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Mishriff still in the mix for Breeders’ Cup

A trip to the Breeders’ Cup remains on the table for Mishriff despite his defeat in the Qipco Champion Stakes at Ascot.

John and Thady Gosden’s charge has enjoyed a memorable campaign, winning the Saudi Cup on dirt and the Sheema Classic on turf before securing his first Group One in Britain in the Juddmonte International.

He was a hot favourite to bag another major prize on Champions Day – but while he managed to finish in front of his King George conqueror Adayar on Saturday, he could manage only fourth behind French raider Sealiway.

Ted Voute, racing manager for Mishriff’s owner Prince Faisal, said: “It was slightly disappointing. We beat the Derby winner, but we got swallowed up by horses who enjoyed the going a bit better than us.

“They had a bit of rain in the morning – and with both John and the jockey (David Egan), the first thing out of their mouths was that he wasn’t going on the ground. You have to bow to their experience.”

Mishriff appears most likely to run on the grass in the Breeders’ Cup Turf at Del Mar next month, although Voute suggests a return to the dirt for the Breeders’ Cup Classic could also be worth considering.

Connections of Mishriff at York
Connections of Mishriff at York (Nigel French/PA)

He added: “John wants everything to be right for us to go, but that (Breeders’ Cup) is his next target.

“It was spoken about on Sunday, and the early indications were that he came out of the race okay. At the moment we’ve all been told to act as if we’re going, and the horse will let us know whether he’s ready.

“John and the Prince will decide where to go. I suspect they’ll go to the Turf – although just glancing through the Classic, I’d be happy to consider that race as well.

“It’s up the Prince and John really – and it’s down to Mishriff and his wellbeing.

“All the boxes have got to be ticked, and I’m sure John and the Prince will make the right decision.”

Minzaal fuels Burrows’ dreams for exciting 2022 campaign

Owen Burrows is excited to see what Minzaal can achieve next season after rounding off his truncated campaign with a fine effort in defeat on Qipco Champions Day at Ascot.

The winner of last year’s Gimcrack Stakes, before finishing third in the Middle Park, Minzaal’s return to action was delayed by a leg injury suffered in his box last Christmas.

Having nursed his stable star back to fitness, Burrows identified a Nottingham conditions race in August as a suitable comeback target, but that plan also had to be scrapped after the Mehmas colt suffered a minor setback.

The three-year-old eventually made his return at Ascot in early October when filling the runner-up spot in the Rous Stakes – and stepped up again to finish third in Saturday’s Group One Qipco British Champions Sprint.

“It was a very pleasing run, considering he’d only made his seasonal reappearance two weeks before,” said Burrows.

“He’s obviously a horse for next year now, when all the top sprints will be on the agenda. Hopefully we can have a clear run with him – he’s an exciting horse.”

While Minzaal would have the option of contesting major sprints abroad between now and the spring, Burrows feels his lightly-raced youngster would be better served by having a break.

Owen Burrows still has high hopes for Minzaal
Owen Burrows still has high hopes for Minzaal (Mike Egerton/PA)

He added: “We did speak about Hong Kong, but he’s inexperienced in these top sprints, and I just felt if he could have sat a little bit handier on Saturday he might have been even closer.

“He is a bit slowly away from the stalls – and as Charlie Appleby commented after the race regarding the winner (Creative Force), it does just take these sprinters a while to cotton on to what is required in these top-level sprints.

“It’s not something you can force into them – it just comes with experience.

“This time next year it would be nice to be contemplating races in Dubai and things like that, but for now I think we’ll finish him for the year and look towards Royal Ascot and the July Cup next summer.”

The Lambourn-based trainer sees no reason why Minzaal should suffer a recurrence of his previous injuries.

He said: “He’s unlucky, because it was a freak injury he did in the box. That shouldn’t really bother him in the future, and hasn’t bothered us since.

“Then when he was due to reappear at Nottingham it was just a little niggle, so it’s not like you’re walking on eggshells with him all the time.

“As long as he doesn’t do anything silly in the box again, he should be fine. It was just a very unfortunate injury, which was nothing to do with training.

“He hasn’t lost a kilo in weight and has eaten up. He’s got a great temperament on him, and nothing fazes him, so hopefully that will stand him in good stead for next year.”

‘Beyond my wildest dreams’ – long season pays ultimate dividend for Murphy

Oisin Murphy remains the champion British Flat jockey after ending the 2020 campaign on a tally of 153 victories.

His title challenge has been a hard-fought affair at times, with runner-up William Buick gradually eating away at his lead during a season that has been hugely successful for Godolphin, for whom Buick is a retained rider.

Murphy has a retainer of his own, however, and it is this partnership with Qatar Racing and his close association with Andrew Balding that has enabled him perform his usual balancing act between quality and quantity.

His alliance with Balding’s Cheveley Park winner Alcohol Free recommenced with a win in the Group Three Fred Darling Stakes in April, a victory that did not further his title challenge due to its place on the calendar but one that paved the way for two Group One triumphs later in the season.

The first of those came in the Coronation Stakes at Royal Ascot in June, after which the filly beat a field that included colts and geldings in the Sussex Stakes at Goodwood in July.

Murphy after winning his third Flat jockeys championship
Murphy after winning his third Flat jockeys championship (Steven Paston/PA)

Royal Ascot provided Murphy with another significant winner in the shape of Berkshire Shadow, also trained by Balding, who struck at 11-1 to take the Group Two Coventry Stakes on the opening day of the meeting.

In May Murphy then stepped in to take the ride on Ed Walker’s Starman, a colt whose usual rider Tom Marquand was unavailable for the Duke of York Stakes as he was obliged to partner Nahaarr for his employer William Haggas.

