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Mishriff and Magical headline 16 contenders for QIPCO Champion Stakes

12 Oct 2020

Irish mare Magical set to defend her crown against top quality cast of young and old challengers


The £750,000 QIPCO Champion Stakes will be the richest race in Great Britain this year and looks set to be the race of the season with Magical and Addeybb, who dominated the finish of last year’s renewal, renewing old rivalries again.

Magical prevailed by three-quarters of a length 12 months ago, after which her trainer Aidan O’Brien intimated she had run her final race.

However, the daughter of Galileo was kept in training and the decision has been handsomely rewarded, with the mare chalking up three more Group 1 victories (taking her overall haul to seven) and probably running as well as she’s ever done when getting the better of Ghaiyyath, the world’s highest-rated turf horse, to win a second Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardstown last time.

She could be joined in the line-up for the mile-and-a-quarter showpiece by star stablemates Serpentine, this year’s Investec Derby winner, plus Mogul, winner of the Juddmonte Grand Prix de Paris, not to mention last year’s Juddmonte International winner Japan, and Sovereign, winner of last year’s Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby.

Addeybb has not rested on his laurels, either, chalking up two Group 1 victories in Australia in the spring before finishing runner-up in the Prince of Wales’s Stakes at Royal Ascot. He swiftly got back to winning ways in a Listed race at Ayr last time.

Standing in the way of the O’Brien contingent and Addeybb are two outstanding candidates trained by John Gosden in Mishriff, the Prix Du Jockey Club victor, and Lord North, emphatic winner of the Prince of Wales’s Stakes at Royal Ascot in June.

Mishriff followed up his French Classic success by landing a Group 2 contest at Deauville, while Lord North was third behind Ghaiyyath and Magical in the Juddmonte International at York on his latest start.

Another fascinating runner among the home team is the William Muir-trained Pyledriver, who drops half a mile in distance after being beaten just over a length into third in the Pertemps St Leger at Doncaster last time. His exploits earlier in the season included emphatic wins in the King Edward VII Stakes, at Royal Ascot, and Sky Bet Great Voltigeur, at York.

Muir is delighted by the well-being of his stable flagbearer and is relishing dropping him back in distance. The trainer, seeking a first Group 1 win after 29 years with a licence, said: “He’s getting stronger and is starting to retain his weight easier. His work has been good, the same as ever, and I’m very confident I’ve still got him at his best.

“I think if it hadn’t been for this type of year, we would probably not run him over a mile and a six in the St Leger. You can’t be dogmatic and say he didn’t stay because he ground it out, but that was his class. He wasn’t as effective because we took his gears and speed away from him. Martin [Dwyer] was sitting, waiting and having to hold him on to him when he wanted to kick.

“I’m not worried about the ground and the trip won’t be a problem. Straight after he won the Voltigeur, the jockey went on TV and said he had the pace to win a Group 1 over a mile and a quarter.”

Pyledriver will be staying in training next year. Muir said: “We’ve got loads to look forward to with this horse and, no matter what else, the boys [the trio who own the horse] have had a fantastic time. We’ve enjoyed every minute of it and we’ve got next year and the year after with him, when we will be looking at the big races all around the world.”

Cirrus Des Aigles (2011) and Almanzor (2016) have been French-trained winners of the QIPCO Champion Stakes in the past decade and Skalleti will attempt to again take the prize across the Channel.

The five-year-old grey, trained by Jerome Reynier, has won 12 of his 15 races and scooped the Group 2 Qatar Prix Dollar for a second time at Longchamp this month. Before that, he had mastered Sottsass, the subsequent Qatar Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe winner, in a Group 3 contest at Deauville.

Other possibles among the 16 entries include three-time Group 1 winner Benbatl, who is also engaged in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes (sponsored by QIPCO).