He gave trainer David O’Meara and Flat Jockeys’ Championship title contender Danny Tudhope their sole winners on QIPCO British Champions Day when flying home from the rear to win the Balmoral Handicap two years ago.
Although he could only finish sixth behind Roaring Lion in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes last year he put his hold-up tactics to good use under a nerveless ride from Tudhope when landing the Queen Anne Stakes at Royal Ascot by a neck this summer.
The star-studded QIPCO British Champions Day will again be his big end-of-season target and his return to Ascot is sure to bring back happy memories for his connections.
The race didn’t pan out for him when fifth in the Qatar Sussex Stakes at Goodwood last week and O’Meara is already looking forward to QIPCO British Champions Day.
O’Meara said: “He’s run fine in the Qatar Sussex Stakes. They didn’t go very quick and he always needs a strong pace to run at. He didn’t get it the other day.
“The track at Goodwood wouldn’t be as ideal as Ascot but he did run well when third in the Sussex Stakes last year. It was all about the pace of the race this time. When Phoenix Of Spain got to the front he pulled it up and they hacked round.
“He likes the straight mile at Ascot because it’s stiff and they generally go a good pace. He goes on any ground.
“His Queen Anne win was a great day. He was runner-up in it last year as well and you don’t think you’re going to get a second bite of the cherry. For him to go back and win was brilliant.”
Last year’s Queen Anne winner is also being aimed at the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes. Accidental Agent, trained by Eve Johnson Houghton, sprung a 33-1 shock when beating Lord Glitters by half a length in the mile Group 1 contest last year.
Of his latest start, Johnson Houghton said: “I thought he ran quite well at Goodwood considering the track didn’t suit him, either.
“Hopefully, touch wood, we’ve sorted his starting problems out. He’ll go to Salisbury for the Sovereign Stakes next week.
“The Queen Elizabeth II Stakes is the obvious race to go for and he loves Ascot’s straight mile. Hopefully, he’ll bounce back to form in it.
“QIPCO British Champions Day is a great target to aim for with a good horse. It’s a really good festival and celebration of racing.”
Another Royal Ascot winner could return to the scene of her greatest victory. Watch Me, trained in France by Francis-Henri Graffard, caused a 20-1 shock when beating dual 1000 Guineas winner Hermosa in this year’s Coronation Stakes.
Graffard said: “Going to Ascot I knew Watch Me was a very good filly and I knew she was going to run well. I can’t say I was confident that she was going to win like that but I was obviously very pleased to see that.
“It was a great day. There’s a chance she could go back to Ascot for QIPCO British Champions Day but her next race, the Jacques Le Marois in Deavuille, is a big target. After that we’ll see.”
This season’s QIPCO 2000 Guineas hero Magna Grecia, trained by Aidan O’Brien, is another potential contender for the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes.
O’Brien said, “Magna Grecia is on the way back. The plan was that he might go to York and he might go to Leopardstown and then finish up in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes.”
Magna Grecia is one of eight entries from O’Brien’s powerful Ballydoyle stables. Circus Maximus, Hermosa, I Can Fly, Le Brivido and Magical are among the others.
One-time QIPCO 2000 Guineas hope Mohaather, trained by Marcus Tregoning, and Charlie Fellowes’ highly-rated mud-lover King Ottokar are other potential runners, as well as course specialist Raising Sand, who won the Moet & Chandon International Stakes at Ascot on QIPCO King George Day.
Other notable inclusions are Benbatl, Phoenix Of Spain, 2018 Irish 2000 Guineas winner Romanised, Royal Meeting, who was last seen when beating Hermosa in the Criterium International at Chantilly in October last year, and recent winner of the Tattersalls Falmouth Stakes Veracious.
Tickets for QIPCO British Champions Day are on sale now, with Premier Enclosure selling fast. Available here
Full Entries for the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes (Sponsored by QIPCO):
Accidental Agent (GB) Benbatl (GB) Century Dream (IRE) Circus Maximus (IRE) Dubai Warrior (GB) Happy Power (IRE) Headman (GB) Hermosa (IRE) Hey Gaman (GB) I Can Fly (GB) Imaging (GB) King of Change (GB) King of Comedy (IRE) Le Brivido (FR) Lord Glitters (FR) Magical (IRE) Magic Wand (IRE) Magna Grecia (IRE) Mohaather (GB) Move Swiftly (GB) Never No More (IRE) Ostilio (GB) Phoenix of Spain (IRE) Prince Eiji (GB) Raising Sand (GB) Romanised (IRE) Royal Meeting (IRE) Safe Voyage (IRE) San Donato (IRE) Shaman (IRE) Sharja Bridge (GB) Skardu (GB) Stormy Antarctic (GB) Suphala (FR) The Revenant (GB) Twist ‘n’ Shake (GB) Uae Jewel (GB) Veracious (GB) Watch Me (FR) Zaaki (GB) King Ottokar (FR)
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