Stradivarius and Magical head stellar cast for Saturday’s British Champions Day at Ascot
Stradivarius and Magical are just two of the top horses set to race in Saturday’s QIPCO British Champions Day at Ascot.
Stradivarius will look to extend his winning run to 11 in the Long Distance Cup, whilst Magical will take aim at the Champion Stakes in what is now one of the most prestigious events in the British sporting calendar.
Saturday’s Champions Day is the ninth edition of Britain’s richest raceday and sees the leading horses, jockeys, trainers and owners from Europe and further afield come together for the finale to the Flat season. It is also the culmination of the season-long QIPCO British Champions Series, with £4.2m of prize money on offer across the six-race card, with the first five races being end-of-season championships across various distances and disciplines.
Magical is one of nine runners declared for the Qipco Champion Stakes and is hoty-tipped for further success following another excellent campaign during which she has struck Group One success in the Tattersalls Gold Cup and the Irish Champion Stakes. She has also filled the runner-up spot behind her familiar rival Enable in the Coral-Eclipse and the Yorkshire Oaks and was last seen finishing fifth in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe just under a fortnight ago. O’Brien also saddles I Can Fly.
Magical will face stiff competition most likely from the William Haggas-trained Addeybb earned his return to the highest level with an impressive display in the Rose of Lancaster Stakes at Haydock in August.
Enable will not be renewing the rivalry with Magical and amongst the contenders as Monday’s five-day entries confirmed the horse would not be at Ascot. However trainer John Gosden will have two horses in the frame having seen Cracksman win this race in each of the last two seasons. Coronet bids for a Group One hat-trick under Frankie Dettori following summer triumphs in the Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud and Prix Jean Romanet, and she is joined by stable companion Mehdaayih, who has something to prove after disappointing in the Prix de l’Opera at the start of the month.
Japanese challenger Deirdre, a winner at Glorious Goodwood in early August and only the second Japanese-trained Group One winner in Britain, will also race after finished a luckless fourth behind Magical in the Irish Champion Stakes. Sir Michael Stoute’s Regal Reality, Andrew Balding’s Fox Tal and the James Fanshawe-trained Pondus complete the line-up.
In the Long Distance Cup, Stradivarius will seek an 11th consecutive victory for Dettori and Gosden against rivals that could include St Leger winner Kew Gardens. Gosden’s stayer last tasted defeat in this race two years ago and after winning the contest 12 months ago is set to go again, as long as trainer John Gosden is happy with track conditions when he walks the course on Saturday.
Gosden has another entry in Royal Line while Bin Battuta, Cleonte, Mekong and Withhold complete the home contingent. Aidan O’Brien has a trio of entries with Capri, Kew Gardens and South Pacific while Max Dynamite, trained by Willie Mullins, completes the field.
Anapurna and Star Catcher, winners of the English and Irish Oaks respectively, give Gosden a very usefu hand in the Qipco British Champions Fillies and Mares Stakes.
Both have shown good form recently, with Star Catcher winning the Prix Vermeille on her last start and Anapurna successful in the Prix de Royallieu. O’Brien is responsible for four of the race’s 10 runners – Delphinia, Fleeting, Pink Dogwood and South Sea Pearl – while Dermot Weld provides the other Irish-trained runner in Tarnawa.
The last three winners of the Qipco British Champions Sprint Stakes – Sands Of Mali, Librisa Breeze and The Tin Man – are going for glory again in what promises to be an intriguing tussle. However Advertise, successful in the Commonwealth Cup and Prix Maurice de Gheest, and Hello Youmzain, winner of Haydock’s Sprint Cup, will offer stiff competition as will dual Prix de la Foret winner One Master.
The Revenant heads a similar quality field of 16 in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes at Ascot with jockey Pierre-Charles Boudot bidding for more big-race success. Boudot won the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe on Waldgeist earlier this month and dominated the two-day meeting at ParisLongchamp with six victories in total.
Godolphin trainer Saeed bin Suroor has Benbatl in the running after a stylish victory recently at Newmarket. That was his first run since being beaten by Winx in Australia last October, but Bin Suroor has conceded the heavy ground in the shorter one-mile race rather than opting for the Champion Stakes will not be in his favour.
Officials at Ascot are monitoring the ground conditions and weather, with the option available if needed of switching to its inner course which is usually reserved for hurdles races and unwatered over the summer.
Saturday will also see Cieren Fallon follow in his famous father’s footsteps by receiving the trophy for top apprentice jockey. The 21-year-old will cap his first full season of race riding by collecting the accolade which is now handed over on British Champions Day at Ascot. Father Kieren was British Champion Jockey six times in a spell of over ten years that also included three Epsom Derbies.