Murphy capitalised on what was an enviable opportunity, prevailing by a neck to beat Marquand and Nahaarr into second place on the line.

Saeed bin Suroor’s Benbatl is a horse Murphy is better acquainted with as the pair have enjoyed seven wins together, the most recent of which was the Group Two Joel Stakes at Newmarket in September.

Alcohol Free after her Sussex Stakes victory
Alcohol Free after her Sussex Stakes victory (John Walton/PA)

Benbatl is owned by Godolphin, the employer of Murphy’s chief challenger Buick, and just as the rivalry between the two jockeys was beginning to heat up in late September ​Murphy parted ways with Oasis Gift in the paddock at Newbury, colliding with a section of railing and injuring his face after the filly bucked and then attempted to bolt out of the parade ring.

He was stood down for the remainder of the meeting but returned to action the next day, riding with a mask on initially to protect the stitches to his face.

While Buick had been gifted a window in which to rack up a handful of successes in the absence of his competitor, Murphy pulled himself off the ropes and scored a Group One triumph when taking the Prix Marcel Boussac at ParisLongchamp on Andre Fabre’s Zellie just three days later.

There were further bumps in the road, however, with the Irishman then failing a breathalyser test on the first day of Newmarket’s Cesarewitch meeting.

He was subsequently unable to take his opening day rides, a significant loss of winning chances at a point when Buick was within 11 wins of catching him.

Murphy was able to return to the saddle the next day and did so with aplomb, landing the Cesarewitch itself aboard Nicky Henderson’s Buzz and again demonstrating his ability to come back swinging even when the hardship faced is self-inflicted.

Chelmsford’s evening meeting on October 14 posed another late threat to his title hopes as Murphy was thrown from Bin Suroor’s Discover Dubai, who was fatally injured when falling two furlongs from home.

Murphy and Buzz (left) winning the Cesarewitch
Murphy and Buzz (left) winning the Cesarewitch (Tim Goode/PA)

The jockey was unharmed, however, and arrived at Ascot’s season finale with a three-winner lead over Buick thanks to an invaluable double at Haydock on Friday. A competitive book of four rides across the six races offered further security.

His first mount, Archie Watson’s Dragon Symbol, failed to fire when 14th in a renewal of the Champions Sprint Stakes won by Buick and Creative Force, but as neither rider was successful in the following five contests the scoreline stayed at 153 – 151 in favour of Murphy.

“It’s beyond my wildest dreams, thank you very much to Sheikh Fahad and his brothers and his whole family,” Murphy said.

“Qatar Racing has been my job for a couple of years, but in order to win jockeys’ championships I need free rein to go where I please and where the best opportunities are.

“It’s fantastic to lift this trophy again, it’s a dream come true.”

Murphy's upper lip was stitched together after his fall from Oasis Gift at Newbury
Murphy’s upper lip was stitched together after his fall from Oasis Gift at Newbury (Nigel French/PA)

Of his colleague and rival Buick, the rider said: “William is one of the best riders in the world and it’s been very tough, he’s a tremendous competitor with a fantastic job.

“I think after the last fortnight at least, you could see with every winner that William was clawing back, I was doing my best to bounce back but the opportunities weren’t there and unfortunately that’s the way it is sometimes.

“Charlie Appleby had a lot of maidens to run and I didn’t have those horses, I managed to eke out enough and that’s down to my agent as well.

“Thanks to all my trainers and owners for putting me on winners, this is what it’s all about.”

A fourth title is very much Murphy’s aim for next season, with a spell contesting all the key overseas meetings the immediate plan before the 2022 turf campaign kicks off.

“I’m 26 years old and I still feel like a child so I’ll have to keep trying for a few more years,” he said.

“We still have lots of maidens to run in the next few weeks or so, followed by the Breeders’ Cup and then the Hong Kong International, Bahrain, Saudi, all the big meetings will keep coming up into the spring next year.

“I’ll try to find some more fast horses to line up for next season.”

Despite speaking candidly about an occasionally turbulent campaign that has seen Murphy tested both physically and mentally, the reigning champion was hopeful that the performances on the track at Ascot were not overshadowed by stories about his own tribulations.

“My ambition is that when you open the papers tomorrow you can focus on the equine stars on show today, I know Adayar wasn’t at his best but he did line up for the Arc two weeks ago,” he said.

“We’ve had some fantastic racing, I think Baaeed is one of the best milers around – write about him.”

Glorious scenes at Ascot as Sheikh Hamdan’s silks record famous hat-trick

There were emotional scenes in the Ascot winner’s enclosure after the brilliant Baaeed starred in a treble for the late Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum’s Shadwell operation on Qipco Champions Day.

Seven months on from the prominent owner’s death, the blue and white silks that have been synonymous with so many equine greats over the years were once again in the spotlight on the richest raceday of the British Flat season.

While the success of Roger Varian’s Eshaada in the Fillies & Mares Stakes came as a surprise to many, much was expected of Baaeed as he put his unbeaten record and huge reputation on the line in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes.

What followed was a race for the ages as the William Haggas-trained three-year-old outgunned his older and more proven top-class rival Palace Pier by a neck, leaving Sheikh Hamdan’s long-time racing manager and close friend Angus Gold struggling to fight back the tears.

“Sheikh Hamdan would have loved this. It’s a huge day for the team and Sheikh Hamdan’s family to sort of mark his legacy in the year he died,” he said.

“It’s fantastic to have two Group One winners. To have one is enough, but to have two and for this horse (Baaeed) who has shown so much all the way through to win again is brilliant.”

Palace Pier was the narrow favourite at the off at at 6-4, with Baaeed – who did not make his debut until appearing at Leicester in early June – a 2-1 shot under Jim Crowley.

Baaeed was travelling much the better of the pair racing inside the final two furlongs, but Palace Pier gritted his teeth to make a race of it and there was just a neck between them at the line.

