The Lockinge Stakes - the feature race on Saturday’s valuable card at Newbury - has attracted 12 entries, and just like the betting, Richard Fahey’s Ribchester heads the Timeform weight-adjusted ratings. Godolphin, who bought the high-class four-year-old after his second start in the Gimcrack, are the leading owners in this prestigious race with seven wins altogether, recording their first success in 1998 with Cape Cross, who has gone on to sire multiple Group 1 winners, albeit none that have won the Lockinge.
Ribchester enjoyed a cracking campaign last year, and you could argue he was rather unfortunate to record just one Group 1 success. He was third to Galileo Gold in the 2000 Guineas and went on to win the Jersey Stakes at Royal Ascot on his next start, beating a strong field comprehensively. Not beaten far in the Sussex Stakes after, he went on to make the breakthrough at the top level when winning the Prix Jacques le Marois at Deauville in August, with a disappointing Galileo Gold back in eighth. Another career-best effort followed when a good half-length second to Minding in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes at Ascot on his final three-year-old outing, and he proved he retains all of his ability on his reappearance over 9f at Dubai in March, possibly just stretched by the longer trip on rain-softened ground. Toscanini, who has recently joined the yard, looks set for pace-making duties and he can tee the race up perfectly for his stablemate.
Second favourite in the betting is Galileo Gold, and, like Ribchester, he also enjoyed a brilliant 2016, winning the 2000 Guineas on his return and going on to win the St James’s Palace at Royal Ascot. Unlike Ribchester, however, his progress seemed to stall towards the end of the season, unable to match the efforts of that rival on his final two starts. This has been the long-term target for Hugo Palmer’s colt and he will likely be ready to roll given he is the only entry for his owner who sponsors the race.
Somehow is the only filly in the line-up and arrives fresh from a convincing win in the Dahlia Stakes at Newmarket earlier this month. She was a well-supported favourite on the day and ultimately made short work of some smart opponents, with Aidan O’Brien highlighting this race as her next target in a post-race interview. The step back in trip to 1m shouldn’t be a hindrance for this compact filly who continues to thrive on her racing and she is very much one to consider.
David Simcock’s Lightning Spear finished behind Ribchester on three separate occasions last year, but he managed to win the Celebration Mile at Sandown in between. He is a high-class performer on his day, but is a horse who needs everything to fall right given his hold-up running style and, given there isn’t an abundance of pace in this race on paper, it could pay to sit handy, which is a slight concern for his supporters.
Aclaim has always been highly regarded by Martyn Meade and he really blossomed when stepped up in trip towards the back end of last season, completing a hat-trick in the Challenge Stakes at Newmarket in October. He has reportedly done well over the winter and shouldn’t be underestimated.
Dutch Connection was privately purchased by Godolphin prior to this race last year, but he proved a disappointment when only ninth of 12. He went on to win the Lennox Stakes at Goodwood later in the season, but one niggling doubt with him is that he is yet to win at 1m. Seven furlongs appears to be his optimum trip and he will likely prove vulnerable again as a result.
Of the others, Ennaad was progressive on the all-weather last year and ran well in defeat last time, emerging with plenty of credit trying to give the winner 3 lb in a listed race at Ascot. Still, more is needed for him to be competitive in races of this type. The recent rain at the track will aid the chances of both Breton Rock and Mitchum Swagger, but they both have plenty to find on form, as their current odds suggest.
Ribchester to win the Lockinge Stakes at Newbury on Saturday at 5/2