The stars are lining up with Magical, Stradivarius and Palace Pier among the headline acts ready to light up the 10th anniversasry of QIPCO British Champions Day at Ascot on Saturday 17th October 2020.
The trio feature among 22 Group 1 winners who will be in action with five Classic winners – Serpentine (Investec Derby), Mishriff (French Derby), Even So (Irish Oaks) Search For A Song (Irish St Leger) and Sovereign (last year’s Irish Derby winner) – joining them.
The glittering equine cast on show have won 44 races at the highest level of the sport and 19 of those engaged have at least one win at Royal Ascot to their name. In total, 87 runners have been declared for the six races, which is a joint-record for QIPCO British Champions Day.
The thrills are going to come thick and fast at Britain’s most valuable raceday, with outstanding five-year-old mare Magical, trained by Aidan O’Brien, having the opportunity to go one better than Frankel and Cracksman by becoming the first horse to win at the meeting three times. On what seems likely to be her final race in Europe, she will defend her crown in a scintillating £750,000 QIPCO Champion Stakes.
The action will get under way with the world’s top-rated stayer, Stradivarius (pictured top, courtesy of Ian Yates, www.eyewhy.co.uk), trained by John Gosden, strutting his stuff in the QIPCO British Champions Long Distance Cup and later on the card his stablemate, Palace Pier, the highest-rated miler in the World, will seek to preserve his unbeaten record in the QIPCO-sponsored Queen Elizabeth II Stakes.
Champion trainer Gosden will be out to add to his haul of eight winners on QIPCO British Champions Day – the same tally as O’Brien, the multiple Irish champion trainer, who will be represented in all six races.
By contrast, two doyens of the training ranks, Sir Michael Stoute and Henry Candy, will be seeking to secure their first QIPCO British Champions Day triumphs, while David Menuisier, who has himself has enjoyed big wins around the world, is hoping the well-fancied Wonderful Tonight will end his elusive quest for an Ascot winner of any description by scooping the QIPCO British Champions Fillies & Mares Stakes.
Menuisier said: “Ascot is my nemesis! In six years, I still haven’t managed to win a race there and it plays on my mind a little bit. It would be absolutely fantastic to lose our maiden tag there with a winner on QIPCO British Champions Day – I hope the Gods are listening. We’ve had a lot of major successes abroad and it would be great to touch-one down in our own country. A winner at Ascot on Champions Day would mean the world to us.”
Prize money for this year’s QIPCO British Champions Day will stand at £2.54 million, retaining its position as the richest raceday in Great Britain, despite the impact of coronavirus.
QIPCO CHAMPION STAKES: GROUP 1
Watch Aidan O’Brien update on his QIPCO British Champions Day team here:
Magical by name, magical by nature. The Aidan O’Brien-trained mare has already accumulated seven Group 1 victories and will become the first horse to achieve three wins on QIPCO British Champions Day if she can beat her ten rivals and retain her QIPCO Champion Stakes crown.
The £750,000 mile and a quarter contest will be the richest race in Great Britain this year and promises to be a humdinger with six of Magical’s rivals also being Group 1 winners and seven of the field boasting an official rating of 119 or higher.
Magical won the QIPCO British Champions Fillies & Mares Stakes in 2018 and returned last year to beat Addeybb, who reopposes, by three-quarters of a length in the QIPCO Champion Stakes, after which her trainer Aidan O’Brien intimated she had run her final race.
However, the daughter of Galileo was kept in training and the decision has been vindicated, with Magical chalking up three more Group 1 victories and putting up a career-best when beating Ghaiyyath, the world’s highest-rated turf horse, and Sottsass, the subsequent Qatar Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe winner, to win a second Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardstown last month.
She will be joined in the line-up by star stablemates Serpentine, this year’s runaway Investec Derby winner, plus last year’s Juddmonte International winner Japan.
Addeybb will attempt to go one better than 12 months ago and, like Magical, has already enjoyed a fabulous year – chalking up two Group 1 victories in Australia in the spring before finishing runner-up in the Prince of Wales’s Stakes at Royal Ascot. He got back to winning ways in a Listed race at Ayr last time.