Angus Gold was emotional at Ascot
Angus Gold was emotional at Ascot (Mike Egerton/PA)

Gold added: “Everyone was asking beforehand ‘what do you think?’. I just said we’d let the race tell us as he’s never beaten a horse of Palace Pier’s class before.

“What a fantastic horse race it was. At the three-furlong pole I looked at Frankie (Dettori, on Palace Pier) and thought ‘fantastic, we’ve got you’ – but he was still there at the end and was only just beaten, so it shows what a tough horse he is.

“Palace Pier had done it all before whereas we still had to prove it. He had a proper fight on his hands and thankfully he proved man enough for it.”

Shadwell, who went on to complete the hat-trick with Baaeed’s stablemate Aldaary in the Balmoral Handicap, announced last month it would slim down its operations in the UK, Ireland and America, “to focus on quality and competition at the highest level of the sport”.

But Gold is hopeful the colours will continue to be a major force in the sport next season and beyond, with Baaeed primed to captain the team.

“Obviously it was a huge operation and I think they just felt we needed to trim it, which is perfectly understandable,” said Gold.

“We’ve got a lot of horses going to the sales in the next few weeks, so we’ll see what we’re left with.

“We’re hoping to keep some of the best ones and obviously we’ve got some yearlings to come into training next year, so I think there’ll still be a fair few horses there.

“I think compared to most owners, it will be a fairly sizeable team.”

Of Baaeed, he added: “I’m amazed how much speed he has, with his pedigree. He’s a full-brother to Hukum, who as we know stays a mile and a half well.

“He’s a charming horse who always wants to please, so to see him win a stallion-making race – which is very important for the breeding – was a huge thrill.

“I don’t remember many that have done it so quickly and he’s never taken a backwards step, that’s what’s been so extraordinary for me.

“He hasn’t had a particularly hard life so far and has done what we’ve asked him the whole way through, so I can’t see why he wouldn’t go on.”

Crowley was aboard all three winners, and was quick to pay his own tribute to Sheikh Hamdan.

He said: “For me it was one of the best days racing that I’ve seen, let alone to have been a part of. Fantastic horses running today and so nice to have crowds back, it was a big plus.

“Sheikh Hamdan I’m sure is looking down. It’s so sad that he can’t be here, because he would absolutely been buzzing today. Hopefully his daughter, Sheikha Hissa, is watching and she will be over the moon. He loved Ascot.”

Aldaary bounds to Balmoral victory

Aldaary capped a Champions Day treble for jockey Jim Crowley and owners Shadwell with an emphatic victory in the Balmoral Handicap at Ascot.

The progressive three-year-old defied a 6lb penalty for winning over seven furlongs on this course two weeks ago, to win for the first time at a mile on his second attempt at the trip and complete a double for trainer William Haggas.

Crowley bided his time on the well-backed Aldaary as Marie’s Diamond made the running on the far side of the track.

Aldaary (7-2) travelled strongly and quickly put the race to bed after plenty looked to be in with chances, including the market leader Sunray Major.

Striding away, Aldaary won by a length and a half from Symbolize (40-1). Magical Morning (66-1) was third with Nugget (9-1) fourth.

Crowley’s earlier successes came on Eshaada in the Qipco British Champion Fillies & Mares Stakes, and on Baaeed in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes, both Group Ones.

Crowley said: “Aldaary is very tough. He won here at the last meeting. Those handicaps are not easy to win and William has done a great job with him.

“Hopefully he can make him into a Pattern horse next year. I think he absolutely loves that ground, that’s key. It’s a big plus this time of year.

“It’s been a great day, you have to savour the moment really.”

Hot favourite Sunray Major was eased when his chance had gone, finishing 14th of the 20 starters.

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.”

Oisin Murphy secures third jockeys’ championship

Oisin Murphy admitted relief was his overriding emotion after he was crowed champion jockey for the third successive season on Qipco British Champions Day at Ascot.

The Killarney-born rider looked set for a comfortable defence of his title a few weeks ago, but a late charge from William Buick set up a thrilling finale.

Buick closed the gap to just one on a couple of occasions earlier in the week, but a double at Haydock on Friday meant Murphy started the final day with a decisive three-winner lead.

Buick struck early on Champions Day with Creative Force in the big sprint to give himself renewed hope – but defeat for Adayar in the Champion Stakes put paid to his gallant season-long pursuit of Murphy.

Murphy said: “I’m over the moon and thrilled to get it across the line. Thank you to my family and everyone – I’ve got a massive support group.

“The last week I’ve had a lot of people on my side. Frankie Dettori has been there every day making sure my spirits are up and I was riding off instinct as normal which is key.

“You need to make every ride count and I was running out of opportunities. I held it together thankfully in the end.”

However, it has not been entirely plain sailing for the 26-year-old, who just last week was forced to give up rides at Newmarket after failing a racecourse breathalyser test amid reports of an incident in a pub the previous night.

Murphy is also still sporting the scars of a nasty face injury suffered in a parade ring fall Salisbury last month.

Murphy added: “I think everyone knows that I am human and quite honest. But I need to do better and I don’t want any issues surrounding my career. Let’s just focus on riding winners and hopefully winning another jockeys’ championship.

“I’m 26-years-old so I think I will keep trying for a few more years.

“Horses are my life and I’m never happier than when I’m on the back of a horse. I’ve bought my showjumpers and they keep me busy too.

“Sheikh Fahad and Qatar Racing have a few horses to go to America for the Breeders’ Cup. There are lots of international races in Hong Kong and Japan coming up so I will be busy.

“William was getting a lot more support than I was in the last couple of weeks and the likes of Ed Walker, Hughie Morrison, Andrew Balding and Saeed bin Suroor have been amazing so thanks to them.”

