The second-season sire who has pulled his socks up in recent weeks

From The Racing Post's Good Morning Bloodstock: how Ribchester has made a flying start to the new turf season

If you were to have written end-of-term reports for the freshman class of 2021, the most appropriate comment for Ribchester might have been that reliable euphemism beloved by teachers through the ages: could do better.

In fairness to him, he had to contend with some real school swots last year. Cotai Glory supplied 35 winners in Europe at a clip of 40 per cent, while Ardad, Caravaggio and Galileo Gold each delivered a Group 1 scorer. Time Test and Zarak, meanwhile, recorded outstanding strike-rates of 9.1 and 5.7 per cent black-type winners to runners.

Then there were those other members of the cohort who were later maturing themselves, or in possession of stouter pedigrees, and whose first two-year-old runners showed more obvious promise for their Classic season: the likes of Almanzor and Ulysses, for example.

Ribchester, conversely a Group 2 winner at two by the precocious influence Iffraaj, sired 15 juvenile winners from 58 runners in Europe at a clip of 26 per cent – the 21st best figure for a freshman with ten runners or more last year.

His only Black Type winner, the Listed scorer Flaming Rib, was also his only Black Type place-getter, and his 19 per cent ratio of runners with RPRs of 80 or higher in Britain last year put him 11th among his peers with at least 15 representatives on the track.

The upshot was that the average price paid for Ribchester’s yearlings in Europe dropped from 63,254gns for his first crop in 2020 to 48,139gns for his second crop last year, and his foal average fell from 19,220gns for his second crop to 11,259gns for his third crop in the same space of time.

As a consequence, his covering fee at Kildangan Stud was clipped to €12,500 this year from €17,500 in 2021, apparently to entice more breeders to roll the dice with him.

Clearly, then, Ribchester has a lot of work to do to get closer to the top of the class. But here’s the good news (finally, I hear his supporters crying): he has pulled his socks up and straightened his tie, and is doing a fair impression of a model pupil by siring some exciting winners in recent days.

His first crop has yielded two wide-margin winners in mainland Europe already this month. Emperor Of Love scored by seven and a half lengths at Milan on Saturday for Alduino Botti, while Facteur Cheval took a warm-looking maiden at Saint-Cloud by five lengths on Wednesday for Jerome Reynier.

Incidentally, County Down-based Cecil and Martin McCracken, who bred Group 1 winners Best Solution and El Bodegon from their 10,500gns Tattersalls February Sale purchase Al Andalyya, might just have unearthed another bargain broodmare from that auction in Facteur Cheval’s dam Jawlaat.

Facteur Cheval is the second foal they have bred from the mare, an unraced Shamardal half-sister to three-time Group 3 winner Tantheem from the family of Group 1 laureates Eshaada, Santiago and Tamayuz. She was bought from the Shadwell draft for just 18,000gns in 2016.

Jawlaat must have the knack of throwing attractive stock, as Facteur Cheval was sold as a foal for 145,000gns and his year-younger half-sister by Kodiac made 45,000gns at the same age before being resold to BSW/Crow Bloodstock for 180,000gns as a yearling last autumn.

Emperor Of Love and Facteur Cheval take the total number of winners from Ribchester's first northern hemisphere crop to 23.

An even more significant boost to Ribchester’s profile came on Monday when Michaela’s Boy, the very first runner from his second crop, showed a pleasingly professional attitude to win first time out at Windsor.

Richard Hughes, who trains the £28,000 Goffs UK Premier Yearling Sale purchase, reported after the race that he might now head to the Lily Agnes Stakes at Chester’s May meeting.

Michaela’s Boy was bred by Jimmy Murphy’s Redpender Stud out of Joyce Compton, a winning Tamayuz sister to Japanese Grade 3 scorer Meiner Eternel and half-sister to the dam of recent Al Quoz Sprint runner-up Happy Romance – another product of the Redpender winner factory.

Ribchester needed to improve on his grades in his sophomore season, and full credit to him for having done so in the early weeks of the new term. Whether he eventually graduates with distinction as a capable, commercially popular stallion remains to be seen, though.

And, yes, I deserve a blackboard rubber hurled at my head for torturing that scholastic metaphor for so long.