We round up the final declarations for QIPCO British Champions Day at Ascot as Stradivarius and Magical go for glory this weekend.
Champion chance for Magical
Magical heads nine final declarations for the QIPCO British Champion Stakes on Champions Day at Ascot on Saturday.
Aidan O’Brien’s filly won the Irish Champion Stakes and finished second to Enable in the Coral-Eclipse and Yorkshire Oaks earlier in the season, with her trainer opting for the 10-furlong race at Ascot this weekend. Stablemate I Can Fly also runs in the race.
Magical had entries in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes and the Fillies & Mares as well, but takes the Champion Stakes option where she will face the well-backed Addeybb, trained by William Haggas.
Haggas said: “Whether he’s good enough, I don’t know. He’s got a bit to find on the book but he’s a smart horse who likes soft ground and a gallop, like when he won so well at Royal Ascot.
"Next time at York it was soft but not soft enough – it was 'drying soft', whereas he wants it wet. Last year it never rained at all. We kept training him and by the time he got to the soft ground on Champions Day he was not at his best.
"This time his preparation has been different and it was marvellous of Newmarket to let us gallop him before racing last Friday because he will have benefited from that. If I can get him right for the day he should run well."
John Gosden has won the last two renewals with Cracksman and he runs two fillies this time around; Coronet, who has won Group One races in France on her last two starts, and Mehdaayih, who is on a retrieval mission having run poorly in the Prix de l’Opera at ParisLongchamp last time out.
Saturday will be the ninth edition of QIPCO British Champions Day and Gosden paid tribute to the day saying: "It’s gone from strength to strength in so many ways.
"It was recorded by Julian Muscat [in the Racing Post] how many high-class horses have run at the meeting and we’ve had good ground, fast ground and genuine good to soft a couple of times.
"We’ve just walked into more rain [on this occasion] but look what happened at Longchamp; that went heavy in 48 hours. It is autumn, it can happen, but I think we’ve still got some very good horses running from all around Europe."
He added of Coronet: "Ever since Coronet won the [Darley Prix Jean] Romanet [at Deauville on August 18] we have been waiting to run her in the QIPCO Champion Stakes. We are very, very happy with her and, as I say, it’s been the plan for some time.
"We’ve been absolutely thrilled with her two Group One wins this year. She’s such a tough race filly and she will be retiring after this race."
Japan’s Deirdre, ridden by Oisin Murphy, is the sole international challenger, while Sir Michael Stoute runs Regal Reality for Cheveley Park Stud.
The field is completed by James Fanshawe’s Pondus and the supplemented Fox Tal from the Andrew Balding yard.
Japan was the highest-profile defector on Thursday morning.
Big field for Champions Sprint
Martyn Meade’s Advertise heads a big field of 17 for the QIPCO British Champions Sprint Stakes at Ascot on Saturday.
A winner of the Commonwealth Cup and the Prix Maurice de Gheest already this season, Advertise will have the services of Frankie Dettori.
Haydock Sprint Cup winner Hello Youmzain heads the opposition for Kevin Ryan, who also runs Brando, while the last three winners of the race; The Tin Man, Librisa Breeze and Sands Of Mali all bid to win the contest for a second time.
Ryan said of his pair: “It’s always been the plan to go there with both of them and they are in great shape. The pair of them have both got form there at Ascot and hopefully they run their races and it will be a good end to the season for them.
"Some horses like Golden Slippers [Ryan’s Prix de l’Abbaye winner] need time but Hello Youmzain stepped up straight away and done everything we’ve asked of him.
“He’s a young horse, only three, and we’ve minded him this year. Hopefully that will pay dividends in the long run. He’s a very exciting horse.
“Brando is a seasoned warrior who turns up for every big occasion and runs his race. He’s run well in the race in the past and is a star, a marvellous horse who holds his form. He broke a blood vessel last time, something he seems to do once a year. It’s unfortunate for that to happen on a racecourse but he’s fine."
The Tin Man will be running in the race for the fifth successive year and his trainer, James Fanshawe, said: “He’s been a regular in the race and won it once. He wasn’t at his best in it last year when he was probably feeling the effects of his previous run at Haydock [when winning the Sprint Cup].
