Sealiway shocks big guns in Champion Stakes

Sealiway sprang a 12-1 surprise in the Qipco Champion Stakes at Ascot as the big two, Adayar and Mishriff, finished out of the first three.

Fifth in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe 13 days earlier, Sealiway bettered the form he showed when runner-up to St Mark’s Basilica in the French Derby to lift the mile-and-a-quarter showpiece.

The three-year-old colt, trained by Cedric Rossi and ridden by Mickael Barzalona, was made to fight all the way by the William Haggas-trained Dubai Honour, who only went down by three-quarters of a length.

Mac Swiney ran a big race in third place, a length and a half away. Mishriff was a length back in fourth.

Addeybb, successful 12 months ago, disputed matters, although he was a spent force early in the straight after Derby hero Adayar set sail for home.

But as in the Arc, his bid fizzled out and Sealiway came through to lead. Mishriff tried to mount a challenge, but he had no more to give in the closing stages.

It was left to Dubai Honour to put it up to Sealiway – but the French raider was just too strong despite drifting in the closing stages.

Barzalona – who won the Derby in 2011 with Pour Moi – said: “It’s great to be back in the big time and be with this horse since the beginning. He deserved to prove his talent like he did today.

“I didn’t sit on him on Arc day but the team were very confident, they said he was in good form and that he had improved a lot since the Arc run so although it was a tough race they were pretty confident.

“I thought I was always going to hold Dubai Honour when he didn’t pass me straight away.”

Sealiway and Dubai Honour
Sealiway and Dubai Honour (Steven Paston/PA)

Rossi said through a translator: “He recovered really well from the Arc because that was a mid-seasonal reappearance and we came here with the thoughts of winning it.

“The Arc did him the world of good and he was ready for this race. All we needed to do was to keep him ticking over.

“Ascot is very beautiful. We are very proud. It’s a beautiful racecourse, it’s a beautiful day, beautiful racing, so very proud.”

Haggas said Dubai Honour, who had won the Prix Dollar on Arc weekend: “He was a little bit unfortunate because he’s a hold-up horse drawn in stall 10 and Adayar missed the break and just as James (Doyle) was trying to get him in, Adayar went hurtling past him and set him alight a bit.

“No excuse, we were quite far back but that’s the way he needs to be ridden. He came with what looked like a winning run, but the other horse outstayed him.

“He’s another that has made great progress. I was thinking that the Hong Kong Cup might suit him, he would enjoy that long straight and he seems to run well right-handed. I don’t know about Australia for him yet.”

Adayar was fifth, and trainer Charlie Appleby said: “William (Buick) said that he was always doing enough and although one back and one off the rail looked like he was in a nice position, Will just said that he was always doing too much and it paid up the straight. Those exertions paid towards the end.

“We made the decision to come here and maybe it was a tougher race than we thought in the Arc.

“We’ll put him away now and he’s still a nice horse for next year.”

Mishriff poised for eagerly-awaited rematch with Adayar

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.

Adayar was too strong over a mile and a half for Mishriff in the King George
Adayar was too strong over a mile and a half for Mishriff in the King George (Nigel French/PA)

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.

Tom Marquand celebrates after winning last year's Champion Stakes on Addeybb
Tom Marquand celebrates after winning last year’s Champion Stakes on Addeybb (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

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.”

Adayar confirmed for Champion Stakes challenge

Derby and King George hero Adayar will line up in Saturday’s Qipco Champion Stakes at Ascot after pleasing trainer Charlie Appleby in a gallop on Wednesday.

The three-year-old finished fourth in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe at ParisLongchamp at the start of the month and the Frankel colt had not been certain to make a quick return in the Champions Day feature.

However, Appleby is confident the Godolphin-owned runner is in top form after he sparkled in a piece of work at Moulton Paddocks, with the team relishing a rematch with King George second Mishriff over the shorter trip of 10 furlongs.