His boss Sheikh Fahad of Qatar Racing remains fiercely loyal to Murphy, as does his racing manager David Redvers, although he admitted there are things the champion “will work hard to put right”.

He told Racing TV: “Oisin has really felt it this time, there’s no question about it. He felt it at the end of last season as well when he was over at the Breeders’ Cup and William was eating into his lead in dramatic fashion.

“It’s been a really high pressure and tense end to the season. Thank God it ends today and not at Doncaster in a few weeks’ time as that would drag it out even more.

“Oisin is a young man. We’ve known him since he was 17 and he’s still growing and developing as a man.

“Clearly there are things that have happened in recent times that he has regrets about and will work hard to put right.

“I have no doubt that when the pressure of Champions Day is out of the way and he can breathe and regroup, that there will be changes made to his lifestyle and he’s going to look very hard at that.

“Nobody can have any idea what it’s like being in this cauldron unless they’ve actually been there themselves.

“I spoke to Kevin Darley the other day and he said when he sat down at the end of his championship-winning season, he literally lost two days of his life he was so exhausted. He couldn’t even remember what happened in that time.

“William is going to be exhausted as well. Oisin is exhausted and puts himself under huge pressure.

“We all make mistakes. It’s been difficult and obviously it’s disappointing for everybody that the stories in the press have detracted from what is an absolutely unbelievable achievement – to win three championships on the bounce from such an early start.

“We’re incredibly proud of him. He’s very much part of our family and whatever help Oisin needs he’ll get.”

On his bid for a first tile, Buick said: “I gave it everything I had, I left nothing on the table and I didn’t quite make it.

“I had a lot great support all the way through, these last few days the support and well wishes I’ve had has been really overwhelming and I’m really grateful for that.

“My family and friends have been behind me the whole way, it’s a tough thing to do and you’ve got to be disciplined, you’ve got to work really hard.

“I’ve had some great support from trainers and owners all around and it’s a big ‘thank you’ to them because without the support it’s not possible.

“As hard work as it is, I’ve enjoyed it as well and I feel like it’s brought me on and now there’s still a lot of good races around the world before the end of the season.

“I’ll get the winter out of the way and re-group again for next year.”

His boss Charlie Appleby said: “He changed agents last year, Tony Hind has been sending him all around the country and I think it’s something William himself will say he’s enjoyed.

“It’s all very well riding these good horses at the big meetings, but he’s been mucking out at the smaller tracks and success breeds success – you can’t beat having winners.

“William riding more has given him more opportunity to ride more winners and we’ve seen a better rider as a result.

“He’s always been a rider at the top of his game, but there’s no doubt that now he’s riding so many different horses his style of riding is changing and he’s hungry.

“Win, lose or draw, he’s not going to walk away deflated after what he’s achieved this year. He’s got that character where he’ll go forward again next year and do the same, I’m sure.

“For me he’s a huge part of the team and the more winners he rides the happier I am!”

Creative Force powers to Champions Sprint success

Creative Force completed his progression from handicaps to the top level by taking the Qipco British Champions Sprint Stakes at Ascot in the hands of William Buick.

Rated just 89 in April, the Charlie Appleby-trained colt has gone up 25lb in the ratings and picked good prizes such as the Group Three Jersey Strakes at the Royal meeting.

The Dubawi gelding had run with credit in both the July Cup and Haydock Sprint Cup without making the frame, but that experience in Group Ones was a positive – as was the stiff six furlongs on soft ground.

Last year’s winner Glen Shiel made the running and proved a tough nut to crack, but Creative Force (11-2) was up to the task.

Hitting the front in the final furlong, the Godolphin runner kept up the gallop to hold off Glen Shiel (22-1) by a length and give Buick his 151st winner of the season, two behind reigning champion Oisin Murphy with just four races left on the final day of the title race.

Minzaal (16-1) was a length back in third with Art Power (3-1 favourite) a head away in fourth.

Appleby, remarkably saddling his first Champions Day runner, said: “After Haydock, it was always the plan to come here. The two positives were the ground being what it is and secondly him sharpening up.

“After winning the Jersey here at the Royal meeting, we ran him in the July Cup and then backed him up at Goodwood. James (Doyle) said he over-raced at Goodwood and felt like a sprinter in a seven-furlong race.

“I thought we were going to run a big race at Haydock, but the ground was too fast for him.

“In these big sprints they’ve got to be able to travel and this horse travels for fun. William rode him with bags of confidence and having won over seven here, we knew he was going to hit the line hard.

“It’s a great team result. It’s been a great season and for this little horse to win a Group One is brilliant.

“He’s a typical Dubawi who should get better with age and I feel the sprinting division is quite open.

“With Starman retired, there’s a hole there to be filled and I feel this horse is potentially young enough to do that – we’ve been looking for a new star sprinter since Blue Point was retired, so hopefully this horse can be a fun horse for the next year or two.”

William Buick kept his title hopes alive with Creative Force
William Buick kept his title hopes alive with Creative Force (PA)

It was ultimately not to be for Buick in his absorbing tussle with Murphy, but he said of his winner: “He really did deserve it. Obviously he won the Jersey here and he goes through that ground, which is a big help.

“The race worked out perfectly today – we had a nice draw and I liked the look of it. It worked out how I wanted it to and he was in good form going into it.

“He certainly deserved it, but we thought it was a good chance for him to show his best today.

“There were a lot of runners, they all turned up but he travelled into it very smoothly and it was a case of just waiting with him a little bit.

“He stumbled out of the stalls and the ground was very fast at Haydock, but if you stumble out of the stalls in a six-furlong Group One then it’s game over but he did get himself back into it and he ran well, considering.”

