Champions Day: Ribchester and Churchill set for QEII showdown

Thu 19 Oct 2017

Watch Nick Lightfoot's interview with Andrew Balding, the trainer of Beat The Bank, and listen to Richard Fahey talk about Ribchester ahead of the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes

By staff

Ribchester and Churchill will do battle at Ascot on Saturday after both horses featured among 15 declarations for the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes.

The Richard Fahey-trained Ribchester is a hot favourite for the straight-mile Group One, having struck three times at the top level this season.

Aidan O'Brien won this prize for the fourth time with Minding 12 months ago and saddles 2000 Guineas hero Churchill, who needs to bounce back from a disappointing run in the Irish Champion Stakes, Lancaster Bomber and Sir John Lavery.

O'Brien's triple Group One-winning filly Roly Poly was the only horse withdrawn from the confirmation stage. Ribchester heads the market at 2-1, with Churchill 7-2.

Andrew Balding fields Here Comes When and the fast-improving Beat The Bank, with the latter a general 9-2.

Other contenders include Saeed bin Suroor's Thunder Snow, the Andre Fabre-trained Al Wukair plus Zonderland and Persuasive.

Rupert Pritchard Gordon, Racing Manager to Al Shaqab, owners of Al Wukair, who is a 6-1 chance, said: “Andre Fabre is very pleased with Al Wukair and this has always been the plan to keep him fresh in view to the QEII. He had a racecourse gallop at Maisons-Laffitte a couple of weeks ago to keep him ticking over and we were thrilled with him. He’s a horse that runs well fresh and the straight mile really suits him, so we were always going to wait.

“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.”

Chris Richardson, managing director of Cheveley Park, the owners of Persuasive and Zonderland, said: “Persuasive’s been a little bit unlucky this year. She ran a blinder last time [when runner-up in the Kingdom of Bahrain Sun Chariot Stakes] and was bucking and squealing the very next day.

Richard Fahey on Ribchester

“This will be her final race but we don’t want to risk her on quick ground as she desperately needs some cut in the ground.

"She showed how effective she is when getting her conditions when winning the Sandringham Stakes at Royal Ascot last year, so obviously going back to Ascot makes sense.

“Clive [Cox] 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.

“He’s a beautiful horse and we will keep him going as a five-year-old next year. I’m sure he will do nothing but continue to mature.”

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