GOODWOOD // Rip van Winkle beat overnight lameness to storm to a front-running victory in the Group One BGC Sussex Stakes at Goodwood yesterday, denying both Paco Boy and star filly Ghanaati in the process. Connections of the son of Galileo appear confident their three-year-old can get the better of John Oxx's superhorse, Sea the Stars, when the pair next meet.
The fragile, Aidan O'Brien-trained Rip van Winkle, who picked up an infection in his heels after being clipped by a following horse during an early-season race, was a doubt for the one mile contest right up until he entered the starting gate. Even as late as inside the parade ring, O'Brien instructed jockey, Johnny Murtagh, to feel out the horse on the canter to the stalls and pull him out if he seemed uneven.
But the 2,000 Guineas and Epsom Derby fourth and Coral Eclipse second to Sea the Stars, showed no sign of lameness as he jumped well and pushed the pace so much that Murtagh was forced to overtake Malibu Bay, used by O'Brien as a pacemaker, before they reached the two furling marker. Richard Hughes on Paco Boy was just a touch off the pace when the big-galloping Rip van Winkle made his bid for home. The Queen Anne Stakes winner ran on well, but was unable make an impression while Ghanaati, who may have been uncomfortable on the Goodwood track, was third. Jeremy Noseda's Forgotten Voice, under Frankie Dettori, was fourth.
Judged on this form, triple group one-winning Sea the Stars, who beat Rip van Winkle in all three of his previous runs, must be considered an even classier prospect than before. But yesterday belonged to Rip van Winkle who very nearly didn't line up for the race at all. "We were very worried about him," said O'Brien. Rip van Winkle, who has suffered a number of injury set backs this season, was flown to Goodwood straight from O'Brien's Ballydoyle yard in Ireland on the morning of the race, but connections were by no means certain he would run.
"If we weren't happy Johnny was going to pull him out after the canter to the start," said O'Brien. "But this horse is amazing. You put a saddle on him and he seems to be a different horse. "This run is a tribute to his determination, stamina and pain threshold." Murtagh, who won this race last year on Henrythenavigator for O'Brien, said Rip van Winkle would improve. "I didn't give him a very good ride in the Guineas," he said. "And to be honest we've only just found out how he likes to be ridden. He's been a little bit of a baby in his development and just wanted to rush things a bit, but now he's got the message and perhaps all those bad rides are starting to pay off for him.
"I think from this run to the end of the year we will see more improvement." email@example.com