Adayar and Mishriff fought out the King George finish in July
Adayar and Mishriff fought out the King George finish in July (Nigel French/PA)

Appleby told “It was an easy piece of work to confirm his well-being, and he did it so well. We discussed it with His Highness Sheikh Mohammed and the decision was taken to run. We are all looking forward to the rematch with Mishriff, particularly over this trip.

“Adayar beat Mishriff comfortably (a length and three-quarters) in the King George, and then Mishriff came out and dominated the Juddmonte International at York, winning by six lengths, over the distance (approximately) of Saturday’s race.

“We are happy to meet him over the mile and a quarter, which is the trip where we believe Adayar’s potential lies next year (at four).”

Last year's winner Addeybb defends his title at Ascot
Last year’s winner Addeybb defends his title at Ascot (Mike Egerton/PA)

Adayar and the John and Thady Gosden-trained Mishriff head 10 contenders for the Group One contest, with last year’s victor Addeybb also in the mix for William Haggas.

The Newmarket handler has two other chances in the supplemented Dubai Honour, a winner on Arc weekend, and Al Aasy, who has failed to build on a narrow second in the Coronation Cup earlier in the year.

Aidan O’Brien relies on Bolshoi Ballet while Jim Bolger sends Mac Swiney to form a dual Irish challenge.

Arc fifth Sealiway represents Cedric Rossi with Euchen Glen and Foxes Tales completing the field.

Addeybb heads 14 contenders for Champion Stakes glory

Last year’s winner Addeybb, Derby and King George hero Adayar and the brilliant Mishriff are among 14 confirmations for the Qipco Champion Stakes at Ascot on Saturday.

The William Haggas-trained Addeybb bagged his first Group One victory on home soil in the Champions Day feature 12 months ago, but has made just three appearances since.

The seven-year-old returned to Australia to defend both the Ranvet Stakes at Rosehill and the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes at Randwick, having to make do with the runner-up spot in the former event but successfully defending his QEII crown.

Addeybb made a promising return from a break when splitting St Mark’s Basilica and Mishriff in the Coral-Eclipse at Sandown in early July, but has missed multiple engagements since due to unsuitable ground conditions.

Tom Marquand will be on board and told Sky Sports Racing: “Whether the ground will be quite in his favour – I can’t see how it will dry out too much at this time of year as the dew in the morning keeps the moisture in.

“I was informed the other day he galloped very well, but I don’t get near him too often at home as he’s not usually the best work horse and William likes me to keep my confidence in him by riding him in races instead!

“It sounds like he’s in great form and everyone is happy. There are no chinks in his armour, he’s danced every dance and been to the other side of the world a couple of times and proved himself here in the Champion last year.”

Haggas, who will be praying for as much as rain as possible ahead of his bid for back-to-back Champion Stakes triumphs this weekend, reports Addeybb to be in “as good a shape as we could possibly have him.”

He said: “We are very pleased with Addeybb’s condition. We’d like rain for him, and the more the better, but it doesn’t look as if we are going to get it. I’d be surprised if it was quick ground though, as it was so wet there at the last meeting, and he’ll run.

“I’d have loved him to have had a run, as it’s a top, top race, but he goes well fresh and he can win off a lay-off. His last two weeks have been really good.”

The Somerville Lodge handler looks set to launch a three-pronged assault, with Al Aasy and the supplemented Dubai Honour also in the mix.

Connections of Dubai Honour have stumped up the required £75,000 to add him to the field off the back of his impressive display in the Prix Dollar at ParisLongchamp on Arc weekend.

Dubai Honour after winning the Prix Dollar
Dubai Honour after winning the Prix Dollar (PA)

“Dubai Honour is a nice young horse who has won two Group Twos. He’s doing very well physically and he’s a pretty useful horse,” Haggas added.

“This will be a big rise in class for him, but we’ve got nothing to lose. I’m running Al Aasy too, and he’s not without hope, dropping back in trip. Everyone questions him bar me, but he’s a very, very talented horse.”

Charlie Appleby confirmed over the weekend that Adayar would be left in the Champion Stakes at the confirmation stage, with a final decision on his participation to be made later in the week.

