Though the Malton trainer also saddles Brian The Snail and Eastern Impact in this six-furlong cavalry charge over the saturated Sussex downs, the Dr Marwan Koukash-owned Growl appears to be his best shout.
The winner of four out of 26 starts, Growl’s best performance to date came last October when finishing second to The Tin Man in the Group One sprint on Champions Day at Ascot. He then signed off from his domestic campaign by winning a Listed race at Doncaster.
But this season has been much more challenging and he even unceremoniously unseated Paul Hanagan in the starting stalls before the Diamond Jubilee Stakes at Royal Ascot.
There were, however, signs of a revival at Newmarket three weeks ago when the five-year-old gelding returned to somewhere near his best form in the July Cup.
Growl was always up against it in a field of such depth, yet he finished off his race sweetly to take sixth spot and was not beaten that far by potential superstar Harry Angel. That should put the son of Oasis Dream in a happy place for the Stewards’ Cup, in which he was an unlucky fourth 12 months ago – albeit off a lower handicap mark.
“Growl is the class horse in the race,” said Fahey. “He’ll love the ground and it would be no surprise at all to see him run a big race with Conor Murtagh taking seven pounds off – that’s a huge advantage.
“Brian The Snail flies at home and we’ve never made a secret of that – but he hasn’t been reproducing it on the track of late. He had an issue with a soft palate and now we’ve put blinkers on him in the hope they have the desired effect. We know this fellow can gallop. We decided to go low with our runners here but Eastern Impact owner wanted 11 as that is his mother’s lucky number. I hope it works again for her.
“He is what he is – a very capable sprinter – and while he has nothing in hand of the handicapper, we’ve stuck some cheekpieces on here to try and find a pound or two of improvement.”
As for the aforementioned Ribchester, Fahey will consider options over a mile and 10 furlongs for the triple Group One-winner following his narrow defeat to Andrew Balding’s previously unheralded Here Comes When in the £1m Sussex Stakes on Wednesday.
William Buick’s mount cut out much of the running before being passed by Here Comes When in the final furlong.
While Yorkshire’s mile champion, supreme when winning Newbury’s Lockinge Stakes and Royal Ascot’s Queen Anne Stakes earlier in the season, rallied admirably in the testing conditions, there was a neck between them at the line.
“Ribchester came out of the Sussex Stakes in great form, he’s eaten up and trotted up sound,” added Fahey.
“It was a strange race. He looked beat – then William Buick said he found his feet again and came home well.
“If a mistake was made then it was probably the decision to make the running – and that was down to me. It worked in the Lockinge, but I probably didn’t respect the conditions enough at Goodwood.
“It wasn’t just the testing ground but the driving rain and strong headwind he was running into.”
Possible targets include a trip to Deauville at the end of this month for the Prix Jacque Le Marois – victory would see Ribchester eclipse the late Richmond trainer Alan Swinbank’s Collier Hill and become the first Yorkshire Flat horse in recent times to win four Group Ones.
Alternatively next month’s Prix du Moulin, or the Irish Champion Stakes, could come into contention, the trainer appearing to rule out a tilt at York’s Juddmonte International where possible candidates include Aidan O’Brien’s multiple Group One-winning filly Winter who won Thursday’s Nassau Stakes.
“So we’ll look forward now. He’s in the Prix Jacques Le Marois and another Group One in France on September 10 (Prix du Moulin),” added Fahey.
“I’ve also left him in the Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardstown over 10 furlongs and we could have a look at that, too. We’ll decide nearer the time.”