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Northern star Laurens heads 53 entered in QIPCO British Champions Fillies and Mares

8 Aug 2018

French Oaks winner could make Ascot debut on Britain's richest raceday.

Laurens wins the Prix de Diane.

Since the victory of Investec Oaks winner Dancing Rain first set the tone in the seven renewals of this contest on QIPCO British Champions Day, three-year-olds have held sway in winning four times.

Hoping to continue the dominance of the younger generation could be the Karl Burke-trained Laurens, second in the QIPCO 1000 Guineas at Newmarket first time out this season before landing two Group 1s in France. The form of the filly’s victory in the Prix de Diane, the French Oaks, on her latest start, has been boosted more than once since.

But despite Laurens having a number of possible openings, the QIPCO British Champions Fillies & Mares Stakes remains one of the prime targets for the John Dance-owned filly, who has enjoyed a welcome break since her last victory but who is being trained to return to action at York at the end of this month in the Darley Yorkshire Oaks.

“She had a good, proper three weeks off and ended up putting on 22 kilos but you really wouldn’t know it because she is such a strong filly and the weight went on all over,” said Burke.

“We’ve had some time to start getting the weight back off now and she is only about 5-6 kilos above her racing weight so with another couple of pieces of work we should be right there.

“I know some people are knocking her form, but the horses that have finished behind her keep coming out and franking it. I don’t think she will have a problem with a mile and a half at York and if that’s the case then the QIPCO British Champion Fillies & Mares Stakes will certainly be a race we look at very carefully. The Arc is another race she has an entry for and although they are a little close together, running in both wouldn’t be an impossibility. The QIPCO Champion Stakes might come into consideration, for which she has also been given an entry.

“She looks in fantastic shape at present and hopefully the break she has had since Chantilly will help her continue to progress until the end of the season. At the moment we’re focused on getting her to the Yorkshire Oaks and after that, we can work out what the best route to take might be.”

Some 53 entries were received to chase the £600,000 prize. Enable has been given this race as an additional option, whilst the Irish Oaks heroine Sea Of Class, Investec Oaks winner Forever Together and recent conqueror of the Qatar Nassau Stakes at Goodwood, Wild Illusion, are also included.

Runner-up to Hydrangea last year for trainer Francis Graffard and owners Al Assayl Bloodstock, Bateel is set to represent France again in the mile and a half contest. The six-year-old won her only start this term in the Prix Corrida at Saint-Cloud.

“Bateel will definitely be aimed at the QIPCO British Champions Fillies & Mares once again as it’s a race that really suits her,” said Graffard. “She ran a fantastic race last year to be second, so we’ll enter her again and it’s definitely a big part of her autumn programme. She’ll run in the Prix Jean Romanet next, and then depending on the result we might go to the Prix Vermeille again or take a chance in the Arc before coming back to Ascot.”

Graffard’s compatriot Alain de Royer-Dupre has made an entry for the lightly-raced Shahnaza, who was last seen in the Prix de Diane.

“The QIPCO British Champion Fillies & Mares is a possibility for Shahnaza as she is a very good filly,” he said. “She was hurt in the Prix de Diane but we are trying to get her back for the end of the year and this could be an interesting option.”

Andrew Balding has entered Horseplay, who was only eighth last year but looked an improved performer in landing last month’s Lancashire Oaks at Haydock.

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FULL LIST OF RUNNERS

Bateel (IRE), Coronet (GB), Crimson Rosette (IRE), Enable (GB), Eziyra (IRE), Gipoia (FR), God Given (GB), Horseplay (GB), Hydrangea (IRE), Kitesurf (GB), Kohinur (GB), Maid To Remember (GB), Rhododendron (IRE), Star Rock (GB), Tocco d’Amore (IRE), Turret Rocks (IRE), Urban Fox (GB), What A Home (IRE), Athena (IRE), Broadway (IRE), Bye Bye Baby (IRE), Dramatic Queen (USA), Flattering (IRE), Forever Together (IRE), Give And Take (GB), Happily (IRE), Heart of Grace (JPN), Klassique (GB), Lah Ti Dar (GB), Laurens (FR), Life On Earth (USA), Lubinka (IRE), Magical (IRE), Magic Wand (IRE), Mary Tudor (IRE), Mrs Sippy (USA), Musis Amica (IRE), Perfect Clarity (GB), Pilaster (GB), Queen Iseult (GB), Sea of Class (IRE), September (IRE), Shahnaza (FR), Shailene (IRE), Sizzling (IRE), Snow Wind (IRE), Sun Maiden (GB), Waldlied (GB), Well Timed (GER), Wild Illusion (GB), Winter Lightning (IRE), Worth Waiting (GB), Zarkamiya (FR)