Magical and Addeybb set for Qipco Champion Stakes rematch at Ascot

Thu 15 Oct 2020

Magical and Addeybb, the first two home in last year’s Qipco Champion Stakes, will face off again at Ascot on Saturday with 11 runners declared for this season’s renewal.

Aidan O’Brien’s durable mare Magical is a seven-times Group One winner, adding the Pretty Polly Stakes, Tattersalls Gold Cup and Irish Champion Stakes to her tally this term after connections rethought retirement plans initially announced at the end of last year.

O’Brien also runs impressive Derby winner Serpentine and Japan, who were both denied a run in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe due to an issue with contaminated feed.

Who will be among the stars on Saturday?

The William Haggas-trained Addeybb went down by three-quarters of a length 12 months ago, but has since elevated himself into a true Group One performer with two wins at the highest level in Australia.

His only defeat in 12 months came at Royal Ascot in the Prince of Wales’s Stakes when second to Lord North and he will face John Gosden’s four-year-old again.

Lord North progressed rapidly through the handicap ranks from winning last year’s Cambridgeshire to victory at the highest level, but has not run since finishing third in the Juddmonte International.

Gosden has another very strong string to his bow in the shape of French Derby winner Mishriff, who will be ridden by Frankie Dettori, while there is an interesting French challenger in the shape of Skalleti, a mud-lover who beat subsequent Arc winner Sottsass in August.

Hollie Doyle rides Extra Elusive, Pyledriver drops back half a mile in distance having run well in the St Leger while Desert Encounter and San Donato also run.

Palace Pier will face 13 rivals as he bids to maintain his unbeaten record in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes.

John Gosden’s lightly-raced colt stepped up from winning a handicap at Newcastle soon after racing’s resumption in June to winning the St James’s Palace Stakes at the Royal meeting.

He then travelled to France to beat Europe’s best milers in the Prix Jacques le Marois and is an odds-on favourite to take his record to six from six.

Gosden also runs the filly Nazeef – who has been a star for connections this season, winning at Royal Ascot and also at the highest level in the Falmouth and Sun Chariot Stakes.

Palace Pier’s main rival could be last year’s runner-up The Revenant, who only made his seasonal reappearance at the recent Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe meeting when winning the Prix Daniel Wildenstein for a second time.

He found only King Of Change a length and a quarter too good 12 months ago, and will once again have the soft ground he so loves.

Aidan O’Brien runs Circus Maximus, the ultra-consistent four-year-old, but he has plenty of ground to make up on the favourite from their run in France two months ago.

O’Brien will also be represented by Lancaster House and Royal Dornoch.

Century Dream will run in the race for a third time, having finished third two years ago and seventh last year, while Lord Glitters will also be making his third appearance in the race.

Dark Vision, Escobar, Roseman, Sir Busker, Molatham and Sir Michael Stoute’s Veracious, last year’s Falmouth winner, complete the list.

There was no sign of Benbatl in either this race or the Champion Stakes, for Saeed bin Suroor.

Stradivarius will face 12 rivals as he bids to regain the Qipco British Champions Long Distance Cup.

Bjorn Nielsen’s brilliant stayer won the two-mile Group Two in 2018 but was touched off by Kew Gardens in a thrilling finish 12 months ago.

The six-year-old, trained by John Gosden, returns to a more familiar distance on Saturday after two attempts at a mile and a half in the Prix Foy and the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe.

Kew Gardens’ trainer Aidan O’Brien has a team of three taking Stradivarius on, headed by last year’s Irish Derby winner Sovereign, alongside Broome and Dawn Patrol.

Supplementing the Irish challenge is Dermot Weld’s dual Irish St Leger heroine Search For A Song.

Doncaster Cup victor Spanish Mission, Fujaira Prince and Trueshan also feature in a fascinating opener on Qipco British Champions Day.

Haydock Sprint Cup scorer Dream Of Dreams is among a field of 17 declared for the Qipco British Champions Sprint Stakes.

Sir Michael Stoute’s six-year-old is re-opposed by runner-up Glen Shiel and the fourth home, Art Power.

Others in the mix include July Cup winner Oxted, triple Prix de la Foret victor One Master and the unbeaten Starman.

Wonderful Tonight will attempt to back up her Prix de Royallieu success for trainer David Menuisier in the Qipco British Champions Fillies & Mares Stakes.

The Gosden-trained pair of Mehdaayih and Frankly Darling, Irish Oaks winner Even So and O’Brien’s duo of Laburnum and Passion are among others in a 12-strong field.

Ante-post favourite Raaeq heads a maximum 20 in the closing Balmoral Handicap.

Brian Meehan’s lightly-raced colt spread-eagled the opposition over seven furlongs on this course two weeks ago – incurring a 6lb penalty.

Raising Sand and Prince Eiji head the weights on 9st 10lb, while O’Brien’s Cork Listed winner Keats is an interesting contender.

Saeed bin Suroor has been left cursing the weather which has forced him to rule Benbatl out of te meeting.

The multiple Group One winner was being prepared for a crack at either the Champion Stakes over 10 furlongs or the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes over a mile – in which he ran last year.

Benbatl was sent off 7-2 favourite for the QEII 12 months ago but trailed home last of the 14 runners, and Bin Suroor did not want to run him on very soft ground again on Saturday.

Instead, he will be shipped back to Dubai for the Carnival – with the World Cup once more an aim, a race for which he was among the favourites this year before the coronavirus pandemic took hold.

“There was no point running him at Ascot (this weekend) – we ran him last year, and he hated it,” said Bin Suroor. “We were keen to run, (and) he’d been working well, but we know he doesn’t like soft ground.

“He won’t go to the Breeders’ Cup. We’ll take him back to Dubai, prepare him for races out there for him. We’ve had a bit of a wasted season.

“Saudi Arabia is (also) one of the options for him, like last year.”

Benbatl made his debut on dirt in the inaugural Saudi Cup in February, and finished third to Maximum Security.

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