Rip Van Winkle finally lived up to the hype and broke through for his first group I victory when he powered home for a 2 1/2-length win over Paco Boy in the BGC Sussex Stakes (Eng-I) at Goodwood July 29.
After finishing fourth in both the stanjames.com Two Thousand Guineas (Eng-I) and the Investec Derby (Eng-I), Rip Van Winkle signaled his improvement with a strong second place finish to Sea The Stars in the Coral-Eclipse (Eng-I) July 4.
A field of eight went to the post, with ‘Rip’ being sent off as the favorite despite the presence of three group I winners in the field. Paco Boy, under Richard Hughes, had captured the Queen Anne Stakes (Eng-I) at Royal Ascot in June. Lord Shanakill had won the Etihad Airways Prix Jean Prat (Fr-I) in his most recent start, and the talented filly Ghanaati had annexed both the stanjames.com One Thousand Guineas (Eng-I) and the Coronation Stakes (Eng-I) this season.
Partnered as usual by Johnny Murtagh, Rip Van Winkle broke quickly and sat just off the flank of his stablemate, Malibu Bay. As Malibu Bay began to weaken, ‘Rip’ stormed to the front and took command with well over three furlongs left to run.
Both Ghanaati and Lord Shanakill made challenges with two furlongs to go, but neither made an impression on the leader. Paco Boy was rolling on the far outside and was able to cut into Rip Van Winkle’s lead, but had to settle for second, 2 1/2-lengths behind the winner.
Ghanaati held on for third, four lengths further back, while Lord Shanakill faded to fifth. Final time for the eight furlongs was 1:37.16 over the good turf course.
Rip Van Winkle provided trainer Aidan O’Brien with his fourth win in the Sussex, with prior victories coming with Giant's Causeway (2000), Rock of Gibraltar (2002), and Henrythenavigator (2008).
O’Brien said after the race, “He has always had so much speed. It’s all class with this horse, and all cruise and speed. We’ve never had a horse with that much class.”
A delighted Murtagh added, “I said he was one of the best I’d ridden and he’s shown he’s a great horse. A mile to a mile and a quarter—he will be very hard to beat from now to the end of the season.”
Rip Van Winkle is a 3-year-old colt by Galileo, out of Looking Back, by Stravinsky. He was bred in Ireland by Roberto Brogi and is owned by Susan Magnier, Michael Tabor, and Derrick Smith.