"He’s fit and fresh heading into it this time. Their coats are going this time of the year and you never quite know, but he seems really well.
"We didn’t have him quite right midsummer and that’s why he went to Newbury [for the bet365 Hackwood Stakes] rather than the Prix Maurice de Gheest.
"After Newbury he had a nice break and he finished his race strongly last time in the Sprint Cup at Haydock. Oisin [Murphy] said he was a bit unlucky because he stumbled a bit coming out of the gates but I was just so pleased he ran so well, and he has come out of it really well.
"I think that he likes being able to get into a race in his own time, rather than put the gun to his head early. I always thought he wanted better ground but he handles soft ground as well as anybody else and lot of his relations love it."
Ascot specialist Cape Byron has won the Victoria Cup, Wokingham Handicap and Bengough Stakes at the track from three goes this year and he runs for Roger Varian, while Andrew Balding saddles Donjuan Triumphant.
Varian said: "He's a good horse and he didn't really love the July Cup on that firm ground at Newmarket (finished 11th). It took him a while to get over that, but he showed he was coming back to himself when he finished a good third at York and he won well in the Bengough.
"At this time of year the ground there is unlikely to dry out, and it gives you confidence knowing he handles it."
The Irish challenge is headed by Denis Hogan’s Make A Challenge, who is on a hat-trick, while Joseph O’Brien runs Speak In Colours, Aidan O’Brien runs So Perfect and Aidan Fogarty sends over Forever In Dreams.
Prix de la Foret winner One Master drops in trip for William Haggas, Stewards’ Cup winner Khaadem turns out for Charlie Hills, Mabs Cross steps up in trip to six furlongs for Michael Dods, Sir Michael Stoute runs Dream Of Dreams and Keystroke completes the field for Stuart Williams.
Stradivarius tops 10 Cup hopes
Super stayer Stradivarius heads 10 final declarations for the QIPCO British Champions Long Distance Cup.
The John Gosden-trained five-year-old scooped last year's renewal and has not lost since finishing a close third to Order Of St George in the 2017 edition. He has subsequently won all 10 of his races and extended his winning run when cruising home from Cleonte and Max Dynamite in the Doncaster Cup last month.
Gosden said: "He’s been in very good form since the Doncaster Cup. He breezed yesterday morning and worked on Saturday, and Frankie was very happy with him.
"I have made it clear that I will be walking the inner flat track in the morning, which I did last year for him. I shall then discuss everything with Mr Nielsen. Last year we discussed it and decided to run and I hope that it’s the same this year."
Cleonte and Max Dynamite reoppose this weekend for trainers Andrew Balding and Willie Mullins respectively, while Gosden has also left in the relatively lightly-raced Royal Line, who was making it five wins from nine races when landing the Group Three Sun Racing September Stakes on his latest outing.
A new rival for Stradivarius is Aidan O'Brien's Kew Gardens, the 2018 William Hill St Leger winner. He was runner-up in the Irish equivalent last time on his first try at a staying trip, having previously been second to Defoe in the Investec Coronation Cup.
Another to note is the Roger Charlton-trained Withhold, a six-length winner of the Listed Jockey Club Rose Bowl Stakes at Newmarket last time. The Gosden-trained Flying Officer won that race in 2015 en route to landing the Long Distance Cup.
“I think there will be an awful lot of people at Ascot who will have never seen him in the flesh,” Charlton said. “He’s a magnificent beast of a horse and I’m hoping he will be around next year, when I’m looking forward to running him in the Cup races.
“Stradivarius has won ten races in a row and is phenomenal. He should win but if we are second, third or fourth to him I will be thrilled.”
The rest of the field is made up of Bin Battuta (Saeed bin Suroor), Capri (O'Brien), South Pacific (O'Brien) and Mekong (Sir Michael Stoute).
Dee Ex Bee was among those taken out at the final declaration stage.
Gosden trio stand ground
John Gosden is triple-handed as he goes for another QIPCO British Champions Fillies & Mares Stakes at Ascot on Saturday.
The Clarehaven handler won the contest in 2016 with Journey and has a strong team this time around, headed by Star Catcher who has won the Ribblesdale Stakes, Irish Oaks and Prix Vermaille on her last three starts.
