A glittering cast is on course to illuminate the 10th running of QIPCO British Champions Day at Ascot on Saturday after the five-day entries were revealed on Monday.
There are highlights at every turn, as befits Britain’s most valuable raceday, with mighty mare Magical, trained by Aidan O’Brien, set to try and go one better than Frankel and Cracksman by becoming the first horse to win at the meeting three times.
The five-year-old mare will either defend her crown in the QIPCO Champion Stakes or attempt to gain a second success in the QIPCO British Champions Fillies & Mares Stakes, which she won in 2018.
It promises to be a momentous afternoon with four of John Gosden’s leading lights – Stradivarius, Palace Pier, Mishriff and Lord North – all intended runners.
The champion trainer will be seeking to add to his haul of eight winners on QIPCO British Champions Day – the same tally as O’Brien.
In total, 25 Group 1 winners remain engaged and between them they have won 50 races at the highest level. Six Classic winners remain in contention to run – Even So, Kameko, Mishriff, Search For A Song, Serpentine and Sovereign – and no fewer than 20 entries have at least one win at Royal Ascot to their name.
“It was a very bold initiative from QIPCO and Ascot when British Champions Day was conceived, and it has worked very well,” Gosden said. “It’s done a great job confirming champions, and it’s provided a great wrap up to the European season before the Breeders’ Cup.”
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.
Andrew Balding said: “QIPCO British Champions Day has been a fantastic initiative and a credit to everyone involved. It’s been fantastic to have a British-based European championship with such tremendous prize money, and it’s something for us to be really proud of.”
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Magical Wins 2020 Irish Champions Stakes
Mishriff and Magical Headline QIPCO Champion Stakes
The £750,000 QIPCO Champion Stakes will be the richest race in Great Britain this year and looks set to be the race of the season with Magical and Addeybb, who dominated the finish of last year’s renewal, renewing old rivalries again.
Magical prevailed by three-quarters of a length 12 months ago, 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 handsomely rewarded, with the mare chalking up three more Group 1 victories (taking her overall haul to seven) and probably running as well as she’s ever done when getting the better of Ghaiyyath, the world’s highest-rated turf horse, to win a second Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardstown last time.
She could be joined in the line-up for the mile-and-a-quarter showpiece by star stablemates Serpentine, this year’s Investec Derby winner, plus Mogul, winner of the Juddmonte Grand Prix de Paris, not to mention last year’s Juddmonte International winner Japan, and Sovereign, winner of last year’s Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby.
Addeybb has not rested on his laurels, either, 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 swiftly got back to winning ways in a Listed race at Ayr last time.
Standing in the way of the O’Brien contingent and Addeybb are two outstanding candidates trained by John Gosden 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 fascinating runner among the home team is the William Muir-trained Pyledriver, who drops half a mile in distance after being beaten just over a length into 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.
Unbeaten Palace Pier Headlines Queen Elizabeth II Stakes
The £650,000 Queen Elizabeth II Stakes (sponsored by QIPCO) was won by the unbeaten Frankel when QIPCO British Champions Day was launched in 2011 and another colt with an unblemished record, Palace Pier, who is currently rated the top miler in the World will seek to emulate him on Saturday in the most valuable mile contest run in the UK this year.
Five runs have yielded five wins for the three-year-old Kingman colt, who announced himself on the big stage by landing the St James’s Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot in June before following up in the Prix Jacques Le Marois at Deauville in mid-August.
John Gosden, seeking a fifth win in the mile contest, has deliberately not run him since but the horse completed his preparation with a gallop on the Rowley Mile Course at Newmarket before racing on Saturday and is among 18 entries who remain in in the mix.
Gosden could also be represented by Nazeef, 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.
Kameko was a Group 1 winner as a two-year-old and became the fastest QIPCO 2000 Guineas winner there has been when successful at Newmarket in June. He resumed winning ways in the Group 2 Joel Stakes back at Headquarters last month, when he defied strong opposition under a penalty.
His trainer, Andrew Balding, said: “We were delighted with his win in the Joel Stakes and that has set him up perfectly in terms of preparation, three weeks before QIPCO British Champions Day. I think he showed his class in the Joel Stakes, beating some very talented older horses – and beating them well.
“After a bit of trial and error, it’s obvious that a mile is his trip. He has that high cruising speed and excellent turn of foot. We go to QIPCO British Champions Day full of hope and optimism as a Guineas winner who still seems to be in great form, even at the end of a long season.”
Palace Pier Wins Jacques le Marois
Among those who played a supporting role behind Kameko in the Joel Stakes was globetrotting six-year-old Benbatl, a winner at the highest level in Australia, Dubai and Germany who started favourite for last year’s QEII but failed to figure.
The Revenant ran a cracker in last year’s renewal, when he beat all bar King Of Change. The prolific French-trained challenger, 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.
Stradivarius Entered to Regain Champions Day Crown
The world’s top rated stayer, Stradivarius stands out among the 15 entries still in the mix for the £300,000 QIPCO British Champions Long Distance Cup.
The exceptional 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. 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 riveting renewal.
The opposition to Stradivarius is headed by two-time Comer Group International Irish St Leger winner Search For A Song. She will be having her first run over two miles but has hinted she will stay and her trainer, Dermot Weld, has been responsible for two previous Long Distance Cup winners in Rite Of Passage (2012) and Forgotten Rules (2014).
Andrew Balding has two possible challengers in Spanish Mission, fluent winner of the Doncaster Cup on his latest start, and the mud-loving Morando, whose exploits last season included an eight-length drubbing of Kew Gardens in the Boodles Diamond Ormonde Stakes at Chester.