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Skalleti all set for Hong Kong Cup mission

Skalleti will bid to reinforce the impression he is a genuine Group One performer when he runs in the Longines Hong Kong Cup at Sha Tin on Sunday.

The Jerome Reynier-trained gelding is a multiple Group Two and Three winner – and ran a career-best when finding only Addeybb too good in the Champion Stakes at Ascot.

Immediately behind the five-year-old was Aidan O’Brien’s brilliant mare Magical, and the pair are set to cross swords again at the weekend.

Reynier’s charge served notice of his ability when beating subsequent Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe hero Sottsass at Deauville in August, having previously been third to Persian King at Saint-Cloud over a trip short of his best.

From Deauville he went on to Arc weekend to land the Prix Dollar for the second time and his Ascot outing was his first at the top level.

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“He was getting 6lb from Sottsass and had ground conditions to suit, so I was always confident we’d see the real Skalleti,” Reynier said.

“He really put on a show that day. It was (then) just a case of keeping him in the same shape to win a second Prix Dollar.”

It was a quick turnaround from ParisLongchamp to Ascot, and Reynier explained: “On top of that he had a change of surroundings because I kept him in Chantilly rather than head back to Calas, given the logistical issues with going to Britain.

“It wasn’t a straightforward preparation, but he showed he absolutely belongs at Group One level on his first try.

“On Sunday he needs to show he is up to that same level in very different circumstances, around two turns and on good ground and against opposition which is very used to such a set up.

“We beat Magical last time, but this might be more to her taste and we are here to see what we can do.”

Reynier will also saddle stablemate Royal Julius at the big meeting, in the Hong Kong Vase.

“We’ve had some fabulous days with him, but he comes here off the back of two average performances,” said Reynier.

“He didn’t enjoy the heavy ground in the Arc and at Rome the race circumstances were somewhat unusual.

“But his two second places in Milan were both very good. He is a horse that can get a little disheartened and so things need to go right for him.

“That said, it’s a small field with only two horses that stand out in Mogul and Exultant. Third place looks up for grabs so we have everything to gain and nothing to lose, safe in the knowledge he is in good form.

“On good ground going right-handed at between 2000 and 2400 metres, he is capable of putting up a very good performance if he is in the mood.”

Hong Kong in mix for Skalleti

Jerome Reynier will consider sending Skalleti to Hong Kong in December following his fine effort in defeat in the Qipco Champion Stakes at Ascot.

Fresh from winning the Prix Dollar for a second time at ParisLongchamp a fortnight earlier, the five-year-old performed admirably on his first start at Group One level on Saturday, filling the runner-up spot behind the William Haggas-trained Addeybb.

Reynier reports his stable star to have returned to France none the worse, and both the Hong Kong Cup and the Hong Kong Vase at Sha Tin on December 13 are possible targets.

“You always go to the races with a lot of confidence with this horse, because he always gives you everything,” said Reynier.

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“He had the conditions to suit (at Ascot), because he handles that sticky ground well. To be fair, he is good on soft and heavy, straight tracks or right or left-handed, and he has even been winning on Polytrack – he’s just an amazing horse.

“Now the question is whether we go to Hong Kong with him. He hasn’t had a big campaign this year, because he only started in May and had two light starts on good ground before we started to step things up in August.

“We could now be aiming for Hong Kong, where I will enter him in the Hong Kong Cup over a mile and a quarter and the Hong Kong Vase over a mile and a half.

“You have to stay really well over a mile and a quarter at Ascot on that sort of ground, and he wasn’t fading out – when Magical came to him he kept going to finish second. I think he would stay a mile and a half on good ground in Hong Kong.

“We will have to see how we can travel horses and people as well. It could be tough logistically, to try and get everyone there seven days before the race, but we will see.

“Everyone is saying the races will not be as competitive this year, because the Japanese horses are not so good and the local level isn’t so strong either, so this could be the year to try it.”

Whether Skalleti heads to the Far East or not, he is set to return to training in 2021 – with a trip back to Ascot for the Prince of Wales’s Stakes at the Royal meeting a potential target.

Reynier added: “The owner really wants to keep him in one piece and doesn’t want to try silly things, so I can understand if he decides to put him away for next year.

“We could aim for the Prix Ganay in France in April, and everyone is saying we should consider the Prince of Wales’s Stakes in June – because sometimes it’s raining and they can get soft ground.

