It would not be hyperbole to suggest Saturday’s Qipco Champions Day at Ascot is one of the very best days of British racing in recent times.
Layer upon layer of quality and intrigue, with the Queen Elizabeth Stakes II face-off between established star Palace Pier and newcomer Baaeed provoking plenty of discussion, while Mishriff has the chance to avenge his King George defeat by Derby hero Adayar as the pair clash over the shorter 10-furlong trip this time.
Add in the quandary posed by Snowfall in the Fillies & Mares Stakes, the 20-runner puzzle that is the Champions Sprint and round two of the Trueshan v Stradivarius battle and you have all the ingredients for a truly top-class afternoon.
Oh, and not to forget there’s the minor matter of a jockeys’ championship to be decided. Oisin Murphy and William Buick have gone hammer and tongs over the last week or two. Murphy heads into the final day of the competition with a three-winner lead, but will be taking nothing for granted.
Mishriff eyeing Champion revenge
Mishriff was beaten just under two lengths by Adayar when the pair clashed in the King George back in July, but he is favourite to turn the form around as Adayar drops back in trip for the 10-furlong Qipco Champion Stakes. The marquee event at Ascot, it seems fitting that one of this term’s top three-year-olds should likely round out his campaign by going toe to toe with a leading light in the older division. Once you add in last year’s winner Addeybb too, plus his up-and-coming stablemate Dubai Honour and the enigma that is Al Aasy, we have a race to savour.
End of the Pier show?
John and Thady Gosden’s star miler suffered the only defeat of his 10 races to date in the QEII last year, so the four-year-old has something of a score to settle on what Gosden snr has previously intimated could be the colt’s final outing. Palace Pier impressed in winning the Lockinge and Queen Anne Stakes earlier in the year and while it is true he did not win by far in completing a Prix Jacques le Marois double last time out, a spell on the easy list with a blood disorder before that brings the anticipation of an improved effort here.
Baaeed out to continue rapid trajectory
Deep ground proved Palace Pier’s undoing last year, but Baaeed is expected to prove his biggest barrier to success this time around. William Haggas’ charge has undertaken a stratospheric rise this season, winning a Leicester maiden on his debut in June before a swift ascent through the ranks to win the Prix du Moulin on his most recent run. Palace Pier is unquestionably his toughest adversary yet – and there is also last year’s winner The Revenant, top-class filly Alcohol Free and hugely popular mare Lady Bowthorpe to contend with. All that makes this a vintage QEII.
Unsuitable ground robbed us of four potential clashes between Trueshan and Stradivarius this season, but the pair did finally cross swords in the Prix du Cadran at ParisLongchamp at the start of the month, with testing conditions seeing Alan King’s Trueshan emerge a comprehensive victor. The duo do battle once again on ground that favours neither in particular and with the question mark of a quick return hanging over both.
Murphy v Buick – the final furlong
The battle between Oisin Murphy and William Buick for the jockeys’ title has been a real nail biter over the last week or two, with Buick whittling away Murphy’s lead. Twice this week he has got within one, but on both occasions Murphy has fought back and his double at Haydock on Friday looks to have all but sealed it. Never say never though, as far as Buick is concerned. Buick has five rides – including Adayar – and Murphy has four, so do not rule out a last-race decider just yet.