John Gosden has two leading contenders in Mishriff, the Prix Du Jockey Club victor, and Lord North, emphatic winner of the Prince of Wales’s Stakes at Royal Ascot in June. Mishriff followed up his French Classic success by landing a Group 2 contest at Deauville, while Lord North was third behind Ghaiyyath and Magical in the Juddmonte International at York on his latest start.
Another leading light among the home team is the William Muir-trained Pyledriver, who was a close third in the Pertemps St Leger at Doncaster last time. His exploits earlier in the season included emphatic wins in the King Edward VII Stakes, at Royal Ascot, and Sky Bet Great Voltigeur, at York.
Cirrus Des Aigles (2011) and Almanzor (2016) have been French-trained winners of the QIPCO Champion Stakes in the past decade and Skalleti will attempt to again take the prize across the Channel. The five-year-old grey, trained by Jerome Reynier, has won 12 of his 15 races and landed the Group 2 Qatar Prix Dollar for a second time at Longchamp this month. Before that, he had mastered Sottsass in a Group 3 contest at Deauville.
Desert Encounter, a two-time Grade 1 winner in Canada, takes his chance with the field completed by Extra Elusive and San Donato. With 11 runners, it’s the biggest QIPCO Champion Stakes field since 13 ran in 2015.
WHAT THEY SAY:
Aidan O’Brien, the trainer of Magical, Japan and Serpentine:
“We were delighted that the lads decided to keep Magical in training this year and we feel that she came forward from last year. It’s into the autumn that she usually starts to progress and we saw that the last day at Leopardstown. This has been the target since. She’s in good form and she ran in this race last year and loved it. It was a great race the last day, they went a nice even pace and she was happy to make the running or get a lead. She’s a very solid filly and tactically she can stand by herself, she doesn’t depend on anyone else to help her, she’s very happy to plough her own furrow. She’s a great filly and we’ve seen how consistent she’s been. She has run in all the top Group 1s since she was a two-year-old. A lot of horses who train on to be [top] older horses don’t always compete at the top as two-year-olds, but she has. There doesn’t seem to be any ceiling to her. We’ve been happy with Japan [since he had to miss the Arc] and we think he’s in a good place; better than for his runs before. We are looking forward to seeing him run again. We were really looking forward to the Arc with Serpentine and his prep for that was very good – we felt he had moved up plenty from his prep run and done very well physically, but it wasn’t meant to be. We’re very happy with him at home at the moment and it will be interesting. He’s a very relaxed horse at home and doesn’t overdo himself, but we think he has the class to cope with it [the drop in trip].”
William Muir, the trainer of Pyledriver:
“He’s getting stronger and is starting to retain his weight easier. His work has been good, the same as ever, and I’m very confident I’ve still got him at his best. I think if it hadn’t been for this type of year, we would probably not run him over a mile and a six in the St Leger. You can’t be dogmatic and say he didn’t stay because he ground it out, but that was his class. He wasn’t as effective because we took his gears and speed away from him. Martin [Dwyer] was sitting, waiting and having to hold him on to him when he wanted to kick. I’m not worried about the ground and the trip won’t be a problem. Straight after he won the Voltigeur, the jockey went on TV and said he had the pace to win a Group 1 over a mile and a quarter.”
Jerome Reynier, the trainer of Skalleti:
“He is a very genuine horse and a big fighter. I don’t think I’ve ever had him in better shape, mentally or physically. He won the Dollar pretty easily, in the space of half a furlong it was done because he showed such a good turn of foot. Mentally he can be a bit hot. We used to use earplugs on him and having no crowd and a quiet environment has been very helpful for him this year. The weather forecast is not with us as he is a good swimmer and the ground may not be soft enough for him. If there was more rain I would be much more confident. He is not just a heavy ground horse, but it slows the others down and he handles it very well. This year he has been competing with the likes of Persian King and beating Sottsass, which shows that he is up to Group 1 standard. His owner [Jean-Claude Seroul] has never won a Group 1 and I really hope to give that gift to him.”