She’s the mount of Frankie Dettori meaning that William Buick gets the leg up on Investec Oaks winner Anapurna, who bounced back to winning form when surviving a stewards’ inquiry in the Prix de Royallieu at Longchamp on Arc weekend.
Sparkle Roll is the Gosden third-string.
The trainer said: "Anapurna had a rough trip in the Vermeille [on her penultimate start] and showed great courage in the Prix de Royallieu.
"You don’t normally come back that quickly but in fairness she's had a lot of the summer off. She had a big holiday from the Oaks through to the Vermeille, then the Royallieu. She did a half-speed yesterday morning and she seems bright and content in herself.
"Star Catcher has been great from the Ribblesdale onwards. She won the Vermeille in good style when she got a clear run of it; and she’s had a nice gaps in her races. She goes there with every chance."
Star Catcher will be partnered with Frankie Dettori in the race. Gosden said: "I think it was a difficult choice for Frankie [choosing between the pair]. He had great difficulty choosing going into the Royallieu where one got the run of the race and one did not. And he found it a difficult choice again for Saturday, he really did, but he’s sticking with the filly who has had the longer time between her races."
Of Sparkle Roll, he added: "She's in tremendous form and will enjoy the ground and the trip. She’s had a funny old summer but she’s come back well in the autumn."
Aidan O’Brien runs four fillies in the race; Pink Dogwood, Delphinia, Fleeting and South Sea Pearl, while the Irish challenge is completed by Dermot Weld’s Aga Khan-owned filly Tarnawa.
William Haggas’ Klassique, Sir Michael Stoute’s Sun Maiden, Ralph Beckett’s Antonia De Vega and Roger Varian’s Nausha complete the field.
“She’s had a stop-start year but did a racecourse gallop last week and that went to plan,” Beckett said. “She’s been training well and hopefully it stays soft because the formbook says that suits her. She’s very under-raced and I’m hopeful there is a bit more to come. She goes there nice and fresh.”
Rev-ved up for QEII test
A total of 16 horses stand their ground for Saturday's Group One Queen Elizabeth II Stakes, featuring French ace The Revenant.
Trained by Francis-Henri Graffard, the chestnut son of Dubawi lines up on the back of a runaway success in the Group Two Qatar Prix Daniel Wildenstein at Longchamp over Arc weekend.
That was his first run since winning a Group Two at Baden-Baden at the end of May and represented his sixth straight success.
The home team is headed by Benbatl, who bounced back to his best for Saeed bin Suroor with victory in the Joel Stakes at Newmarket, along with David O'Meara's Queen Anne winner Lord Glitters.
Aidan O'Brien's QIPCO 2000 Guineas hero Magna Grecia is set to having his first outing since disappointing in the Irish Guineas in the spring.
The John Gosden-trained King Of Comedy, Richard Hannon's King Of Change and Sir Michael Stoute's Group One-winning filly Veracious are other interesting contenders.
Hannon said: “He’s (King Of Change) a lightly-raced colt who runs well fresh. He’s plenty fit enough and in great form. Since his very good second in the Guineas, we have deliberately given him a break and prepared him for the autumn.
“There was nothing flukey about his run in the Guineas. He proved that [when winning] at Sandown last time and he will come on a lot for that. He’s a horse for next year, don’t forget that, but if he ran a good race in the QEII then we would be delighted.”
Of King Of Comedy, Gosden said: "He ran into a top horse in top form last time out. I was very impressed with Benbatl. He won in tremendous style – someone had to be second and it was us.
"I take nothing from the winner and think he will take all the beating again, but we’re running under somewhat different conditions. If we handle that ground then I think King Of Comedy will run a big race."
Marcus Tregoning's Mohaather, who was ruled out of the Guineas after winning the Greenham, has his first run for almost 200 days.
Jim Crowley will be on board and he told Sky Sports Racing: "He was really impressive when he won the Greenham. I've been down and ridden him work, he's going well and he likes soft ground.
"It's a big ask going for a Group One race, but he's fit and well, so hopefully it will go well. One thing we do know is that he handles soft ground and there aren't too many options for him.
"He's done plenty of work on the grass and hopefully he'll run a nice race."