Glen Shiel ran with huge credit, and his trainer Archie Watson said: “I’m delighted. He does come alive here. That’s his second Group One second here this year.

“The blinkers worked first time, they really lit him up. He jumped and travelled very well. Hollie (Doyle) was delighted with him. He quickened away and just found one very good horse of Charlie’s to beat him.

“He’s just a dream for the owners to have and a dream for us to have.”

Trueshan brilliant in Long Distance Cup repeat

Trueshan justified strong market support to record back-to-back victories in a rough race for the Qipco British Champions Long Distance Cup at Ascot.

Winner of the Prix du Cadran just two weeks ago, Alan King’s five-year-old repeated last year’s success on home soil, with veteran stayer Stradivarius third.

His regular partner, Hollie Doyle, missed out on ParisLongchamp due to a riding ban with James Doyle deputising, but she was back in the saddle and took full advantage.

There was a muddling early pace with The Mediterranean settling down in front from Master Of Reality, with Trueshan in midfield and Stradivarius towards the rear.

While Frankie Dettori had to make his challenge wide on Stradivarius after a barging match with Baron Samedi, Doyle had Trueshan in a good position turning for home.

The evens favourite was harassed by Tashkhan, but his class prevailed and he asserted in the final furlong to beat the 50-1 outsider by a length and a half.

Stradivarius finally got a clear run, but his bid flattened out and he was two and a half lengths further away.

Trueshan was quoted at 4-1 favourite with Betfair for the Gold Cup at Royal Ascot next summer.

King said: “I haven’t been this nervous for a long time.

“I was just nervous because it was only two weeks (between runs). Dan (Horsford) was very happy with him at home, but he was quite a handful to saddle today and quite hot. I don’t think he was at his best, but we’ve got away with it.

“He had to be very, very tough today. Brian’s (Ellison) horse kept coming back at him and Stradivarius has run another marvellous race the old boy.

“Hollie has ridden him most of the way through and he is her ride. It was unfortunate she had to miss France through suspension. James did a great job, but he knew Hollie would be back on board today.

“Everyone is saying I’ve been too cautious with him, but the only time I’ve taken this horse out is when it’s been proper fast ground – here at the Royal meeting when the rain came a day late, it was very quick at York and so was Doncaster. I would run him on good ground, but I won’t run him on good to firm.

“Let’s hope we get a wet Royal Ascot next year. It would be lovely to run him in the Gold Cup. We’ll duck and dive and if he keeps doing as well as he is at the moment we’ll be very happy.

“It’s been a long time since we’ve won a Grade One over jumps, so it’s nice to win a few big races on the Flat.”

Doyle said: “It’s an amazing feeling and all credit to Alan and the owners for putting me back on.

“The pressure was really on today to deliver given the great ride James gave him in France, so I’m glad it went well.

“It was a bit of a nightmare really. He jumped nicely, I got a nice position early on and he switched off – but at halfway he came to life, put the brakes on and raced rather keenly, but that’s just the way he is.

“I could feel Frankie breathing down my neck five down and I was wider than I wanted to be turning in, but I had to make my move.

“He’s so brave, to back up like he’s done today it’s just amazing.

“We’ll dream again next year, when hopefully he’ll be a stronger horse.”

Stradivarius - beaten but unbowed
Stradivarius – beaten but unbowed (PA)

Of Stradivarius, John Gosden said: “He ran a great race considering the ground. He seems fine after the race and no decision will be made on next year until next week. In other words, we want to see how the horse is in the next few days at home and he will tell us how to play it.

“I think he is more of the Federer blend in a sense. He’s not blowing, but when you look at the tactics, today and in the Gold Cup, you see that other guys are riding the race for him.

“They do go finding him in a race. One day they box him in and the next day they push him out. You look at the Ascot Gold Cup and today and other guys are riding him. I don’t want to go any further than that.

“That (retirement or stay in training as an eight-year-old) is Bjorn’s (Nielsen, owner) decision, but I will tell him how the horse is. Funnily enough the horse is a very expressive character. He will tell us.

“Today it was a great run off a horrible trip.”

Dettori was not at all happy with the ride of Dylan Browne McMonagle aboard Baron Samedi, calling it “a disgrace”.

“It was a disgrace. The kid in front of me did everything possible to get me beat,” he said.

However, Baron Samedi’s trainer Joseph O’Brien felt McMonagle did nothing wrong and put up a strong defence of his riding.

“I thought Dylan gave my horse a fantastic ride. I thought he was very tactically aware, held his position when he had to and I thought he moved at the right point,” said O’Brien.

“He gave him a great ride. It’s not up to Dylan to ride anyone else’s horse. He does his own thing and gave my horse a fantastic ride and held his ground when he had to.”

Marco Ghiani thrilled to be officially crowned champion apprentice

Marco Ghiani was all smiles as he was awarded the 2021 champion apprentice title on the day the Flat season was formally brought to a close at Ascot.

The Newmarket-based rider has accumulated 51 winners throughout his title campaign, which began on May 1 and included any Flat winners ridden on the turf or all-weather in Britain.

Ghiani earns the accolade after finishing 16 wins clear of Saffie Osborne, who missed the end of the season due to an arm injury.

He was presented with his trophy by the legendary Lester Piggott, and said: “It’s really nice to be crowned champion apprentice. It’s a dream come true and I’m really thankful to all the people that have helped me along this journey.

“I’ll be smiling forever now!”

It has certainly been a memorable campaign for the Italian, who as well as riding out his claim secured a first winner at Royal Ascot aboard the Saeed bin Suroor-trained Real World in the Hunt Cup.

Champion apprentice Marco Ghiani
Champion apprentice Marco Ghiani (John Walton/PA)

Ghiani went on the steer the same horse to Listed and Group Two success at Newbury and York respectively, while he also enjoyed a Saturday afternoon treble on Newmarket’s July Course during the summer.

