Watch the closing stages of the Qatar Sussex Stakes won by outsider Here Comes When, get full reaction from connections and read Geoffrey Riddle's report.
By Geoffrey Riddle at Goodwood
It has been that kind of week.
Hot on the heels of 100-1 and 50-1 blowouts on Tuesday Here Comes When brought punters to their knees in ferocious conditions with an upset victory over Ribchester in the Qatar Sussex Stakes at Goodwood.
In the 23 years that departing clerk of the course Seamus Buckley has worked on these Downs he had never encountered conditions like it and they contributed to a race that had an equal balance of drama both before, during and afterwards.
After nearly 30mm of rain in five hours the ground on the Downs was no better than soft, going on which Here Comes When had won three times previously.
As the rain teemed down at its heaviest after the Molecomb Stakes won by Karl Burke’s Havana Grey, Aidan O’Brien scratched second favourite Churchill moments before the preliminaries began to the £1 million contest.
Where you could have snaffled 80-1 about Andrew Balding’s seven-year-old in the morning, all that was available at the off was 20-1 about Jim Crowley’s mount.
After a laborious 1min 46.11sec, Here Comes When ground down Ribchester by a neck to become the oldest winner of this august Group One since it became an open event in 1959. It was also the slowest time on record, dating back to 1960.
It was a first Group One victory for owners Jim and Fitri Hay and will likely remain their most fortunate one, not that they believed Lady Luck had any bearing on the result.
“That was not a surprise,” Jim Hay said.
“I had a long chat at Ascot on Saturday with Andrew. We didn’t think we could beat Churchill or Ribchester but we thought we could be in the first three and beat everything else.
“There is good prize-money so why not come and do this? As the ground got softer and softer we thought we could get a lot more. When Churchill was pulled out we thought, ‘OK, here we go’.”
Jockey Jim Crowley, who won the Coral-Eclipse aboard Ulysses a month ago, is well versed riding in these conditions, having made the transition from being a Jumps jockey to the retained rider on the Flat for Sheikh Hamdan and the Hays.
He did not have a ride in the preceding race and spent the time sifting through his Sussex Stakes rivals, picking them off one by one as horses who would flounder in the conditions.
“It is proper heavy, jumping ground, which I am used to,” Crowley said. “The horse was very tough, he was in front two out and toughed it out. On days like this, for every drop of rain that landed I was very pleased for this horse.”
Much like Breton Rock, who won the Lennox Stakes at 50-1 on Tuesday due to a pace collapse, Here Comes When had everything in his favour. He had never finished better than his fourth place here behind Solow in 2015 in Group One company, and Balding even joked that his charge could well take up his entry in Friday’s Betfred Mile with a penalty.
Ultimately, Ribchester struggled to lead for the duration of the contest and, to his credit, he rallied admirably after it appeared that Buick had given up with a furlong to go.
Balding had the grace to accept that there had been an element of fortune at the result. “I am sorry for the punters,” he said.
“It is a slightly hollow victory and Churchill couldn’t run, which slightly ruined the spectacle but you have to be in it to win it.
“He was always travelling strongly but I thought Lightning Spear was going to beat us and then I thought Ribchester would beat us. Happily they didn’t.
“It’s one of my more improbably Group One triumphs but he was 20-1, so not completely without a chance.”
Expert Eye, Tuesday’s Vintage Stakes winner, remains the only favourite to oblige from 15 races here and if Winter is turned over in the Qatar Nassau Stakes on Thursday punters may well give up on Goodwood for the rest of the week.
By the end of racing on Wednesday 40mm had fallen on the course and the heavy rain was forecast to continue long into the night.
“Today is the worst day I have ever had in the 23 Goodwood festivals I have done,” Buckley said. “I haven’t yet put heavy in to the description, I am just waiting for the rain to stop.
All it needs is to stop raining. The top will dry off and the water will soak down through the chalk. You’d be amazed how quickly it can dry.”