QUEEN ELIZABETH II STAKES (SPONSORED BY QIPCO): GROUP 1
Palace Pier gets the opportunity to cement his standing as the top-rated miler in the world in the £650,000 Queen Elizabeth II Stakes (sponsored by QIPCO).
Five runs have yielded five wins for the three-year-old Kingman colt, who swept through from off the pace to land the St James’s Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot in June before doing likewise in the Prix Jacques Le Marois at Deauville in mid-August.
John Gosden is chasing a fifth win in the race – the most valuable mile contest run in the UK this year – and has deliberately not run him since. Palace Pier, who as usual will be ridden by Frankie Dettori, completed his preparation with a gallop on the Rowley Mile Course at Newmarket before racing on Saturday and is among 14 final entries.
Gosden is also represented by Nazeef, a game winner of the Kingdom Of Bahrain Sun Chariot Stakes at Newmarket this month after earlier wins this campaign in the Tattersalls Falmouth Stakes, also at Newmarket, and Duke Of Cambridge Stakes, at Royal Ascot.
Charm Spirit (2014) and Solow (2015) have been French-trained winners in recent years and The Revenant, runner-up to King Of Change last year (when Veracious was fourth), will attempt to emulate them. The five-year-old, who has won nine of his dozen races, has followed the same path as last year, winning the Group 2 Qatar Prix Daniel Wildenstein at Longchamp this month.
Aidan O’Brien won with Minding in 2016 and his principal challenger this time appears to be Circus Maximus, a two-time Group 1 winner at Royal Ascot. He was the narrow winner of last year’s St James’s Palace Stakes and showed similar tenacity to land the Queen Anne Stakes this summer. His stablemates, Lancaster House and Royal Dornoch, also run.
Lord Glitters is another whose record at Ascot stands close inspection, winning the Balmoral Handicap on QIPCO British Champions Day in 2017 before scooping the Queen Anne Stakes at Royal Ascot in 2019. The seven-year-old showed he retains plenty of enthusiasm when chasing home Addeybb in a Listed contest at Ayr last time.
David O’Meara, his trainer, is also rolling the dice with Escobar, who beat Lord North when winning the Balmoral Handicap on QIPCO British Champions day last year.
Century Dream, third to Roaring Lion two years ago, is back for another crack, while Molatham (Jersey Stakes), Dark Vision (Royal Hunt Cup) and Sir Busker (Silver Royal Hunt Cup) were successful at Royal Ascot this summer. In total, six horses who won at the Royal Meeting this year will lock horns – the other trio being Palace Pier, Circus Maximus and Nazeef.
The field is completed by the Roger Varian-trained Roseman.
WHAT THEY SAY:
Aidan O’Brien, the trainer of Circus Maximus, Royal Dornoch and Lancaster House:
“Circus Maximus is very tough and consistent and seems to dance every dance. He’s a very competitive horse and loves it when horses challenge him – he’s tough and hardened and loves to get into a battle. The Jacques le Marois was a very strongly run race and we were forward; Palace Pier was taking his time and the ground was deep as well. Deauville is also a flat track, whereas Ascot is stiffer. We’ve been happy with our horse since and he’s run some big races at Ascot. Royal Dornoch ran well when fourth at Irish Champions Weekend and we think he has progressed for that. He was ridden a little bit patiently and maybe didn’t get the clearest of runs through.”
Francis Graffard, the trainer of The Revenant:
“He has had no physical issues since last year. I had him ready to run at the beginning of the season, then lockdown came and since we had no idea how long it would last and feared that it would force him to run on summer ground that he does not like, we decided to turn him out and wait until the autumn. He came back in July to allow us to get him ready for this race and the Wildenstein. The Revenant has come out of his Prix Daniel Wildenstein victory very well. He needed the race badly, so he will come on a lot. The softer the ground the better for him. Last year it was very soft which helped us. It would be great if he runs a similar race and, with humility, I see Palace Pier as the one to beat, and if we were placed again it would be a very good performance. We are just hoping to be competitive and for a good run.”
David O’Meara, the trainer of Lord Glitters:
“We were happy with his run at Ayr, when he probably took too long getting out but flew home. It’s a very hot QEII with the likes of Palace Pier and Kameko in there but Ascot suits him and hopefully he can end up in the prize-money.”
