Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, the Vice President of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, won the Ribblesdale Stakes at Royal Ascot yesterday. The Godolphin-trained Hibaayeb defeated Eldalil, the horse owned by Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid, to land Saeed bin Suroor, the trainer, back-to-back victories in the Group Two race for fillies.
After the victory of Flying Cloud 12 months ago, confidence in the Godolphin camp was high ahead of the race and Frankie Dettori gave his mount a copybook ride, sitting in the perfect position throughout before taking over from Principal Role a furlong and a half out. She was three and three-quarter lengths clear of Eldalil at the line with Gallic Star staying on for third. "She was really disappointing in the Guineas where she didn't really run a yard," Simon Crisford, the Godolphin racing manager, said. "We were pretty surprised by that so we decided to go for the Prix Saint-Alary at Longchamp and she ran really well to finish third.
"We could have easily gone for the Investec Oaks after that but we felt that Epsom would be tough enough coming so quickly after France and decided to wait until Royal Ascot. "That was Sheikh Mohammed's decision - he felt that we had a better chance here than in the Investec Oaks. Now we will try our luck in the Darley Irish Oaks (the Curragh, July 18). She travelled so well throughout the race and she always looked like the winner. It was really satisfying to see her win and really rewarding that they do well at three having done so well at two. It is great for the sire Singspiel - Hibaayeb is a homebred.
Dettori added: "I think that the distance was the difference today - she relished a mile and a half. She won the Fillies' Mile here in the autumn so we knew that she liked the track and the stiff mile and a half is what she wanted. The further we went, the further she was going to win. "I know my way round here but I had the horse to do it. They went very quick for the first four furlongs. I got her to relax in a nice position on the rail and by the time I got to the turn for home, I had most of them covered. I found a clear passage and asked her to go and she made it look easy for me."
Hibaayeb was Godolphin's fifth winner of the Ribblesdale Stakes, following on from Bahr (1998), Fairy Queen (1999), Punctilious (2004) and Flying Cloud (2009). Angus Gold, racing manager to Sheikh Hamdan, the Minister of Finance, said: "That was a big step up [for Eldalil] and I don't know if it was lack of experience or whatever but she was slowly into her stride and got further back than one would have liked."
Dettori felt the Group Two Norfolk Stakes "came too soon" for Godolphin's Al Aasifh who showed good early pace before fading to finish ninth. Elsewhere, the Godolphin pair of Kite Wood and Darley Sun failed to make an impact in the Group One Gold Cup, finishing seventh and ninth respectively. Rite of Passage was the surprise winner. * Agencies