A string of international raiders could feature in the QIPCO British Champions Series this summer after entries for the eight Group One races at Royal Ascot in June, revealed today, included representation from six overseas countries – Australia, France, Hong Kong, Ireland, Japan and the USA.
The potential raiders include 12 American entries, three each from Australia and Japan, plus one from Hong Kong.
Lucky Bubbles, trained in Hong Kong, is an intended runner in the Diamond Jubilee Stakes on June 24.
The Francis Lui-trained six-year-old, who defends his Chairman’s Sprint Prize at Sha Tin on Sunday, is being targeted at an overseas campaign by his trainer with the Group 1 contest at the Royal Meeting among his summer targets.
“Royal Ascot is one of the most prestigious race meetings in the world and it will be a great honour for us to participate,” Lui said. “As we have a suitable horse to be entered for the meeting, I decided to have an entry and would say that Lucky Bubbles will have a great chance to go.”
Lucky Bubbles would be the seventh runner from Hong Kong in the Diamond Jubilee Stakes, with Cape Of Good Hope’s victory in 2005 being the highlight.
Gold-Fun, trained by Richard Gibson, was runner-up to Twilight Son in the 2016 renewal.
Lui’s gelding faces eight rivals in the Chairman’s Sprint Prize on Sunday. which is one of the three Grade 1s on HK Champions Day.
The opposition will include the Charlie Appleby-trained Blue Point, who was third in the Commonwealth Cup last summer and is another who is likely to target the Diamond Jubilee Stakes after his excursions in Hong Kong.
The QIPCO 2000 Guineas, this year’s eighth running of the QIPCO British Champions Series looks set to deliver some thrilling contests once more.
The Series, which comprises five championship categories of Sprint, Mile, Middle Distance, Long Distance and Fillies & Mares accounted for four of the World’s top ten races last year and will once again culminate in Britain’s richest raceday, QIPCO British Champions Day on 20 October 2018.
With established stars set to return and fresh talent progressing onto the scene, QIPCO British Champions Series could be the stage for some sensational showdowns in each category this summer.
Saxon Warrior v Roaring Lion: QIPCO 2000 Guineas at Newmarket – Saturday 5th May
The pair had a great tussle in the Racing Post Trophy at Doncaster in October, when Saxon Warrior prevailed by a neck. It might have been a different story had Roaring Lion not made up ground from the rear quite so quickly, or edged left near the finish. Connections of the pair also have Investec Derby aspirations, so do not discount another clash at Epsom in June.
Harry Angel v Redkirk Warrior: Diamond Jubilee Stakes at Royal Ascot – Saturday 23rd June
Best of British against best of the Aussies? It’s on the cards. The Diamond Jubilee is a target for Harry Angel, winner of the Darley July Cup and 32Red Sprint Cup last summer, while connections of Redkirk Warrior seem keen on him trying to emulate Black Caviar, the mighty Australian mare who won the Diamond Jubilee in 2012. Redkirk Warrior has already won two Group 1 races this year and the pair could clash on the final day of Royal Ascot in June.
A mid-season showdown between the outstanding stablemates would be quite something. Enable was a runaway winner of the King George at Ascot last summer and went on to finish the campaign with five emphatic Group 1 wins to her name, including three Series’ contests.
Cracksman also shone at Ascot with a breathtaking seven-length win in the QIPCO Champion Stakes in October, emulating his super-sire Frankel and earning him an official rating as the third best horse in the World. The pair are yet to meet but plans could see their paths cross at Ascot later this year.
“Let’s meet him on level weights next year and see what happens,” said a rueful Michael Bell after his star stayer Big Orange had been denied a historic third successive Goodwood Cup last summer by the progressive three-year-old Stradivarius. Bell may well get his wish as the two-mile feature is high on the agenda of both horses. Stradivarius made the most of the 13lb that Big Orange had to concede last summer because of the weight-for-age scale, asserting late on under Andrea Atzeni and winning by a length and three quarters. The pair could also clash in the Gold Cup at Royal Ascot as a prelude to their second battle on the Sussex Downs.
Hydrangea v Rhododendron: Qatar Nassau Stakes at Goodwood – 2nd August
Aidan O’Brien has saddled the winner of the Nassau Stakes four times since 2007 and has won the past two with Minding and Winter. He is not adverse to having more than one runner in the biggest races and it cannot be long odds against these high-class fillies again locking horns, especially given they already have met five times. Rhododendron leads their battles by a 4-1 margin, beating her stablemate by a head in their latest clash when they dominated the finish of the Group 1 Prix de l’Opera at Chantilly in October. It was the same margin that Rhododendron prevailed by when they first met as two-year-olds in 2016.
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