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Prolific Pair to fly flag for France on QIPCO British Champions Day

13 Oct 2020

Skalleti and The Revenant will fly the flag for France at Ascot on Saturday.

The Revenant

The prolific French pair, who between them have won 21 of their 27 races, will travel over together on Friday and are to be ridden by two-time French champion jockey Pierre Charles-Boudot.

Skalleti, a five-year-old grey trained by Jerome Reynier, made it 12 wins from 15 races when typically pouncing from off the pace to land the Prix Dollar for the second successive year at Longchamp earlier this month.

He is set to line-up in what promises to be a compelling QIPCO Champion Stakes which could include last year’s winner, Magical, this year’s French Derby winner, Mishriff, English Derby winner Serpentine and other Group 1 winners including Addeybb, Lord North and Nazeef.

Meanwhile, The Revenant, victorious in nine of his dozen contests, will attempt to go one better than he did last year in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes (sponsored by QIPCO), when the opposition will include outstanding three-year-old colts Palace Pier and Kameko.

They will seek to add to the four triumphs that French-trained runners have previously enjoyed on QIPCO British Champions Day. Cirrus Des Aigles (2011) and Almanzor (2016) were memorable winners of the QIPCO Champion Stakes, while Freddy Head struck in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes with Charm Spirit (2014) and Solow (2015).

Reynier said: “I really like my horses to travel and it’s a dream to have a runner at a big event like QIPCO British Champions Day. Although he’s never been abroad before, he’s used to travel as every time he goes from [my yard in] Marseille to Deauville it’s a ten-hour trip each way. And from Chantilly to Ascot is not very far.

“I don’t think the course will be a problem for him as he travels nicely during a race and is pretty easy. He is a very genuine horse and a big fighter. I don’t think I’ve ever had him in better shape, mentally or physically.”

The trainer added: “He has been in pretty good shape since he won the Prix Dollar and he has remained in Chantilly. I will see him again when he does his last canter on Wednesday morning and then he will be ready to go. He won the Dollar pretty easily, in the space of half a furlong it was done because he showed such a good turn of foot.”

Reynier believes Skalleti has benefitted from racing taking place behind closed doors this year because of the coronavirus pandemic and will not grumble if a predominately dry weather forecast proves incorrect.

He said: “Mentally he can be a bit hot. We used to use earplugs on him and having no crowd and a quiet environment has been very helpful for him this year. The weather forecast is not with us and the ground may not be soft enough for him. If there was more rain I would be much more confident.

“He is not just a heavy ground horse, but it slows the others down and he handles it very well. He has now won three Group 2s and there are not many Group 1 opportunities for geldings like him so it’s time to try.

“This year he has been competing with the likes of Persian King and beating Sottsass, which shows that he is up to Group 1 standard. His owner [Jean-Claude Seroul] has never won a Group 1 and I really hope to give that gift to him.”

Francis-Henri Graffard is no stranger to big-race glory at Ascot, having landed the Coronation Stakes with Watch Me at the Royal Meeting last year. The Revenant also ran a great race for him on QIPCO British Champions Day last year, when beating all bar King Of Change in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes (sponsored by QIPCO).

The five-year-old, a son of Dubawi, was having his first race for 350 days when landing the Prix Daniel Wildenstein at Longchamp this month but the trainer says there was nothing sinister about his prolonged absence.

Graffard said: “He has had no physical issues since last year. I had him ready to run at the beginning of the season, then lockdown came and since we had no idea how long it would last and feared that it would force him to run on summer ground that he does not like, we decided to turn him out and wait until the autumn. He came back in July to allow us to get him ready for this race and the Wildenstein.

“The Revenant has come out of his Prix Daniel Wildenstein victory very well. He needed the race badly, so he will come on a lot.

“The softer the ground the better for him. Last year it was very soft which helped us. It would be great if he runs a similar race and, with humility, I see Palace Pier as the one to beat, and if we were placed again it would be a very good performance.”

Graffard will not be at Ascot but added: “It’s been a very good season for us already, with three Group 1 wins, and I have already had to miss one of them, when In Swoop won the German Derby, which I watched on the phone.

“I’m not quite sure where I will be on Saturday, so I may end up watching on my phone again. Victory in a big race like the QEII, especially one in England, is very important for the whole team. We are just hoping for a good run and to be competitive.”