Champ Jim lifts Goodwood gloom with super Sussex success
Sussex-based champion jockey Jim Crowley gave rain-sodden Goodwood the champagne moment it craved when he landed the Â£1m Sussex Stakes Â in a shock win.
Pulborough-based Crowley held off hot favourite Ribchester to take the Qatar-sponsored biggest race of the week in awful conditions on 20/1 shot Here Comes When.
The Andrew Balding-trained seven-year-old had barely been talked about in the run-up to the race, with all focus on the clash between Ribchester and Churchill. Just half an hour or so before the race, Churchill was withdrawn as the ground got heavier.
That left Ribchester a stronger-than-ever favourite, but the bookies and most punters had reckoned without an heroic effort by Here Comes When and Crowley.
It was the great story the day needed after awful weather hit Goodwood bosses’ hopes of setting a new festival-week attendance record.e
The gelding, ridden in the colours of Fitri Hay, scored by a neck from the 8/13 favourite Ribchester, with Lightning Spear a further three-quarters of a length third of the seven runners.
Churchill had joined Zonderland as a late non-runner.
Here Comes When was entered in a handicap at the meeting on Friday. Instead he became the first seven-year-old winner of the Qatar Sussex Stakes (it was restricted to three-year-olds until 1959), and while he was fourth in it two years ago, and had landed a pair of Group 2 contests in 2014, this was his biggest triumph. In six seasons of racing he had won Â£280,000, a worthy sum by any standards, but today he added Â£560,000 to his tally.
Balding said: "He was always travelling strongly through the race and that gave him a chance of being placed, but I thought Lightning Spear would beat us and then Ribchester. Happily they didn't. This rain was forecast, so the conditions are not totally unexpected. We hoped he would run well, there's good money all the way down and he loves the ground and likes the track. He's been in great form this year. Jim [Crowley] thought we would be in the first three and he gave him a great ride.
"He won two Group 2s as a four-year-old and has always been a handy horse, but he needs these conditions. We were lucky the race fell away a little bit, but you still have to run to a very good level to win it, which he did. It's one of my more improbable Group 1 triumphs, but he was 20/1, so not completely without a chance. We entered him a long time ago because he was impressive when winning a Listed race at York, and he's very handy on his day. He's a strong traveller on this ground.
"I should think he will have just one more run, probably at Ascot [Champions Day] in the autumn when I hope he gets these conditions again, and then we'll look forward. His racing career will have to end at some point and we'll have to find a nice home for him. I'm very happy for Mr and Mrs Hay [Jim and Fitri], who have been wonderful owners for us - they've had horses with us a long time and I'm pleased for them because they love Goodwood."
Fitri Hay said: "We had lots of top wins with the likes of Cape Blanco," said husband Jim Hay, "but this is our first as a sole owner and not in a partnership. This is Fitri's horse and it's a real team effort from all. The going today really played to our strengths, but this horse has always been knocking at the door in Group Ones and Twos, he has always had a lot of ability. Andrew has got him at the peak of performance for today.
"Alex [Cole, racing manager], Andrew and I had a long discussion about this race at Ascot on Saturday and we decided to run. We thought we'd go for fourth prize - there is big prize money - as we didn't think we'd beat Ribchester or Churchill. But as the weather changed and the going got softer and softer, I can't say we were confident, but thought we'd be in with a chance. When they pulled out Churchill, I looked at Here Comes When in the parade ring and I thought he's going to run a good race for us. I thought he'll be in the first three and if he did that we'd be over the moon.
"Watching through the race we were quite happy with where we were, and I thought we're going to pick the leaders. As they came down the straight, Here Comes When was just getting stronger and stronger, and we were praying 'Jim don't go, don't go yet!'"
Despite the rain, Crowley, the current champion and a former NH jockey, who is retained to ride all the Fitri Hay-owned horses, was all smiles. "He's a very good horse with his conditions - which are these!" he laughed. "But he's deserved it, he's battled hardened, he's run plenty of times, he's a Group Two winner and this is great for Fitri and Jim. They are very big supporters.
"It's tough conditions, it's tough going, it's proper heavy jumping ground. The horse is very tough and he toughed it out. For every drop of rain that has come today, I was pleased!"
Ribchester's trainer Richard Fahey commented: "William [Buick] felt they were rocking away two out but then came back again. It is extreme conditions out there. I was very worried, it is not for a Flat racehorse. He has showed good heart and has run a mighty race to get back up again.
"If you could back winners today you would be a genius as the conditions are so bad. It is why bookmakers love conditions like this. They get odd results and they got one today. I am disappointed, don't get me wrong. We came here expecting to win and we didn't, so we are disappointed. It was a strange race and I would like to see it again."
Star three-year-old Churchill, a dual Guineas winner, was withdrawn from therace by trainer Aidan O'Brien about half an hour before the 3.35pm off time.He said: "This is extreme weather now. We came here wanting to run and we are very disappointed we're not running. That's the way it is. The year is long and hopefully there will be other chances. Where we go now, I am not sure. The lads will decide whether they want to stay at a mile or go up to a mile and a quarter."