Ribchester looks to Royal Ascot after Lockinge triumph
Ribchester looks primed to get Royal Ascot off to a flier as he silenced any critics with an attention-grabbing victory at Newbury.
Richard Fahey's stable star produced a brilliant front-running performance to underline his status as the best four-year old miler around.
When fellow Godolphin runner Toscanini failed to break from the stalls, Ribchester and jockey William Buick were forced to set their own pace.
And he surged away from his rivals, including last year's 2000 Guineas winner Galileo Gold, to secure the Qipco British Champions Series group one Lockinge Stakes.
He now looks likely to be aimed at the royal meeting's Tuesday one mile curtain raiser, the Queen Anne Stakes, a race already won a record seven times by his owners.
Some may argue he's ready to go beyond a mile - he looked to have plenty in reserve at the finish - but connections will surely seek to hammer home their advantage in a less than competitive division.
In 11 runs Ribchester has never finished outside the first three and has already collected Â£1.5 million in prize money - no wonder the affable Fahey claims he is the best he has trained.
"That was special," he said. "He's getting older and wiser and he's rated the best I've ever had, which should say it all. There aren't many horse like Ribchester in the world.
"Special is a word you shouldn't say easily as a trainer but when you see a performance like that, you're entitled to. We always felt this performance was there but we had to get him right.
"It's just a huge relief because I've been ranting and raving about how good he is for some time. When he got beat a couple of times last year I always felt he'd get stronger and he'd keep improving.
"He's mature now and he is getting physically better and better and better and that excites me. In my mind I like to think he'd stay a mile and a quarter but do we need to go there at the moment - no."
The race was billed as a showdown between Ribchester and Galileo Gold, with their personal head-to-head deadlocked at 2-2 after last season.
But it was Lightning Spear - third in last year's Queen Anne Stakes - that posed the greatest challenge to Buick in the closing stages.
Classic winner Galileo Gold could look to reverse the result in another clash at Ascot, with his team, including jockey Frankie Dettori, blaming 'tacky and gluey ground' for a disappointing show.
Victory was also a much-needed boost for Buick, who is set to miss the Investec Derby Festival after picking up a five-day ban for careless riding during the Dante meeting at York.
Buick was set to ride Jack Hobbs in the Coronation Cup and was also being eyed for a ride on Charlie Appleby's Bay of Poets in the Derby.