QIPCO BRITISH CHAMPIONS FILLIES & MARES STAKES: GROUP 1
David Menuisier is hoping Wonderful Tonight can end his quest for a first Ascot winner in style by scooping the £350,000 QIPCO British Champions Fillies & Mares Stakes. Menuisier, based in Pulborough, is a multiple Group 1-winning trainer but, in his seventh season, a success of any description at Ascot has so far eluded him.
In Wonderful Tonight, he appears to have an ideal candidate to put the record straight. The three-year-old filly, who features among a final field of 12 is thriving on her racing and scooped the Group 1 Qatar Prix De Royallieu at Longchamp this month.
Her Ascot mission will come just a fortnight later but her trainer has been delighted with the way she has taken exertions and gave her the green light to run this morning.
The other Group 1 winner in the line-up is the Ger Lyons-trained Even So, who landed the Juddmonte Irish Oaks in impressive style at The Curragh July when she had the Aidan O’Brien-trained pair of Passion (third) and Laburnum (fourth) behind.
Ed Vaughan is handing in his licence at the end of the year, so it would be some story if Dame Malliot belatedly gives him a first Group 1 success. Dame Malliott landed the Group 2 Princess of Wales’s Stakes at Newmarket in July and has since twice been placed in Group 1 company on foreign shores, most recently when a fine third to Tarnawa in the Qatar Prix Vermeille at Longchamp.
She will be ridden by Hollie Doyle, who last night at Kempton won her 117th race of 2020 to break her own British record for the most winners in a calendar year by a woman.
Dame Malliott carries the colours of breeder-owner Anthony Oppenheimer, who will also be represented by the John Gosden-trained Frankly Darling, the winner of the Ribblesdale Stakes at Royal Ascot in June.
Oppenheimer and Gosden combined to win last year’s Fillies & Mares with Star Catcher, with the latter also represented on Saturday by Mehdaayih, a Group 2 winner in France last year. Both are daughters of Frankel, with Frankie Dettori riding the latter.
Ralph Beckett landed the 2015 renewal with Simple Verse and will saddle Antonia De Vega and Manuela De Vega. The former, a staying-on sixth last year, when beaten under four lengths, won at Pontefract on her return in June before following up in the Group 3 Princess Royal Muhaarar Stakes at Newmarket last month.
Roger Varian runs Gold Wand and Cabaletta, with the field completed by the Joseph O’Brien-trained Thundering Nights.
WHAT THEY SAY:
David Menuisier on his filly, Wonderful Tonight:
“The filly came back [from her last run in France] bucking and squealing and seems to be feeling great about life. I have a handful of horses starting to grow their winter coats but she definitely hasn’t. It was the same last year when she won in late November but still hadn’t grown her coat. She’s giving us all the right signals but at this time of the year the real crunch is when you enter the last furlong and ask for the extra gear. That’s when you will find out if the filly is 100 per cent recovered because we don’t put the pressure on in the mornings. It will be her last run of the season and in the grand scheme of things there is not too much to lose. If she’d come back starting to grow her coat and feeling sorry for herself, with her head down, then obviously I would not contemplate running her, but she’s buzzing. I’m not trying to be greedy. We put the filly first and as she ticks the boxes we contemplate running, not the other way round. I think a mile four is probably her favourite trip; she won over a mile and six last time because she’s very good. Ascot is a stiff track and if ground is tacky or very soft it will make it an even greater test of stamina. I would prefer a filly like her, who has won over further, rather than trying the trip for the first time. William Buick [who rides Wonderful Tonight for the first time] is a fantastic guy and I’m very pleased to have put his name next to hers. It gives you confidence when you have a strong jockey booking like this, although this filly is not a difficult ride as she does all the hard work for you.”
Aidan O’Brien, the trainer of Passion and Laburnum:
“Passion ran the day before the Arc in a mile and six fillies’ race [the Qatar Prix de Royallieu] and it was probably plenty far enough for her and the ground plenty deep enough for her, but she’s come out of the race very well. We think the mile and a half in Ascot will suit her and she will handles ease in the ground as well. Laburnum seems in good form.”
