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Crystal Ocean headline act in stellar £1.3m QIPCO Champion Stakes line up

7 Aug 2019

Sir Michael Stoute's star entered along with Japanese sensation Deirdre, in a field with 32 Group 1 wins between them.

The horses entered for the feature race of the day have accumulated no fewer than 32 Group 1 victories between them and ten European Classics. Some of the stand out names include Crystal Ocean, and last week’s Goodwood heroine Deirdre who could become the first Japanese runner to compete on Britain’s showcase day.

They will have to overcome the challengers from John Gosden’s stable who will be going for a third straight win in the QIPCO Champion Stakes having trained Cracksman to a stunning wide-margin victory in the £1.3million contest in each of the last two years. Gosden has long-since earmarked King Of Comedy as a likely contender in his hat-trick attempt and the improving three year old son of Kingman did not disappoint when going down by just a neck to Circus Maximus in the St James’s Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot.

Gosden said, “I said after the St James’s Palace Stakes that the QIPCO Champion Stakes would be an obvious target. I think it will be right up his alley.

“We’ve freshened him up and given him a break since Ascot. He was on the go fairly early in the spring.

“I think in the end his best trip is going to be a mile and a quarter and he likes Ascot. He’ll be suited by the trip and the track in the QIPCO Champion Stakes.

“He’s going to run in the Juddmonte International and he wouldn’t necessarily go straight to Ascot as he’s been entered in the QIPCO Irish Champion Stakes as well. He’s going the right way and we’ve always thought enough of him.”

Gosden has also entered superstar mare Enable. She got the better of another QIPCO Champion Stakes entry, Crystal Ocean, in a thrilling finish to last month’s King George VI and Queen Elizabeth QIPCO Stakes. That was her ninth top-level victory and leaves her just one short of Frankel’s perfect 10 Group 1 wins.

It’s incredible that the uber-tough and consistent Crystal Ocean, top of the most recent Longines world’s best racehorse rankings with a rating of 127, has just a single Group 1 win to his name. He was runner-up in last year’s QIPCO Champion Stakes and has also been second in three other QIPCO British Champions Series races.

His finest hour came at Royal Ascot when he landed the Prince Of Wales’s Stakes over the same course and distance as the QIPCO Champion Stakes before going down by a neck in an epic battle with Enable in the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth QIPCO Stakes last month.

Enable’s owner Prince Khalid Abdullah has another possible QIPCO Champion Stakes contender in Headman, trained by Roger Charlton.

Lord Grimthorpe, Prince Abdullah’s racing manager, said: “Headman is going to run in Deauville so we’ll see how he goes from there but he certainly could be one for the QIPCO Champion Stakes.”

Circus Maximus is likely to return to longer distances after finishing half-a-length second behind Too Darn Hot in the Qatar Sussex Stakes at Goodwood last week. He had previously finished sixth in the Investec Derby and he is joined among the QIPCO Champion Stakes entries by Sir Dragonet, also trained by Aidan O’Brien, who was fifth in the Epsom Classic.

O’Brien said: “I was delighted with Circus Maximus in the Qatar Sussex Stakes. There are a lot of things open to him as he is a relaxed horse. He is so relaxed at home he just takes everything in his stride. It looks like it could be back up to a mile and a quarter next time.”

The Ballydoyle master has, predictably, made a stack of other entries for the £1.3 million contest, including a whole host of previous Group 1 winners. Investec Derby hero Anthony Van Dyck, QIPCO 2000 and 1000 Guineas winners Magna Grecia and Hermosa, as well as Fleeting, I Can Fly, Japan, Magic Wand and Sovereign are all entered.

A step up in distance is being considered for the Tattersalls Irish 2,000 Guineas winner Phoenix Of Spain who has entries in both the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes (sponsored by QIPCO) and the QIPCO Champion Stakes.

Trainer Charlie Hills said: “We’re scratching our heads a little bit with Phoenix Of Spain as he seems fine after the Goodwood race. We need to try to find out what went wrong.

“He’s in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes and the QIPCO Champion Stakes. We’ve been thinking about going up to a mile and a quarter for a while. There’s a fair bit of stamina in his pedigree but there’s a fair bit of speed in there as well.

“QIPCO British Champions Day is high up our list of priorities. These are the races you need to be in.”

Elarqam booked his ticket to top-class races when beating Addeybb impressively to win the Group 2 York Stakes last month. The QIPCO Champion Stakes is on his radar and he is likely to be put to the test in Group 1s before Ascot. His trainer, Mark Johnston, is confident he is up to the task.

He said: “I was absolutely delighted with Elarqam at York. The QIPCO Champion Stakes is a possible but it is one of many possibles. Any mile and a quarter Group 1s between now and the end of the season are under consideration and that includes the QIPCO Champion Stakes. We think he’s got the class for Group 1s, of course we do.”

The QIPCO Champion Stakes could have a very international feel to it this year as Japanese mare Deirdre, surprise winner of last week’s Qatar Nassau Stakes at Goodwood, has been given an entry. She is also in the QIPCO British Champion Fillies & Mares Stakes and would be the first horse from Japan to compete on the day.

Globetrotting Godolphin star Benbatl may also make an appearance, who was runner-up behind Australian legend Winx in the Cox Plate at Moonee Valley in November on his last start.

Other Group 1 stars who could potentially line up include Old Persian, who also sits in the top 10 of the world rankings following his performance in the Longines Dubai Sheema Classic, as well as European Classic winners Sottsass and Study of Man. With You, winner of the Prix Rothschild last year for Freddy Head, is also entered.

Full Entries for QIPCO Champion Stakes:

Addeybb (IRE) Anthony Van Dyck (IRE) Away He Goes (IRE) Benbatl (GB) Cape of Good Hope (IRE) Circus Maximus (IRE) Coronet (GB) Crystal Ocean (GB) Deirdre (JPN) Dubai Warrior (GB) Elarqam (GB) Enable (GB) Fleeting (IRE) Fox Chairman (IRE) Ghaiyyath (IRE) Headman (GB) Hermosa (IRE) Hunting Horn (IRE) I Can Fly (GB) Japan (GB) King of Comedy (IRE) Madhmoon (IRE) Magical (IRE) Magic Wand (IRE) Magna Grecia (IRE) Mehdaayih (GB) Norway (IRE) Old Persian (GB) Phoenix of Spain (IRE) Pondus (GB) Prince Eiji (GB) Raise You (IRE) Regal Reality (GB) Roseman (IRE) Royal Meeting (IRE) San Donato (IRE) Shaman (IRE) Sottsass (FR) Sovereign (IRE) Study of Man (IRE) Uae Jewel (GB) With You (GB) Worth Waiting (GB)