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Aidan O’Brien to unleash Passion in the QIPCO Fillies & Mares Stakes

12 Oct 2020

Master trainer's filly one of 14 entrants, trainer also enters Magical at five-day stage

Aidan O’Brien has won two of the past three runnings of the £350,000 QIPCO British Champions Fillies & Mares Stakes and could be represented by Magical and Passion in Saturday’s renewal.

The former is a seven-time Group 1 winner who needs no introduction to racing fans. She won the QIPCO British Champions Fillies & Mares Stakes in 2018 and last year returned to Champions Day to land the QIPCO Champion Stakes. On her latest start she took the scalp of Ghaiyyath, the world’s highest-rated turf horse, to win a second Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardstown.

Passion’s exploits this year include finishing fifth in the Investec Oaks and third in the Irish equivalent. The O’Brien pair are among 14 entries.

Ralph Beckett is hoping Antonia De Vega or Manuela De Vega can provide him with a second success in the QIPCO British Champion Fillies & Mares Stakes.

Beckett landed the 2015 renewal with Simple Verse and many fancied his Antonia De Vega to follow suit in last year’s running. She ran creditably to finish a keeping-on sixth, beaten under four lengths, but her trainer was left lamenting the fact she was having her first run for more than four months.

This year she is unbeaten in two starts, winning at Pontefract in June before following up in the Group 3 Princess Royal Muhaarar Stakes at Newmarket last month, when she beat Alpinista by half a length.

Beckett said: “She has come out of her Newmarket race in good shape and the more juice in the ground on Saturday the better. That was her first run back off a break when she ran in the race last year, as she’d had a problem after she won the Johnny Lewis Memorial Stakes at Newbury. She’s a filly who normally comes forward for a run and there had been three months between Pontefract and Newmarket this year, so I’m hoping she will come on.”

Alpinista had previously chased home Love in the Darley Yorkshire Oaks and, ground permitting, will reoppose Antonio De Vega on Saturday. Sir Mark Prescott, 72, her trainer, seeking a first winner on QIPCO British Champions Day, said: “She’s fine and ran very well the other day [at Newmarket] when things possibly didn’t go right for her. Her family have done me wonderfully well and she’ll be there if the ground is OK, but she won’t run if it’s very soft. If you are as good as she is on very firm then the likelihood is that you are not going to be as good as that on very soft.”

Alpinista is a daughter of Frankel, who lit up the first QIPCO British Champions Day with an emphatic success in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes. “He [Frankel] will probably manage without me [if Alpinista doesn’t run],” Prescott said with a smile. “The one time I remember with Frankel was when Frankie Dettori rode Worthadd for me in the [2012] Queen Anne at Royal Ascot. He jumped off at the end of the race and turned to me saying ‘I follow Frankel, as you say, but he gets smaller and smaller and smaller’. I thought it was a lovely description.”

Star Catcher carried the colours of Anthony Oppenheimer to victory in last year’s Fillies & Mares and the owner/breeder will be hoping either Frankly Darling, the winner of the Ribblesdale Stakes at Royal Ascot in June, or Dame Malliot can repeat the trick. The latter, trained by Ed Vaughan, landed the Group 2 Princess of Wales’s Stakes at Newmarket in July and has since twice been placed in Group 1 company on foreign shores, most recently when a fine third to Tarnawa in the Qatar Prix Vermeille at Longchamp.

Vaughan has yet to train a Group 1 winner and is handing in his licence at the end of the year, so emotions will run high if she obliges.

Even So landed the Irish Oaks in July, while Wonderful Tonight, winner of the Group 1 Qatar Prix De Royallieu at Longchamp eight days ago, also remains in contention along with Mehdaayih, a Group 2 winner in France last year.