Both the Malton trainer – and jockey William Buick – blamed the heavy ground for the four-year-old’s defeat to the Frankie Dettori-inspired filly Persuasive who handled conditions best of all.
Running into a strong headwind on Qipco Champions Day, the Yorkshire standard-bearer appeared to be in command approaching the final stages of the race after edging across Churchill to secure the far rail.
Yet, as Ribchester visibly laboured in the conditions, Persuasive finished full of running to finish her turf career in style –she’s now being retired by owners Cheveley Park Stud for breeding purposes.
Second in last year’s renewal to Aidan O’Brien’s brilliant Minding, the result confirmed the pre-race fears of those who thought Fahey’s horse might not be seen at his best after being found by extreme conditions in Goodwood’s Sussex Stakes earlier in the year.
“Déjà vu – he’s beaten again,” said a phlegmatic Fahey. “It’s difficult to blame the ground as he’s a horse who’s won on soft ground, but he’s such a good moving horse and William feels there that he’s come to win and win well but he just got beaten in the dead ground there.
“He just doesn’t put it to bed. The winner coped with the conditions better. That’s twice he’s been beaten in desperate conditions. But we’re happy enough. Well, not really, but I have to say that!”
On discussions about whether Godolphin’s four-year-old son of Iffraaj would head to America’s Breeders’ Cup next, Fahey said: “I can’t even think about that now, I’d need to speak to the team.
“His best run for me was at Royal Ascot when the ground was quick and he broke the track record. If he hadn’t had won the two-year-old race at Newbury, the Mill Reef, on slow ground I’d always have been worried about the ground, but he’s come back as bright as a button.
“So I’m frustrated, rather than disappointed.”
That sentiment was shared by the aforementioned Buick who said of Ribchester: “His best performance was here in the Queen Anne on fast ground and the filly who likes the ground [Persuasive] quickened past me and ran well.
“But look, he’s ran well and he’s held his form since March. I think yes, he would have turned the tables on quicker ground – he’s a much better horse on quicker ground.”
There was a surprise in the Qipco British Champions Sprint when Librisa Breeze, ridden by former Yorkshire jockey Robert Winston, surged forward in the heavy ground to provide trainer Dean Ivory with a first Group One success.
Kevin Ryan’s Brando and Karl Burke’s now retired Quiet Reflection were both unplaced, though there was some White Rose consolation when David O’Meara’s Lord Glitters lit up the late afternoon gloom and showed a blistering turn of place to land the concluding Balmoral Handicap under Danny Tudhope.
Yet, in many respects, this was the day when that man Dettori proved that he’s still the champion, certainly at his beloved Ascot.
Forty minutes after the aforementioned Persuasive’s win, he teamed up with John Gosden to land the Qipco Champion Stakes on York hero Cracksman who was simply imperious over 10-furlongs in winning by a wide-margin seven lengths.
Dettori’s first win in this race, it sets up the tantalising possibility of Cracksman, sired by 2012 victor Frankel, going head-to-head with stablemate, and Arc heroine, Enable next season.
“Today is Cracksman’s day – don’t ask me which one’s best between Enable and Cracksman,” said the 46-year-old.
“The Champions Stakes is a colossal race to win – my father came close and I came close a couple of times so it’s been bugging me for a while. But that was a dream performance.”
Either way, Frankie Dettori will still be the man to beat.