Ed Vaughan, the trainer of Dame Malliott:
“She’s not had a hard season, with only three runs so far, and after trips to Germany and France since her Newmarket win it’s nice that she won’t have to travel this time. It would be a lovely way to go out [for me], but opportunities in these races are few and far between for a trainer like me and at the bread and butter level at which I’m mostly dealing the costs are getting higher and higher. There are a few ideas kicking around, and I’ll be winding down after Ascot, but there are no firm plans. All I can say for sure is that I’m finishing here. My landlord Colin Murfitt has been absolutely brilliant with me throughout, and of course I wish him well.”
Ralph Beckett, the trainer of Antonia De Vega:
“She has come out of her Newmarket race in good shape and the more juice in the ground on Saturday the better. It was her first run back off a break when she ran in the race last year, as she’d had a problem after she won the Johnny Lewis Memorial Stakes at Newbury. She’s a filly who normally comes forward for a run and there had been three months between Pontefract and Newmarket this year, so I’m hoping she will come on.”
QIPCO BRITISH CHAMPIONS SPRINT STAKES: GROUP 1
Watch video update from Team Oxted here:
Watch video of Oisin Murphy and Cieren Fallon discuss their chances on Dream of Dreams and Oxted, respectively, here:
Record-breaking mare One Master and strong ante-post favourite Dream Of Dreams are among a final field of 17 for the £391,260 QIPCO British Champions Sprint Stakes.
One Master made history at Longchamp this month when becoming the first triple winner of the Group 1 Prix de la Foret but success at the highest level in Great Britain has proved tantalisingly out of her reach.
Her near-misses in British Group 1 contests include her second place in last year’s Champions Sprint, when she chased home Donjuan Triumphant. She had Brando (fourth), Speak In Colours (sixth), Cape Byron (twelfth), The Tin Man (thirteenth) and Dream Of Dreams (sixteenth) behind on that occasion and meets them all again.
Dream Of Dreams was not at his best 12 months ago but has been in superb fettle this term, finishing runner-up in the Diamond Jubilee Stakes (beaten a head, as had been the case in 2019) before running away with the Group 2 Unibet Hungerford Stakes at Newbury and then following up in the Group 1 Betfair Sprint Cup at Haydock, when he won at the main expense of Glen Shiel. Art Power (fourth), The Tin Man (sixth), Lope Y Fernandez (seventh) and Brando (ninth) finished further adrift of him.
Dream Of Dreams is unbeaten in two starts when partnered by Oisin Murphy, the champion jockey, and, if successful, will provide Stoute, who is 75 next week, with a first success on QIPCO British Champions Day.
Oxted provided Roger Teal and Cieren Fallon with a day to cherish when landing the Darley July Cup at Newmarket this summer. The pair had never previously enjoyed a Group 1 success but Oxted won in commanding style and, having had only nine races, remains open to improvement.
The same trainer-owner combination behind Donjuan Triumphant, Andrew Balding and King Power Racing, will be represented by Happy Power, who landed the Group 2 Godolphin Stud & Stable Staff Awards Challenge Stakes in good style at Newmarket last week. The King Power silks will also be carried by Art Power.
Onassis, trained by Charlie Fellowes, and Jouska, trained by Henry Candy, won at Newmarket last weekend and were supplemented at a cost of £25,000 on Monday.
The Tin Man, the 2016 winner, makes his sixth successive appearance in the race, while at the other end of the spectrum, Starman, who only made his debut in July, has impressed in winning each of his three races and is an exciting contender for Ed Walker. Chiefofchiefs and the consistent Sonaiyla complete the line-up.
WHAT THEY SAY:
Oisin Murphy, the rider of Dream Of Dreams:
“He’s off the back off a Group 1 win this time round following the Sprint Cup at Haydock and if he goes there in the same form he starts as favourite and will hopefully take a bit of beating. It would be nice to win another Group 1 for Sir Michael Stoute and winning on QIPCO British Champions Day is a fantastic feeling.”