“I was just about to lose my claim when I rode my first Royal Ascot winner. It was just amazing,” said the rider, who was afforded a guard of honour by his weighing-room colleagues on British Champions Day.

“I couldn’t believe it. It was a fantastic feeling – I didn’t want to get off the horse afterwards!”

Ghiani is not from a racing background, with his parents the owners of a pizza restaurant in his homeland.

But it did not take the 22-year-old long to realise he instead wanted follow in the footsteps of compatriots Frankie Dettori and Andrea Atzeni by pursuing a career as a jockey, having first sat on a racehorse at the age of 15.

“My family have a restaurant. None of them have been with horses, apart from my grandfather’s grandfather. We found out last week that he used to ride horses,” Ghiani continued.

Ghiani aboard his highest calibre ride to date, Saeed bin Suroor's Real World
Ghiani aboard his highest calibre ride to date, Saeed bin Suroor’s Real World (David Davies/PA)

“I started working in the restaurant when I was about 10 years old. When I was 15 I didn’t want to go to school any more, so my father put me in the restaurant to teach me how to make pizzas.

“I thought the pizzas were too hot, so my father wanted me to do something else and made me leave!”

Despite suffering a fall in the Sartiglia horse festival in Sardinia, Ghiani impressed multiple champion jockey Dario Vargiu, who contacted him and encouraged him to follow his racing dream.

While barely able to speak English at the time, he took the brave decision to leave home and enrolled at the British Racing School at 16 and joined Luca Cumani’s stable in Newmarket.

Ghiani admits he had serious doubts about whether he would make it as a jockey, but was persuaded by fellow Italian Cumani to stick it out.

He said: “I couldn’t speak very much English so it was difficult to communicate. All I could say is ‘my name is Marco’.

“Obviously I missed my friends and my family. Lots of people were saying I wasn’t good and I got a bit sad and started believing it.

Ghiani aboard Stuart Williams' Passiona
Ghiani aboard Stuart Williams’ Passional (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

“I just wanted to go home, but Luca told me to stay and after a few months I got my licence and it went well.

“The British Racing School has definitely played a big part. Without them, I probably wouldn’t be here.”

After Cumani retired in October 2018, Ghiani rode out for another Newmarket trainer Stuart Williams, who along with jockey coach Michael Hills, he credits for much of his success.

Well-known for his infectious smile, Ghiani plans to return to Italy for a short break during the winter before returning to Britain to ride on the all-weather.

He added: “I just want to ride as many winners as I can and maybe ride a few horses for big trainers.

“I don’t see the point in being sad for no reason.

“There are some bad days, but there are also lots of good days, so I just keep the chin up and keep the smile up as well.”

Stars aligned for truly unforgettable day at Ascot

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

Adayar (left) had Mishriff back in second in the King George
Adayar (left) had Mishriff back in second in the King George (Nigel French/PA)

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?

Palace Pier contests the QEII Stakes
Palace Pier contests the QEII Stakes (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

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

Baaeed is seeking a second Group One verdict
Baaeed is seeking a second Group One verdict (Tim Goode/PA)

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.

Stamina required

Trueshan came out on top in France
Trueshan came out on top in France (John Walton/PA)

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

Oisin Murphy has faced a battle to hang on to his champion jockey title
Oisin Murphy has faced a battle to hang on to his champion jockey title (Simon Cooper/PA)

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.

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.”

Baaeed bidding to prove his worth in clash of the miling titans

Baaeed has the chance to prove he is a superstar in waiting, in what is a fascinating renewal of the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes at Ascot on Saturday.

Unraced until June this year, the William Haggas-trained colt has made giant strides with each run and last time out proved he could cut the mustard at the highest level in the Prix du Moulin.

Despite maintaining his unbeaten record, though, Haggas felt he was not quite at his peak that day and in any case, he will have to take his form up another notch against Palace Pier, the best miler in Europe.

“The bit that none of us know, and that includes me, is what he’s got left as he’s going to be tested. I know Jim (Crowley) is very fond of him and he’s a very, very lovely horse to deal with,” said Haggas.

“I couldn’t see, in my initial reading of it, where the pace was going to come from, but it’s a very strong race. It’s a championship race and it’s probably the best mile race of the season.

“All I’ll say is that if he wins on Saturday then the people who have been building him up were right. It is extraordinary, everyone wants him to go maiden, novice, Listed, Group Three, Group One.

“What we really want is to do what Sea The Stars did, which was to go from the Juddmonte to the Irish Champion Stakes and the Arc de Triomphe. That’s the ideal career and this horse, to use a popular expression, has danced every dance so far.

“I’m not a punter, but I’d have Palace Pier at even money, no questions, and be 3-1 with Baaeed. What they are in the market is irrelevant, I think he’s as short as he is on potential, but he hasn’t really got going.”

Reflecting on the Moulin, Haggas said: “I was really pleased with him at Longchamp, but we’d had a bit of a hiccup and I don’t want to undermine the horses that finished behind, but I’m pretty sure we didn’t see him at his best.

“If we get to Saturday all in one piece, you’ll see the best of him.”

The standard is well and truly set by Palace Pier, trained by John and Thady Gosden. The one blemish on his 10-race record came in the corresponding race 12 months ago – on deep ground when he also lost two shoes.

Thady Gosden said: “It looks a great race, I’m looking forward to it, but obviously there are some nerves for sure.

“He’s been in good form since the Jacques le Marois and everyone has been happy with him at home.

“Baaeed looks the big danger, he’s the horse coming through the ranks and won a Group One last time.

“This race last year is the only blemish on his record, he’s an exceptional racehorse but it was frustrating with the ground last year and he lost two shoes which in that ground will hinder your chances.

