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Dragon Symbol fired up for Champions Day as 22 stand ground in the QIPCO British Champions Sprint

11 Oct 2021

Dragon Symbol

Glen Shiel is on course to try repeating last year’s win in the race in which his trainer Archie Watson gained a breakthrough first Group 1 success 12 months ago.

However, the betting suggests that the stable has an even stronger candidate this time in Dragon Symbol, who was promoted to favourite in most lists following the news that Darley July Cup winner Starman has been retired to stud after suffering a minor setback.

Glen Shiel, who gave Hollie Doyle a career-first Group 1 win when beating Brando a nose on a memorable afternoon last year, looked as good as ever when running Dream Of Dreams close in the Diamond Jubilee Stakes at Royal Ascot, but he has not been in quite such good form since.

The four years younger Dragon Symbol, on the other hand, has been one of the sprint season’s success stories, winning his first four starts in the spring before being controversially relegated to second after beating the American challenger Campanelle in the Commonwealth Cup at Royal Ascot, since when he has continued to run well at Group 1 level.

Watson said: “If reproducing their Royal Ascot form either of them ought to be very hard to beat. It’s going to be lovely racing ground, which will be spot on for ‘Dragon’ but might not be ideal for ‘Glen’.

“Dragon Symbol hasn’t run a bad race all year and stepping back up to six furlongs will suit him grand. On his Royal Ascot and July Cup form in particular, he should be bang there, and he deserves one of these.

“Glen Shiel ran fantastic races in the Diamond Jubilee and in the July Cup, and then  it was funny ground at Deauville, where he was in the middle of the track. It was rattling ground at Haydock, but he ran a much better race at Ascot last weekend and that was always a step towards this race. I’m delighted with the way he is and I’ll put on some headgear, just to sharpen him up.”

Tim Easterby has never made any secret of the huge regard he has for Art Power, and while the four-year-old just came up short when in the frame in both the Diamond Jubilee and the Darley July Cup, he will return to Ascot with his confidence buoyed by a recent easy win in a Group 3 at The Curragh.

Easterby, who is enjoying a record-breaking season, can’t wait for Saturday and said: “He’s an absolute machine and he’s in great form. He goes well at Ascot – not that it would bother him where the race was run as he’s so adaptable – and he’s in great order, so fingers crossed. I see he’s nearly favourite now, so no pressure eh?”

Rags-to-riches three-year-old Rohaan, bidding to give trainer David Evans an overdue first win at Group 1 level, promises to be another major player after a seven-race winning spree culminated in a remarkable success under a big weight in the Wokingham Handicap, also at Royal Ascot. 

That was his second win over the QIPCO British Champions Sprint course and distance and his recent eye-catching fifth over five furlongs at the Curragh after losing many lengths at the start has certainly caught the attention of punters.

In an interview last week for QIPCO British Champions Series his trainer said: “He does everything so easily. Nothing is too much effort for him. He’s half asleep most of the time, but he’s got such a turn of foot, so long as he’s close enough to use it. He’s really well and if he’s in one piece and luck goes with him I don’t think there’s anything in the race to beat him.”

Another key contender is Charlie Appleby’s Creative Force, who won Royal Ascot’s seven-furlong Jersey Stakes and would be a first winner for Godolphin if successful, while Ireland, which gained successive wins with Maarek, Slade Power and Gordon Lord Byron between 2012 and 2014, could be represented by Gustavus Weston, Thunder Moon and Twilight Spinner.

Following the supplementary entry of Charlie Fellowes’ recent course and distance Group 3 winner Vadream there are 22 horses remaining for the race, with a maximum field of 20.

Full entries: 

Ainsdale (GB) Art Power (IRE) Azano (GB) Brando (GB) Glen Shiel (GB) Gustavus Weston (IRE) Happy Power (IRE) Kinross (GB) Creative Force (IRE) Dragon Symbol (GB) Minzaal (IRE) Nando Parrado (GB) Rohaan (IRE) Thunder Moon (IRE) Highfield Princess (FR) Keep Busy (IRE) Last Empire (GB) Dandalla (IRE) Happy Romance (IRE) Twilight Spinner (GB)Vadream (GB) Ventura Diamond (IRE)