - are both lining up and itching for revenge.
But Ballydoyle trainer Aidan O'Brien, with 55 Royal Ascot winners, including seven wins in the St James's Palace Stakes, is bullish.
"It is 20 years since I first won the race and it's flown by," he said.
"It's a lot of hard work by a lot of people and we are very grateful to everybody. We are a very small part of the team and are privileged to be part of it.
"We were delighted with Churchill at Newmarket and again when he won at the Curragh and everything has gone fine since then. He's very straightforward and he should be happy on the firmer ground.
"Royal Ascot is an unbelievable meeting and I think it's something that everyone looks forward to every year. It's great to be able to have the horses to compete there and we really enjoy it."