Champion Stakes Tips: Take on Magical with this class act

Champion Stakes Tips: We pick out our best bet for the Group 1 race at Ascot.
Champion Stakes Tips: We pick out our best bet for the Group 1 race at Ascot.

Steve Chambers previews Saturday's Champion Stakes, which sees Magical, Mishriff and Addeybb all line up at Ascot on British Champions Day...

Astonishingly, Aidan O'Brien claimed his first ever victory in the Group 1 Champion Stakes last season when his wondermare Magical stormed to glory, and the classy five-year-old will return to the Berkshire venue on Saturday to try and retain her coveted crown, as the Ballydoyle team opted to let her take her chance in this contest instead of the Fillies & Mares Stakes earlier in the afternoon.

A trio of Group 1 wins this season (Pretty Polly Stakes, Tattersalls Gold Cup, Irish Champion Stakes) has shown the fire still burns bright in the belly of Magical, who is now looking to take over the mantle as the premier mare in UK & Irish racing following the retirement of Enable. Having been taken out of a brief retirement following last year's win in the Champion Stakes, Magical has returned to the track in fine fettle, and is arguably in the form of her life, and while the retirement cloud may loom over her once again following Saturday's contest, she will head into the race as the red-hot favourite.

Her only defeat this season came in the Juddmonte International Stakes at York, where she was no match for Ghaiyyath, but she will not face a rival in the same calibre as that Godolphin raider here, so she's entitled to be a leading contender for what looks a relatively mediocre renewal of the showpiece event. Having won the 2018 Fillies' & Mares' Stakes on Champions Day, Magical is bidding for a hat-trick of wins at the Flat season finale, and she's certainly one that you can't be seeing finishing out of the first three. However, it's already soft, heavy in places at the track, and if the rain continued she could just be tested to the limits, meaning that at the paltry prices available it could be worth taking her on with a value alternative.

John Gosden saddled Cracksman to victory in this race in 2017 and 2018 and the master trainer will unleash a dual-pronged attack in the shape of Mishriff and Lord North, who could both play a primary role if producing their best form. The former has been a hugely progressive colt this term and is bidding to become the third three-year-old to win this contest in the last five years. 

Particularly impressive when winning a listed event at Newmarket in June, Mishriff then rocketed into the limelight with a shock win in the Group 1 Prix du Jockey Club at Chantilly, while he showed that wasn't a fluke when winning a Group 2 at Deauville in August. That latter success came in heavy going, so he should have no problems with the underfoot conditions at Ascot. While the three-year-old contenders get a significant weight pull from their older rivals, Mishriff is taking on his elders for the first time in his career, and coming up against most experienced and top-class all-aged winners, he may just struggle to dominate like he has in recent times.

On the contrary, Lord North has excelled since venturing out of the three-year-old scene, and the four-year-old, who was a gallant second in last year's Balmoral Handicap, will look to sparkle on Champions Day once again at a track he's excelled at before. His season highlight came at Royal Ascot when he bounded to a three and three quarter length victory over Addeybb in the Prince Of Wales's Stakes, but he was last seen being comfortably beaten by Magical in the Juddmonte, and it's hard to see him turning that form around here. While they add depth to the race, both Gosden runners have doubts hanging over them, and neither make much appeal.

While the Gosden duo may find it hard to down Magical, one interesting contender a little further down the betting is Addeybb, who was a gallant runner-up behind Magical in the 2019 Champion Stakes, and will be eager to reverse the form with the Ballydoyle hotpot. A dual Group 1 winner in Australia earlier this year, the William Haggas-trained six-year-old has continued his fine form on British soil and his first start this season saw him finish second to Lord North in the aforementioned Prince Of Wales's Stakes.

Dropped significantly in grade for his second start this season, Addeybb comfortably dispatched of Lord Glitters in the listed Doonside Cup at Ayr in mid-September, and that will have him tuned up for Saturday's test. While getting the better of Magical will be a tough ask, last season he really threw it down to the multiple Group 1 winner, but was just outclassed. However, if there's testing conditions for Saturday's contest then Addeybb could well get a bit closer to the hotpot, and having shown to be in the form of his life this season then Haggas' charge could well just get his head in front this time, and at the prices he makes a lot more appeal, and is the solid each-way option.

O'Brien will not only saddle Magical, but shock Derby winner Serpentine will take his chance, but it's unlikely he will be able to adopt the same front-running tactics here over a shorter trip, while he has only recently run a fine fourth in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, so it's hard to see him backing that up. Japan is another eye-catching Ballydoyle runner, but the former Group 1 winner is a shadow of his former self and is hard to fancy.

French raider Skaletti comes into the race on the back of a Group 3 and Group 2 win in France, but this is another step up, and he could well find one too good, while Royal Ascot winner Pyledriver drops back in trip having finished third in the St Leger last month, and this trip could prove a little short in a race that can see Magical and Addeybb fight out the finish again, but the latter can prevail this time around.

Selection:

Champion Stakes, Ascot, Saturday 17th October - back Addeybb at 8/1

Champion Stakes
Addeybb silk

Addeybb

won
2021 Cheltenham Festival
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