KARL BURKE’S season to remember will be complete if stable star Quiet Reflection rounds off a fabulous racing career by winning today’s Qipco British Champions Sprint at Ascot.
Though the Clive Cox-trained Harry Angel has been a class apart this year, Burke’s string could not be in better form following Group One successes with Unfortunately and Laurens.
Earlier in the season we were running out of time to get a prep run before Royal Ascot so we went to Haydock over five furlongs on quick groundKarl Burke
And, after being injured following her comeback at Haydock in May, Quiet Reflection – last season’s dual Group One winner and reigning Yorkshire horse of the year – was back to her brilliant best when winning last month’s Renaissance Stakes at Naas after a long lay-off.
She was the only horse to quicken out of the soft ground and the six-furlong battle with Harry Angel is one of the most eagerly-awaited clashes on Qipco British Champions Day in which the year’s top horses, trainers and jockeys compete for £4.3m on the country’s richest ever raceday.
“Earlier in the season we were running out of time to get a prep run before Royal Ascot so we went to Haydock over five furlongs on quick ground,” said Leyburn-based Burke, who will set a new personal best, in terms of prize money, if Martin Harley’s mount prevails.
“She ran perfectly adequately, but just before Royal Ascot picked up a fracture in a pelvis. She was only lame for four or five days and I knew in the back of my mind we had the Renaissance Stakes. Ireland worked out really well. I actually think she’s a bigger, more mature mare this year. If it’s anything good or softer she’ll run very well.”
As well as Harry Angel, Hambleton trainer Kevin Ryan saddles Brando – owned by Barnsley taxi boss Pete Tingey and his partner Angie Bailey – while Aidan O’Brien has a four-strong team, headed by Caravaggio, as the Ballydoyle trainer seeks a record-equalling 25th Group One win this year.
O’Brien’s attempts to equal, and then surpass, legendary American trainer Bobby Frankel’s improbable record will be one of the day’s defining themes. So, too, will be conditions for horses and spectators alike if Ascot is hit by the forecast heavy rain and high winds that might assist Ryedale trainer Peter Niven’s veteran stayer Clever Cookie in the opening Long Distance Cup.
Yet, while searching conditions did not suit champion miler Ribchester when Yorkshire’s four-time Group One winner suffered a shock defeat in Goodwood’s Sussex Stakes, the strong possibility of attritional conditions is not perturbing Malton trainer Richard Fahey.
Owned by Sheikh Mohammed and the mount of William Buick, the four-year-old colt will probably require another career-best performance to win the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes in which the aforementioned O’Brien’s three high-class entries are headed by dual Guineas winner Churchill.
Yet, while Churchill has to return to form and Andrew Balding’s Beat The Bank has to prove that he’s Group One class, Ribchester won Newbury’s Lockinge Stakes before scorching clear in Royal Ascot’s Queen Anne Stakes over today’s trip. He then returned to winning ways in Deauville following the Goodwood blip.
Saddling National Hunt horses at Wetherby earlier this week, Fahey received the good wishes of luminaries like training legend Peter Easterby – “he’s a good ‘oss” without a trace of doubt – and was slightly fazed when asked what it meant to train such a special horse.
“That’s a good question,” he told The Yorkshire Post. “We’re privileged to have him. As a two-year-old, we knew he was special but did we think he was good enough to win a Lockinge, Queen Anne and Prix Jacques Le Marois? No.”
Asked to assess Ribchester’s chances, Fahey added: “Quite hopeful – as much as one can be going into a Group One. If you don’t get a buzz training horses for days like this, you shouldn’t be doing the job. He’s a very easy horse to train with no issues, touch wood. I’m able to get the work into him when I want and he’s a very willing horse who enjoys his work, which is a huge help.
“He tends to go on any ground. When he got beaten at Goodwood I’m not blaming the ground, I’m blaming the conditions – it was blowing a gale and pouring down with rain. If you’ve ever run yourself in rain and wind it’s not comfortable and it just caught him out, but he’s bounced back and won a Group One in France since so we are very happy and comfortable with him.”