If the three-year-old does take his chance, he will be turning out just 13 days after finishing fourth in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe.

Adayar remains in contention for the Champion Stakes
Adayar remains in contention for the Champion Stakes (Nigel French/PA)

The marginal favourite with most bookmakers is John and Thady Gosden’s Mishriff, who has been saved for this race since his dominant display in the Juddmonte International at York in August.

The Saudi Cup and Dubai Sheema Classic winner had previously finished third in the Eclipse and runner-up to Adayar in the King George.

Gosden said: “We’ve been happy with Mishriff since York and we are looking forward to running him again.

“It’s always one race at a time, but we wanted to space his races in case we go on to run later in the year, possibly at the Breeders’ Cup.

“It looks like being a good race and we should get better ground than last year, when he really didn’t like it. He can handle soft, but last year it became specialists’ ground. Full marks to all of the winners that day, but it’s hard to quicken on that stuff.”

Snowfall winning the Yorkshire Oaks
Snowfall winning the Yorkshire Oaks (Nigel French/PA)

Aidan O’Brien has left in Love, Bolshoi Ballet and Snowfall, with Jim Bolger’s Mac Swiney and the Noel Meade-trained Helvic Dream the other Irish contenders.

Cedric Rossi’s Arc fifth Sealiway could represent France.

Euchen Glen (Jim Goldie), Lady Bowthorpe (William Jarvis) and Foxes Tales (Andrew Balding) are the other hopefuls.

Adayar far from certain to line up in Champion Stakes

Charlie Appleby insists no decision has yet been made as to whether Adayar takes his chance in the Qipco Champion Stakes – despite the colt attracting strong market support for the Ascot showpiece on Saturday week.

Adayar, who faded into fourth place in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe in the closing stages after making much of the running, was cut to 3-1 from 7-1 with Ladbrokes for the Champion.

This year’s Derby and King George hero missed his intended prep run before last weekend’s Arc.

Adayar has already enjoyed a brilliant season
Adayar has already enjoyed a brilliant season (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

While Appleby said Adayar is likely to be left in the Ascot race at the five-day confirmation stage on Monday, his participation appears far from guaranteed.

The Godolphin trainer said at Newmarket on Friday: “He’s got an entry in the Champion Stakes, and the likelihood is we’ll leave him in it.

“That’s partly because conditions – potentially – could suit, but it’s a decision that has still to be made.

“At the minute it’s not even on the radar – he had his first day cantering away yesterday, he cantered again this morning. While I’m not wanting to sound negative, it’s pointless me saying yes because it’s too far away.”

In other Champions Day news, John Gosden has also yet to confirm whether Stradivarius will run in the Long Distance Cup.

The three-time Ascot Gold Cup winner was last seen on Arc weekend, running a valiant race in defeat behind Trueshan in the Prix du Cadran.

Stradivarius is not certain to run at Ascot - but could be back next year
Stradivarius is not certain to run at Ascot – but could be back next year (Mike Egerton/PA)

Gosden told ITV Racing: “I need to talk to Bjorn (Nielsen, owner). I think he wants to keep him for next year – there’s a lot of balls in the air, (but) he came back wonderfully from France, he really enjoyed his trip.

“He’s full of himself and out on the heath screaming and shouting.

“Mishriff (Champion Stakes) and Palace Pier (Queen Elizabeth II Stakes) are on target – they worked this week.

“We might well get good ground at Ascot, which of course they didn’t get at Longchamp.

“If you start moving these meetings the climate will tell you who is boss – look what happened at Goodwood this year.”

Haggas targeting Champion Stakes defence for Addeybb

William Haggas has the defence of Adeyybb’s Qipco Champion Stakes crown very much in mind for his globe-trotting gelding.

Having struck gold in Australia in the early part of last year, the son of Pivotal landed a cherished first domestic Group One at Ascot in October, beating French ace Skalleti by two and a quarter lengths.

He went to Australia again this year – and again landed the Queen Elizabeth Stakes. He made his seasonal British return with a very creditable runner-up finish to St Mark’s Basilica in the Coral-Eclipse.

