Of all the Champions Day races to be hit by high-class absentees, the Qipco Champions Fillies and Mares Stakes is the one that has been left looking the most threadbare.
Taghrooda was retired after her terrific run in the Arc. For her, it was a case of job done, a wonderful performance to end a sensational season with victories in the Epsom Oaks and the King George at Ascot the highlights.
Yorkshire Oaks winner Tapestry and Epsom Oaks runner-up Tarfasha have also fallen by the wayside, and the race has been ignored by trainers from France.
The Fillies and Mares Stakes was originally known as the Princess Royal Stakes. In 2008 the event was promoted to Group 2 level and renamed the Pride Stakes, before finally forming part of Champions Day in 2011, renamed again, and finally receiving Group 1 status in 2013.
Understandably, without a ‘standout’ contender, this year's renewal looks to be a very open affair. Should she run, the Aidan O’Brien trained Chicquita brings Group 1 winning form to the table. She won the Irish Oaks in 2013 and most recently ran down the field in the Arc. In September she had finished second behind Tarfasha in the Blandford stakes at the Curragh. That was a promising run after a year off the track.
Silk Sari has been installed as favourite after her romp at Doncaster in the Group 2 Park Hill Stakes. The trip that day was over 2 furlongs further and her stamina clearly played a part in the victory. The heavy ground on Saturday will ensure that such stamina is a crucial component for any horse hoping to win.
Godolphin’s Albasharah is also towards the head of the market. With only a Listed win to her name, this would normally be a huge step up in class. However, she got very close to Hadaatha at Yarmouth in September, and that filly went on to get within half a length of victory in the Group 1 Prix de l’Opera Longines at Longchamp. They renew their rivalry here and there is likely to be little to choose between them again.
Hadaatha is yet another success in the early stallion career of Sea The Stars. As a three-year-old, she is one of the less exposed in the contest and possibly open to the most improvement. Much will depend on how the young horse copes with the demanding conditions so soon after her run in Paris.
The Godolphin team also have Tasaday entered. She was recently seen chasing home Hillstar in the Group 3 ‘Arc trial’ at Newbury. Prior to that, she'd run behind Taghrooda and Tapestry in the Yorkshire Oaks. She appeared to cope well with the soft ground at Newbury, and that is a serious plus against her name.
Finally a mention for last year’s winner, Seal Of Approval. She suffered interference behind Silk Sari at Doncaster last time out. With conditions similar this year to last, and with her obvious liking for the course, she looks to be a serious contender again, though it's worth noting that Crystal Capella is the only horse to have won this race twice.
It may not seem the most eye-catching race on the card, but a thrilling finish looks assured with such an evenly matched field.