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Ribblesdale Stakes preview

One of the highlights of the Thursday card at Royal Ascot is always the Group II fillies' race over a mile a half. Jon Thompson, @jaytee6666 previews the Ribblesdale Stakes.

The Ribblesdale has long been a favourite race for yours truly at the Royal meeting and a race that has thrown up a surprise package or two over the years yet has been dominated by the front end of the market for the past 5 years. Not since Mont Etoile in 2006 and Thakafaat a year earlier has the winner returned a double digit SP.

There are some interesting trends to observe when assessing the race. Godolphin have featured heavily in the winners enclosure with success 5 times in the past 15 years. Kailani represents the 'Boys In Blue' this year from the Al Zarooni yard with Mickael Barzalona again getting the nod over Frankie Dettori. Kailani remains unexposed but she will need to step forward from her 7th in the Oaks where she was never a real threat to the main contenders.

John Gosden is another trainer whose fillies run well in the race but the same can be said of just about any Group race that the Clarehaven maestro targets - he simply does not make entries for fun! He sends out the certain favourite for the race this year in The Fugue who was many peoples idea of the Epsom Oaks winner early in June until she met more traffic problems a mile from home than on the M25 on a Friday evening! There can be no doubt that The Fugue was incredibly unlucky that day and she appears a worthy market leader.

Another interesting factor is that Sir Michael Stoute has won the race only once in 2003 with Spanish Sun and Aidan O'Brien is yet to win it! (Yes that is NOT a typo!) Stoute is not represented in this year's renewal while Ballydoyle run Twirl who would appear to be well held on Oaks form.

Others with Oaks form to examine are the Epsom 2nd Shirocco Star and Vow who finished 4th. The step up into Classic company was a huge ask for both fillies and one that they both appeared to take in their strides however I am not keen on either's chances at Royal Ascot. It will be interesting to note where Shirocco Star finishes in relation to Momentary who holds her by a short head from their tussle at Newbury in a trial stakes on good to soft going. There will no doubt be a large following for Momentary as she bids to become another winner on home soil for Her Majesty The Queen! The fact that racing's own 'Princess' Hayley Turner takes the ride will surely only apply more pressure to the Bookmakers should Michael Bell's filly triumph.

Princess Highway is another worthy of a mention due to connections alone. Racing in the Moyglare Stud colours and trained by Dermot Weld she has always been very highly thought of and her reputation was not lost in spite of a rather disappointing debut at Leopardstown last October. That was all that was required of the Street Cry filly in her 2 year old career and it wasn't until her reappearance in late March when she defeated Oaks 8th Betterbetterbetter comfortably that we were able to view her racecourse ability. A Group 3 victory at Naas followed that with Epsom winner Was back in 3rd place making Princess Highway a very interesting runner.

The final filly that I am going to focus on is the most interesting of all from a betting opportunity. Pink Damsel is owned by Fitri Hay and trained by Roger Varian and will be ridden by the Hay's retained jockey Jamie Spencer. Her price tag was a 'meagre' 600,000 Guineas when she paraded through the Tattersalls ring back in October 2010 so as you can probably tell she is a 'looker' as well as being rather well bred by Galileo out of Riskaverse who was a high profile performer in the USA. Pink Damsel has been highly thought of all year but her preparation for her 3 year old season was severely affected by the weather and the soft/heavy ground that featured so prominently during March and April ruling her out of a 1000 Guineas opportunity. But if there is a young trainer that you want to rely on for patience then it is surely Roger Varian and there is no better educator of a young horse than Jamie Spencer as was evidenced when Pink Damsel made a winning debut at Newmarket in May. After a sluggish start Spencer showed her the lead four furlongs from home and she gamely held her rivals to the line in spite of a few glimpses of greeness. There are supporting trends too...previous Maiden winners always apply themselves well in the Ribblesdale and the late Michael Jarvis won this race back in 2007 with Silkwood trained of course from Kremlin House.

As seems to be the case with all British racing these days I am forced to add a weather warning! There is severe rain forecast for Ascot on Friday and Saturday. Let us pray that it doesn't get as bad as forecast and does not appear on Thursday at all! I would imagine that if the word "good' disappears from the going report that Pink Damsel will be saved for another day.

The 2012 Ribblesdale Stakes promises to be another cracking race but at 16/1 available that price is too tempting for Pink Damsel over some higher profile contenders.

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