“Whether this is his last race, it’s a decision for his owners after the race.”

Jeff Smith has been lucky enough to have owned and bred some fantastic horses during a long involvement in the game – and he feels Alcohol Free, a three-time Group One winner, is right up with the best of them.

Oisin Murphy salutes the crowd as Alcohol Free wins the Sussex Stakes
Oisin Murphy salutes the crowd as Alcohol Free wins the Sussex Stakes (John Walton/PA)

The Andrew Balding-trained filly has had a break since failing to stay 10 furlongs in the Juddmonte International.

“Obviously I’m looking forward to it and it’s one hell of a race. It brings all the strands of form together and it’s certainly the highlight of the day – for me anyway!” said Smith

“She’s already beaten the colts once this year (Sussex Stakes), there was cut in the ground at Goodwood so that won’t be an issue, it’s just going to be a case of best horse on the day, which is as it should be.

“She had a break at the stud for about 10 days after York, put on a bit of weight, it was absolutely perfect. I haven’t seen her since she went back to Andrew’s, but by all accounts she’s in cracking form.

“Of all my horses she’d have to be the best, you don’t win three Group Ones without being top class. She’s achieved a lot in a season and a half.

“This will be it for the season, she won’t be going abroad but she stays in training next year.”

Mother Earth winning the 1000 Guineas under Frankie Dettori
Mother Earth winning the 1000 Guineas under Frankie Dettori (Mike Egerton/PA)

Aidan O’Brien’s Mother Earth has had 15 outings in two seasons, an incredible amount considering all bar her racecourse debut have been at Group level.

She won the 1000 Guineas back in May, added the Prix Rothschild in August and has not been out of the first three all season.

O’Brien said: “Mother Earth ran a good race in the Sun Chariot in Newmarket where the winner came up the other side. She is very consistent. She turned around the Matron Stakes form (with No Speak Alexander) by four or five lengths.”

Saeed bin Suroor has been absent from the season-defining mile contest for some time – but his old favourite Benbatl gives him a puncher’s chance.

“He came back good from his last race and is working well,” said Bin Suroor, who has won the QEII a record five times, most recently with Poet’s Voice in 2010.

“The ground is good at this moment. There are showers around, but if the ground stays as it is that would be great.

“The jockey (Pat Cosgrave) knows him well – he won a Group One in Australia on him (in 2017).

“The horse is in good form and good condition. It’s a very strong race with some of best milers in the world, but hopefully we will see a good run from Benbatl again.”

William Jarvis has elected to run Lady Bowthorpe here rather than in the Champion Stakes and said: “Once I saw that the Derby winner Adayar was running in the Champion as well as Mishriff it wasn’t a difficult decision. I don’t think we could beat either of them, but we might be competitive in the mile race.

“Nothing emerged after the Deauville race (beat only one), although she didn’t settle in the stables despite having travelled over there well. I’ve been delighted with her since and we are all looking forward to this.”

Adding further spice is Master Of The Seas, as the 2000 Guineas runner-up has his second outing since his comeback in the Joel Stakes won by Benbatl.

Trainer Charlie Appleby is hoping to head next to the Breeders’ Cup Mile – and the QEII is this year a ‘win and you’re in’ contest for that race.

The Moulton Paddocks handler told the Goldolphin website: “Master Of The Seas has pleased us since his reappearance (third) in the Joel Stakes last month. He is mentally maturing. The hood is removed this time. This is his stepping stone to Del Mar.”

King wary of swift returns as Trueshan and Stradivarius clash again

Alan King admits only time will tell how much a slog in the Paris mud took out of both Trueshan and Stradivarius ahead of their mouthwatering rematch in the Qipco British Champions Long Distance Cup.

Trueshan will be favourite to make it back-to-back wins in the Champions Day opener, having inflicted a comprehensive defeat on legendary stayer Stradivarius in the Prix du Cadran.

The pair renew rivalry just a fortnight later – and while King has been happy with his stable star since his French triumph, he acknowledges the two-week gap is not ideal.

“We haven’t done much with him since Longchamp, but he had a little breeze on Wednesday and Dan (Horsford), who rides him every day, was happy with him,” said the Barbury Castle handler.

“We’re under no illusions, it’s only two weeks since the two of them had a hard race, but it’s Trueshan’s last race of the season, so he’s got all winter to get over it.

“We think he’s OK, but we can’t really be certain until we get on the track. We’ve tried to keep him as fresh as possible and we’ll see what happens on Saturday.”

While conditions will not be quite as demanding as they were in the Bois de Boulogne, King has no concerns regarding the going in Berkshire.

He added: “The ground will be fine. I can’t see it drying out too much. I’ve always said I’d run him on good ground, so I’m not that worried.

“We’re happy, but there is that question mark and there’s no point pretending otherwise.”

Frankie Dettori leaps from Stradivarius after winning his second Doncaster Cup
Frankie Dettori leaps from Stradivarius after winning his second Doncaster Cup (Mike Egerton/PA)

Stradivarius has dominated the staying division in recent seasons, with his illustrious CV including three Gold Cups, four Goodwood Cups, three Lonsdale Cups, two Yorkshire Cups and two Doncaster Cups.

John and Thady Gosden’s seven-year-old also won the Long Distance Cup in 2018 and was narrowly beaten by Kew Gardens in 2019, but finished a long way behind behind Trueshan 12 months ago.

John Gosden has spoken of his regret at sending his entire to Paris earlier in the month, with conditions set to be more in his favour this weekend.

“We very much wish that we hadn’t run there, as it looks as if he will get ground closer to what he wants at Ascot,” said the Clarehaven handler.