Tim Easterby, the trainer of Art Power:
“He’s been in great form since Haydock and we are very happy with him. He goes well on the track, loves the track and we’ve trained him for the race, so it’s fingers crossed. He’s got the right temperament, quality and class and he will be an even better horse next year.”
Archie Watson, the trainer of Glen Shiel:
“I’ve been delighted with Glen Shiel since Haydock. His work into Ascot has been very good and I hope he can run another huge race.”
Aidan O’Brien, trainer of Lope Y Fernandez:
“The plan was to go for the Prix de le Foret [over seven furlongs at Longchamp] and then maybe to the Breeders’ Cup Mile. When he didn’t have the run [in France] we left him in the Sprint thinking the ground might be heavy and that the six furlongs would nearly turn into a seven-furlong race. He seems to be in good form and the view is to run him in the Breeders’ Cup Mile after this. We’ve always thought he’s a smart horse but just not been sure about his trip.”
Roger Teal, the trainer of Oxted:
“He looks amazing and is still keeping his coat, which is great. He’s training really well and seems to have that mojo back and we’re really happy with him. He’s had a massive impact on the yard, putting us right in the shop window. Winning a Group 1 was amazing and hopefully we’ve got a few more to come. It’s probably in the last 48 hours when the pressure gets to you a bit, and you start looking at the rest of the field, but to be fair I suppose they will be doing the same looking at our horse and worrying about him this time.”
Cieren Fallon, the jockey of Oxted:
“It’s a great opportunity for me, riding a horse with a very live chance on QIPCO British Champions Day. I’m very lucky to be in this position with a wonderful horse. Mr Teal and the team have done a brilliant job to get him where he is today and I’m looking forward to it. He’s got to go in as one of the favourites after what he’s done this year, he’s beaten most of his rivals in the Sprint category already. He’s only had two runs this year so will be going into the race fresh.”
QIPCO BRITISH CHAMPIONS LONG DISTANCE CUP: GROUP 2
The world’s top-rated stayer, Stradivarius, will face 12 rivals when he attempts to regain his QIPCO British Champions Long Distance Cup crown.
The brilliant six-year-old, bred and owned by Bjorn Nielsen, won the Qatar Goodwood Cup for a record fourth time at Goodwood in July, having landed the Gold Cup at Royal Ascot for the third time the previous month.
He has won a record 13 races that fall under the QIPCO British Champions Series umbrella, including the QIPCO British Champions Long Distance Cup in 2018.
In total, he has run 13 times over two miles or further and been beaten just twice – when a length third to Order Of St George as a three-year-old in the 2017 QIPCO British Champions Long Distance Cup and when pipped a nose by Kew Gardens in last year’s pulsating renewal.
Thirteen is a recurring number in this year’s Long Distance Cup because that’s also the number of runners it has attracted – a joint-record for the race.
Stradivarius will face an intriguing new rival in the shape of two-time Comer Group International Irish St Leger winner Search For A Song. She was impressive when beating Fujaira Prince, the Sky Bet Ebor winner, by two lengths at The Curragh last time and her trainer, Dermot Weld, already has two Long Distance Cup winners in Rite Of Passage (2012) and Forgotten Rules (2014) to his name.
Aidan O’Brien has gone one better than Weld and won the race three times via Fame And Glory (2011), Order Of St George (2017) and Kew Gardens (2019). This time he will be represented by Sovereign, winner of last year’s Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby; Broome, fourth in last year’s Investec Derby; and Dawn Patrol, third in this year’s Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby.
Andrew Balding runs Spanish Mission, smooth winner of the Doncaster Cup on his latest start, and soft-ground specialist Morando, whose exploits last season included an eight-length drubbing of Kew Gardens in the Boodles Diamond Ormonde Stakes at Chester.
Other runners include the Alan King-trained Trueshan, winner of six of his ten starts and the mount of Hollie Doyle.
WHAT THEY SAY:
Aidan O’Brien, trainer of Dawn Patrol, Broome and Sovereign:
“Dawn Patrol won a Group 3 over two miles at The Curragh last time, where he looked comfortable [over the distance] and Seamie [Heffernan] was very happy with him. He probably wants to be ridden a little bit patiently over that trip. He seems in good form, plus handles ease in the ground. Broome hasn’t run in a long time but we always felt he would stay further than a mile and a half. He seems to be in good form and looks like he’s ready to start but it is his first run in a long time. Sovereign was going for the Arc and they can’t all run in the Champion. We always felt he would get further than a mile and a half, or a mile and six. Stradivarius is a great horse and it will be very competitive.”
