Mishriff bids to crown an already memorable campaign with victory in what promises to be a thrilling renewal of the Qipco Champion Stakes at Ascot.
Last year’s French Derby winner has taken his game to another level this season, which began with a lucrative international double as he landed the Saudi Cup in Riyadh and the Sheema Classic in Dubai.
Following a well-earned break, the John and Thady Gosden-trained colt returned with a third-placed finish in the Coral-Eclipse at Sandown in early July before finding Derby hero Adayar too strong in the King George at Ascot, giving away 11lb over a mile and a half.
The four-year-old got back on the winning trail when securing his first top-level prize on home soil in the Juddmonte International at York in August – and connections are hoping the decision to keep their powder dry for the Champion Stakes, rather than contesting the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe a fortnight ago, will be vindicated on Saturday.
Ted Voute, racing manager for Mishriff’s owner Prince Faisal, said: “It’s obviously a very good race, but he’s still favourite and we’re very much looking forward to it.
“We’ve got ground that is better than it was for the Arc, which is good. It looks like there’s very little rain forecast, so I think the going will be to his liking.
“I talked to John on Tuesday after Mishriff had done his final pipe-opener and he said it was very pleasing, so fingers crossed.”
Voute is under no illusions about the task facing Mishriff, with the son of Make Believe not only renewing rivalry with Arc fourth Adayar, but taking on last year’s Champion Stakes winner Addeybb, as well as the latter’s two stablemates Dubai Honour and Al Aasy.
“The Prince has always been happy to take on other good horses as that’s part of the game – to try to be the best. We’re excited,” Voute added.
Mishriff’s weight concession to Adayar is now just 4lb – and over 10 furlongs, a trip at which Adayar is unproven.
But Charlie Appleby is happy with his Epsom hero, reporting he came out of his Paris exertions in good shape, despite the very testing ground – convincing connections to take their chance.
The Frankel colt went through his paces on Wednesday, and was given the green light afterwards.
Appleby told the Godolphin website: “All the signs after the Arc were positive. They went steady for the first half of the race, which is why William (Buick) allowed him to take it up. They really only raced for the last mile. He has been beaten just under four lengths after kicking for home at the top of the straight.
“We have run all the usual veterinary checks on him this week, and he’s in great shape. I’m very happy with him going into Saturday,” he added.
William Haggas acknowledges conditions might not be quite as testing as Addeybb would like ahead of the defence of his crown.
He said: “He needs it the softer the better. His ideal is passing an inspection on the morning of the race! He sloshes through that and he’s very effective in soft ground, or heavy ground.
“This is going to be soft, (but) I’m not sure it’s going to be soft enough for him, especially drying, gluey ground, but he stays well and his record right-handed is fantastic.
“He’s been a fantastic horse for us and I won’t have a bad word said about him.”
Dubai Honour, so impressive when winning the Prix Dollar in Paris two weeks ago, was supplemented at a cost of £75,000 on Monday.
Haggas is looking forward to testing his powers at the highest level, saying: “He only won a handicap at the July meeting (at Newmarket) and then went for the Guillaume d’Ornano, which is a four hundred grand Group Two. They went really hard, he came from the back and won easily.
“In the Dollar they went really slow and he was in the back of the field. James (Doyle) said that he showed a very, very smart turn of foot and he was well on top at the finish.
“Now there’s nothing really for him here, there’s a race in Bahrain for a half a million pounds and there’s obviously the race in Hong Kong, the Hong Kong Cup – which is very valuable.
“That’s not until December, the horse seems really well so I put the suggestion to the owner that we might supplement him and he nearly bit my hand off and said ‘if you would like to do that we’d be delighted’, so here we are.”
Al Aasy looked destined for the big time after winning successive Group Threes at Newbury in the spring, but narrow defeats on his next two starts in the Coronation Cup and the Princess of Wales’s Stakes led to him being gelded.
The son of Sea The Stars could finish only fourth on his first appearance since at Newbury last month, but Haggas feels it would be dangerous to leave him out of calculations.
He added: “We all know that he doesn’t find as much under pressure as he looks like he might, (but) I would hope that his jockey will wait a bit. He’ll travel strongly and we’ll see what he has to offer.
“He may not be good enough, but he’s a talented horse and he’s no mug in a race of this quality.
“He’s been rubbished by everyone, so I’d love to see him run a good race.”