The Newmarket trainer said: “It was great to win the Champion Stakes last year, fantastic. Addeybb was really on his game that day, too. If we can get him like that again that would be great.

“Right now he is in a field, but he will have a run before the Champion Stakes. He was a little bit rusty in the Eclipse and the ground wasn’t really slow enough for him, but I thought he ran well and he kept going up the hill as usual.

“I am sure we will meet St Mark’s Basilica again at Ascot. It’s called the Champion Stakes for a reason. It’s where the good ones go.”

He added: “Qipco British Champions Day is a huge and momentous occasion. It’s the culmination of a long season in Britain. Everyone wants to win there.

“The purists may think it is too late, but it’s fantastic racing and it’s not always heavy (ground).”

Trained by Aidan O’Brien, St Mark’s Basilica is one of a host of Ballydoyle entries for the jewel in the crown of Qipco British Champions Day.

St Mark’s Basilica won a high-class renewal of the Eclipse
St Mark’s Basilica won a high-class renewal of the Eclipse (Nigel French/PA)

O’Brien said: “St Mark’s Basilica is in at York and Leopardstown and is entered on Champions Day as well.

“We will get a little bit down the road before we really commit. Snowfall has the two entries (Champion Stakes and Qipco British Champions Fillies & Mares). We are looking at the Yorkshire Oaks at the moment for her.”

Another O’Brien contender, Love, was last seen finishing third in the King George VI And Queen Elizabeth Stakes.

O’Brien said: “The King George was a little bit of a funny race. Our other horse Broome got left five lengths and he still ended up being able to make the running easily. Ryan (Moore) had to wait to make his run a lot later than he would have preferred and in the end she probably had no race at all.

“Where she goes next I am not sure, but we will give her a little bit of time before we decide that. She seems to be in good form.

“Bolshoi Ballet is in America at the moment and he is going to run in Saratoga at the weekend in a Group One there. Santa Barbara (entered for Champion Stakes and Queen Elizabeth II Stakes) is going back to America the following weekend for the mile-and-a-quarter fillies’ race. They will come back to Europe after that. Neither of them are soft ground horses.”

Skaletti has been in fine form this season, being in unbeaten in four outings – the last two of those at Group One level.

His trainer Jerome Reynier said: “As a gelding the most prestigious race he could win is definitely the Champion Stakes, so we’ve been planning his season to bank on it.

“He will probably have one or two races before it and we really hope he will be able to have his ground on the day. He will probably go back to the Prix Dollar for a third time if he is in good form and the ground is soft enough, but we are aiming much for the Champion Stakes. If the ground is not soft enough for Arc weekend, he will be skipping the Prix Dollar.

“He had never run in a Group One prior to the Champion Stakes last year. The opposition was very high with Mishriff, Magical and Addeybb, but we were quite confident he’d run well.

“We really wanted to see how competitive he was going to be against those horses, and now we know we have one of the best horses in Europe on turf at a mile and a quarter.”

Mishriff was an excellent second in the King George
Mishriff was an excellent second in the King George (Nigel French/PA)

John Gosden, who enjoyed wide-margin Champion Stakes wins with Cracksman in 2017 and 2018, has two obvious candidates in Mishriff, who was third in the Eclipse and a fine second to Adayar in the King George, and Lord North. He has also entered Palace Pier here, as well as in the QEII.

He said: “Mishriff goes to York first for the Juddmonte and will then probably run in the Champion Stakes. Lord North is a possibility, too. He had a throat infection and couldn’t run in the Eclipse, so he hasn’t run since Meydan in March, so he’ll be coming fresh for the autumn.”

The race is also a possibility for last week’s Qatar Nassau Stakes winner Lady Bowthorpe.

Trainer William Jarvis said: “She’s had a long season, but she’s very tough and has an amazing constitution, so if she’s still enjoying her work we’ll definitely consider the Champion Stakes. In the meantime though we’ll keep her against her own sex for as long as we can, and there’s the Prix Jean Romanet and the Prix de l’Opera to look at before Ascot.”