“We are not mad keen on coming back after just 14 days, but once it was clear he wasn’t handling the ground (at ParisLongchamp), Frankie (Dettori) didn’t get after him too much.”

Tony Mullins with Princess Zoe
Tony Mullins with Princess Zoe (PA)

The Tony Mullins-trained Princess Zoe is also making a quick return to action, having finished fifth behind Trueshan and Stradivarius when defending her Cadran crown.

Mullins said: “Trueshan is the one to beat. I’m hoping that we’ll be competitive with Stradivarius, who was a great champion, but he’s coming near the end of his peak.

“We’re going to give it a go. Coming back two weeks after the Cadran is a major factor – it’s a worry for Trueshan and it’s also a worry for us.

“We’re hopeful that Princess Zoe will run as well, if not better, at Ascot.”

William Haggas saddles both Hamish and Roberto Escobarr, with the former holding particularly strong claims judged on his defeat of the high-class Hukum in the September Stakes at Kempton last month.

“If you want to take the Hukum line at face value, Hamish would definitely have a chance. I don’t think we saw Hukum at his best at Kempton, but Hamish is a good horse all the same,” said Haggas.

“I believe the ground is going to be on the soft side of good, probably dead, and that will suit Hamish.

“He’s in good form, he did his last bit (on Wednesday morning) and he looks great.

“Roberto I’d have to say is better on top of the ground, so it might be a bit dead for him.

“But he’s a very genuine stayer and we’re going to put some cheekpieces on him on Saturday and a tongue-tie and hope that that can eke out a bit of improvement.

“Whether it will eke out the stone improvement he needs to be competitive, I don’t know. But he will run and we look forward to it, he looks really well.”

‘Frankie factor’ has bookmakers on red alert at Ascot

Bookmakers are wary of their old nemesis Frankie Dettori on what promises to be a vintage Qipco British Champions Day at Ascot.

One of the main talking points on a card featuring a host of equine stars in action might be the climax of the battle for the jockeys’ title between Oisin Murphy and William Buick – but bookmakers fear the ‘Frankie factor’ back at his beloved Ascot.

With the 25th anniversary of his ‘Magnificent Seven’ that turned the betting industry upside down fresh in the memory, the Italian could again have a major say in the headlines at a track that brings out the best in him.

He has just the four rides, but Palace Pier in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes and Sunray Major in the Balmoral Handicap are favourites – and the warning lights will start flashing should he land the opening Qipco British Champions Long Distance Cup on the hugely popular Stradivarius.

Kinross is the biggest price of the Dettori quartet but cannot be discounted in the Qipco British Champions Sprint.

“We always fear the ‘Frankie factor’ regarding multiples when it comes to the big days, and Saturday is no different with the strong book of rides he has,” said Paddy Power spokesman Paul Binfield.

“The fact he doesn’t have a full book makes it much less of a concern, although if the first three go in then the Balmoral Handicap could be a difficult watch for us with Sunray Major very much fancied in this competitive handicap.

“It is interesting Palace Pier is odds against for the first time in his last six races. Punters could get behind him as it’s a nice price.”

Nicola McGeady of Ladbrokes said: “We are always nervous when it comes to Frankie Dettori on Champions Day for obvious reasons, and although he hasn’t got a full book of rides he still has a very strong hand.

“We have already seen support for all four of his mounts and that should really ramp up come tomorrow.”

Stradivarius could give Frankie Dettori a flying start on Champions Day
Stradivarius could give Frankie Dettori a flying start on Champions Day (Nigel French/PA)

Dettori gave Sporting Index the rundown on his four mounts, starting with Stradivarius, who will try to turn the tables on Trueshan, who beat him in the Prix du Cadran.

“Of course, we were disappointed to come second in Paris, but he still ran a good race. Stradivarius takes his racing well and seems ready for a rematch with Trueshan,” he said.

“I have plenty of respect for Trueshan, who is a very good horse under extreme conditions, but I think now that the ground is going to be better at Ascot that will help bridge the gap and make things more of a level playing field.”

Dettori feels Kinross has an each-way chance in a race that holds fond memories.

“I remember winning this race back in the day as an 18-year-old on Chummy’s Favourite for Neville Callaghan. He was 40-1 that day and it was one of my first Group winners. Then on Diffident, who was the second winner in my ‘Magnificent Seven’ in 1996,” he went on.

“I ride Kinross here, who drops back to a sprint trip. We’ve been campaigning him over seven furlongs to a mile, but I think the stiff six at Ascot will be up his street. The softer the ground the better for him, so maybe with conditions drying out that’s against him.

“There are others in the race that have better profiles, but I’m just hoping we get a cleaner run than last time in the Prix de la Foret and, if so, he could get placed.

Dettori expects a mighty run from Palace Pier despite the presence of a highly-progressive rival in Baaeed.

“I love Palace Pier, he’s done absolutely nothing wrong his whole career. The only race he has been beaten in is this one last year, when he lost a shoe and I got squeezed out at the start. He was so far back, and with everything that went wrong that day it was a massive run to come home third,” he said.

“I have almighty respect for Baaeed, but Palace Pier has beaten everything that he has faced. He’s a champion and probably one of the best milers I have ever ridden so I have confidence he will put in a huge performance.”

Dettori signs off on the strongly-fancied Sunray Major, who could be a handicap snip in the Balmoral.

“We always thought a bit of him as a three-year-old. He had 18 months off but has come back and I’ve won on him at Chelmsford and then at Ascot. He’s got loads of potential and who knows how far he could go?” he added.

“The thing with the Balmoral is that there are 20 runners, and a low draw can be key. At this time of year, the best part of the track tends to be the far side, so if you are drawn high, as I was with Lord North in this race a few years ago, it can be a big disadvantage. Unfortunately, we’re in stall 21 and we’ll need plenty of luck from there.”