Andrew Balding, trainer of Spanish Mission and Morando:
“Spanish Mission was very impressive in the Doncaster Cup last time but I would have thought he would be effective from a mile and a half to an extended two miles. He’s a horse who historically has not wanted the ground too soft, so that’s a concern for him. Morando, on the other hand, loves it when the mud is flying. It’s a new venture going two miles with him but the way he’s shaped in his races in the last two seasons suggests that two miles is well within his compass now and he goes well at Ascot.”
Dermot Weld, trainer of Search For A Song:
“Search For A Song has never raced over further than a mile and six, but she wasn’t stopping at the end of the St Leger and that’s what is giving me the encouragement to have a crack at it.”
Reflecting upon his success at the meeting, he said: “It’s been very lucky for me as I haven’t had that many runners and yet we’ve been very successful. Rite Of Passage and Forgotten Rules were lovely horses to train, and very good horses too, but they were very hard to keep sound. Rite Of Passage had won the Gold Cup two years previously, breaking the course record, but he had only run once since and he had been off the course nearly a year and a half when he won the Long Distance Cup in 2012. Forgotten Rules was equally difficult to keep sound and had raced only twice in his life, so his win in the race two years later was special too. Both wins gave me a great deal of pleasure on the day.”
BALMORAL HANDICAP (SPONSORED BY QIPCO)
A maximum field of 20 will contest the £100,000 Balmoral Handicap (sponsored by QIPCO), the race that brings down the curtain on QIPCO British Champions Day.
David O’Meara knows better than anyone what is required to win the mile contest as he won it with Escobar last year, plus scooped the 2017 running with Lord Glitters in 2017. Escobar was also runner-up in 2018, while his Firmament was third in 2016.
On Saturday, O’Meara relies on Orbaan, a winner at York in July, and Hortzadar, successful over a mile at Ripon and Goodwood this summer.
The Brian Meehan-trained Raaeq, owned by Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum, has headed the betting since romping home by five lengths in a 7f handicap at Ascot on 2nd October. The Kingman colt was having only his fifth run that day and is held in high esteem, but a three-year-old has yet to win the race.
Bell Rock (third) and Tempus (sixth) both ran well in the bet365 Cambridgeshire at Newmarket last time. Bronze Angel (2014), Musaddas (2015) and Sharja Bridge (2018) won the Balmoral Handicap after running in the Cambridgeshire beforehand.
Roger Charlton, the trainer of Tempus, struck with Yuften in 2016 and has another likely candidate in Blue Mist, who landed the Moet & Chandon International Stakes at Ascot in July. Like Tempus, he is owned by Prince Khalid Abdullah.
Aidan O’Brien will be hoping Keats, winner of a Listed race at Cork last time, can have the last word, while Jessica Harrington is represented by Njord, a close fifth in the Irish Cambridgeshire.
Connections of Kynren will be hoping he can make it third time lucky – he finished fifth in 2018 and sixth in 2019 – with other runners including course specialist Raising Sand and King Ottokar, an eye-catcher when fifth at Doncaster last time. Raising Sand is trained by Jamie Osborne and will be ridden by his daughter, Saffie, a promising 7lb apprentice jockey.
WHAT THEY SAY:
Aidan O’Brien, trainer of Keats:
“We’ve tried to stretch him over further but each time he drops back to a mile he’s very comfortable at it. He looks to be off a nice enough mark even though he’s a three-year-old and he seems to been in good form since his last run.”
Brian Meehan, trainer of Raaeq:
“He’s an exciting horse with a big future. He’s gone up to 108 but will be off 103, which hopefully gives him a head start, but in big handicaps such as this you’ve got to be cautious. His rating means he’s in stakes category now and I’ve no doubt whatsoever he is up to it. Ground-wise, he handled it the other day [soft going] and so that should be fine.”