Rising star Baaeed may take on title-holder The Revenant and Palace Pier among a stellar list of established top-class performers in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes on Qipco British Champions Day at Ascot.
William Haggas’ unbeaten Shadwell Estate colt Baaeed is one of 31 entries – including Andrew Balding’s three-time Group One heroine Alcohol Free, Francois-Henri Graffard’s The Revenant and John and Thady Gosden’s Palace Pier, whose only defeat to date came in this race last year.
The Group One QEII is worth more than £1million, as part of Ascot’s showpiece card on October 16.
It is headlined by the Champion Stakes itself and also features the Qipco British Champions Fillies & Mares Stakes and Qipco British Champions Sprint Stakes – two more top-level races – and the Group Two Qipco British Champions Long Distance Cup.
Aidan O’Brien’s Classic winners Love, Mother Earth, Empress Josephine and St Mark’s Basilica – the highest-rated horse in the world – are also joined in the QEII reckoning by Nassau Stakes heroine Lady Bowthorpe and Snow Lantern, winner of Newmarket’s Falmouth Stakes.
Jim Bolger’s 2000 Guineas and St James’s Palace Stakes winner Poetic Flare is another contender.
Baaeed, also a three-year-old, made his debut only in June but has since won four times up to Group Three level.
Haggas said: “He’ll be dining at the top table from now on, and I think we’ll stick at a mile.
“He’s earned a QEII entry, and it’s encouraging that he showed (in the Thoroughbred Stakes) at Goodwood that he could handle some give in the ground, because I wasn’t sure that he would.
“He keeps doing it, and people say he keeps running good times. He’s just a good horse, I think – and at the moment everything is going his way. He’s sound, he’s healthy – and he’s fast.”
Palace Pier is a four-time Group One winner, and his joint trainer John Gosden said: “He had a blood disorder right after the Queen Anne and had to miss the Sussex Stakes – but all being well he’ll be in the Jacques le Marois at Deauville, and then we’ll take it forward from there.
“The QEII is a definite possibility again. But he’s also entered for the Champion Stakes, and it would be interesting to see him at a mile and a quarter.
“It’s still a long way off, so we’ll see.”
Graffard said of The Revenant: “The QEII is his main goal. We know he acts really well on soft ground, and last year that was an advantage to him.
“He is back in training after a summer break and is probably more of an autumn horse than a spring horse.”
O’Brien, who last won the QEII in 2016 with another brilliant filly Minding, said of Tuesday’s Group One Prix Rothschild winner Mother Earth: “(This) will be the race we will be looking at for her.
“I think she has met Alcohol Free three times, and she has beaten her twice in the good ground, with the other filly winning at Ascot in the soft ground.”
Saeed bin Suroor has entered the improving Real World in both the QEII and Champion Stakes.
He said: “Real World could well run on Champions Day.
“He’s nice and he’s ready for a Group One, but first he’s going to run in the Rose of Lancaster at Haydock. He’s a big, strong horse – and he’s looked good this year.”
The British Champions Fillies & Mares Stakes has attracted 40 entries – including David Menuisier’s 2020 winner Wonderful Tonight, on course this year for the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe at the start of October and another also in the Champion Stakes, following two Group Two successes this summer.
Her Sussex-based trainer said: “It was an amazing day last year when Wonderful Tonight won the Fillies & Mares.
“Ascot had been my nemesis until then – I’d never had a winner there. It was a relief too, because she had run over a mile and six in a Group One in France only two weeks earlier.
“She’s entered again, and she’s also in the Qipco Champion Stakes, but I’m not saying she’ll definitely run.
“We have to see what happens at Longchamp first, but if she went to Ascot and the ground was heavy we might be tempted by the Champion Stakes. Why not – the prize-money is more than twice as much.”
Dermot Weld has entered both his Breeders’ Cup Turf heroine Tarnawa – who returns to action at Leopardstown on Thursday – and dual Irish St Leger winner Search For A Song.
He said of Tarnawa: “She’s being aimed at the Arc, but I’ve made provisional entries for her in the Fillies & Mares and the Champion Stakes – and we’ll see what happens.”
O’Brien’s eight entries include Joan of Arc, Love and Snowfall.
Alcohol Free is an eyecatching possible, back down in trip, for the Qipco British Champions Sprint Stakes – in which last year’s winner Glen Shiel and Dragon Symbol, both for Archie Watson, are more predictable contenders alongside Ed Walker’s July Cup winner Starman.
Balding said of Alcohol Free: “Qipco British Champions Day is very much on the agenda, and we know the ground won’t be a problem to her there.
“I’m keeping all the options open, so I’ve entered her in the Champions Sprint as well as the QEII, on the basis that the mile might take a bit of getting at that time of year.
“She won the Cheveley Park Stakes last year, and I think she’d travel well enough for six still. She’s got that class too.”
Last year’s Long Distance Cup and subsequent Goodwood Cup winner Trueshan is one of 48 entries this time – including the Gosdens’ great stayer Stradivarius and Tony Mullins’ Princess Zoe.