William Haggas has the defence of Adeyybb’s Qipco Champion Stakes crown very much in mind for his globe-trotting gelding.
Having struck gold in Australia in the early part of last year, the son of Pivotal landed a cherished first domestic Group One at Ascot in October, beating French ace Skalleti by two and a quarter lengths.
He went to Australia again this year – and again landed the Queen Elizabeth Stakes. He made his seasonal British return with a very creditable runner-up finish to St Mark’s Basilica in the Coral-Eclipse.
The Newmarket trainer said: “It was great to win the Champion Stakes last year, fantastic. Addeybb was really on his game that day, too. If we can get him like that again that would be great.
“Right now he is in a field, but he will have a run before the Champion Stakes. He was a little bit rusty in the Eclipse and the ground wasn’t really slow enough for him, but I thought he ran well and he kept going up the hill as usual.
“I am sure we will meet St Mark’s Basilica again at Ascot. It’s called the Champion Stakes for a reason. It’s where the good ones go.”
He added: “Qipco British Champions Day is a huge and momentous occasion. It’s the culmination of a long season in Britain. Everyone wants to win there.
“The purists may think it is too late, but it’s fantastic racing and it’s not always heavy (ground).”
Trained by Aidan O’Brien, St Mark’s Basilica is one of a host of Ballydoyle entries for the jewel in the crown of Qipco British Champions Day.
O’Brien said: “St Mark’s Basilica is in at York and Leopardstown and is entered on Champions Day as well.
“We will get a little bit down the road before we really commit. Snowfall has the two entries (Champion Stakes and Qipco British Champions Fillies & Mares). We are looking at the Yorkshire Oaks at the moment for her.”
Another O’Brien contender, Love, was last seen finishing third in the King George VI And Queen Elizabeth Stakes.
O’Brien said: “The King George was a little bit of a funny race. Our other horse Broome got left five lengths and he still ended up being able to make the running easily. Ryan (Moore) had to wait to make his run a lot later than he would have preferred and in the end she probably had no race at all.
“Where she goes next I am not sure, but we will give her a little bit of time before we decide that. She seems to be in good form.
“Bolshoi Ballet is in America at the moment and he is going to run in Saratoga at the weekend in a Group One there. Santa Barbara (entered for Champion Stakes and Queen Elizabeth II Stakes) is going back to America the following weekend for the mile-and-a-quarter fillies’ race. They will come back to Europe after that. Neither of them are soft ground horses.”
Skaletti has been in fine form this season, being in unbeaten in four outings – the last two of those at Group One level.
His trainer Jerome Reynier said: “As a gelding the most prestigious race he could win is definitely the Champion Stakes, so we’ve been planning his season to bank on it.
“He will probably have one or two races before it and we really hope he will be able to have his ground on the day. He will probably go back to the Prix Dollar for a third time if he is in good form and the ground is soft enough, but we are aiming much for the Champion Stakes. If the ground is not soft enough for Arc weekend, he will be skipping the Prix Dollar.
“He had never run in a Group One prior to the Champion Stakes last year. The opposition was very high with Mishriff, Magical and Addeybb, but we were quite confident he’d run well.
“We really wanted to see how competitive he was going to be against those horses, and now we know we have one of the best horses in Europe on turf at a mile and a quarter.”
John Gosden, who enjoyed wide-margin Champion Stakes wins with Cracksman in 2017 and 2018, has two obvious candidates in Mishriff, who was third in the Eclipse and a fine second to Adayar in the King George, and Lord North. He has also entered Palace Pier here, as well as in the QEII.
He said: “Mishriff goes to York first for the Juddmonte and will then probably run in the Champion Stakes. Lord North is a possibility, too. He had a throat infection and couldn’t run in the Eclipse, so he hasn’t run since Meydan in March, so he’ll be coming fresh for the autumn.”
The race is also a possibility for last week’s Qatar Nassau Stakes winner Lady Bowthorpe.
Trainer William Jarvis said: “She’s had a long season, but she’s very tough and has an amazing constitution, so if she’s still enjoying her work we’ll definitely consider the Champion Stakes. In the meantime though we’ll keep her against her own sex for as long as we can, and there’s the Prix Jean Romanet and the Prix de l’Opera to look at before Ascot.”