Just Magical! Elite field of 11 declared for QIPCO Champion Stakes

Just Magical! Elite field of 11 declared for QIPCO Champion Stakes

Seven Group 1 winners set to line up in Richest race run in Britain this year

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:
“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.

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.”

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.”

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