“We will definitely consider that, because there is no option in France at that time of year.”

Skalleti enters Champion Stakes equation following Dollar delight

Skalleti became the first horse to win back-to-back renewals of the Qatar Prix Dollar since Cirrus Des Aigles seven years ago when staging a late show at ParisLongchamp.

The five-year-old came from the clouds to cut down Patrick Sarsfield and land the Group Two spoils by a length and a quarter for trainer Jerome Reynier and jockey Maxime Guyon.

Raging Storm made the running and soon set up a six-length advantage which he maintained into the straight, where Frankie Dettori set sail for home on Patrick Sarsfield.

It looked like Joseph O’Brien’s four-year-old was heading for victory, but Skalleti got a dream run on the far rail to nail the leader, with Dariyma two and a half lengths away in third.

“With a pacemaker like that, we know in the final straight he was going to go backwards and we didn’t want to take him along the rail, so he had to be squeezed a little bit between horses,” Reynier told Sky Sports Racing.

“He got the go from Maxime Guyon to chase Dettori’s horse. I was thought it was going to be a tough task, but he had so much to give and he has been very impressive this year once again in this race.”

Reynier is keen to run Skalleti in the Qipco Champion Stakes at Ascot on October 17 if he can find somewhere to house him in England due to the coronavirus restrictions.

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“He is in very good shape and we want to try the Champion Stakes in two weeks’ time, but logistically it is not easy because we have to send him without his staff and he is a very special horse and he needs to be in really good care,” said the Marseilles-based handler.

“Maybe if we can find someone who can host him for a day or two in England before the race, maybe we will take this gamble.

“I have four boxes in Chantilly for two weeks and if we take the decision to cross the challenge and go for the Champion Stakes, he will be based in Chantilly and he won’t have to go very far to travel.”

Skalleti was slashed to 14-1 from 33-1 for the Champion Stakes with Paddy Power.

Valia came from last to first to run out a comfortable winner of the opening Qatar Prix Chaudenay.

Alain de Royer-Dupre’s lightly-raced three-year-old, wearing the colours of the Aga Khan, proved too good for the opposition in the Group Two over one mile and seven furlongs.

Christophe Soumillon was content to sit back as Mykiss cut out the pace while Ralph Beckett’s British raider Max Vega appeared to be in a good position only to be found wanting when the tempo increased in the final straight.

Valia made smooth progress to hit the front and draw away to score by two lengths from Nemean Lion. Step By Step was third with Max Vega fourth of the six runners.

De Royer-Dupre said: “Today was her first attempt at both the ground and the trip, but she has had an excellent run there. She is a classy filly.

“After she suffered some interference in the Vermeille, we couldn’t take the risk in running her in a race as high standard as the Arc.

“She has done that easily, even if the distance was a shade long. She will be better over 2,400 metres (12 furlongs), but we didn’t have much of a choice with our programme and we will continue to aim towards to the Prix Royal-Oak.

“Realistically, there are no other opportunities this year for her at Group One level.”

The Revenant lived up to both his name and billing with victory for the second year in succession in the Group Two Qatar Prix Daniel Wildenstein.

Pierre-Charles Boudot had Francis-Henri Graffard’s 4-7 favourite comfortably positioned in midfield until pulling out to challenge wide and ease to the front.

Ziegfeld gave chase but could get no closer than a length and a quarter at the line as The Revenant defied an absence of almost a year, since finishing second in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes at Ascot, to duly add his name to race’s list of dual winners.

Graffard said: “He is one of the horses we don’t run that often. Getting a horse ready to run is already complicated enough and even more so with good horses like him, you need other good ones to go with them and without putting too much stress on them either. I am happy with that.

The Revenant (in red) seen finishing second in last year's QEII at Ascot
The Revenant (in red) seen finishing second in last year’s QEII at Ascot (Simon Cooper/PA)

“His exercice rider knows him off by heart and assured me he was as well as when winning this last year. I was still a bit stressed but now I’m relieved.

“He is a super horse. We missed the early part of the season but we respected him and now he is paying us back.”

Simon and Ed Crisford struck for the British challengers in the preceding Haras de Bouquetot – Criterium de la Vente d’Octobre Arqana.

Their juvenile colt Jadoomi followed up last month’s Wolverhampton novice victory, easily bagging this valuable prize by seven lengths under Mickael Barzalona.