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Champion Stakes Runners: A classy field go to post

Champion Stakes Runnners: Magical is the one to beat
Champion Stakes Runnners: Magical is the one to beat

Steve Chambers takes an in-depth look at all the runners for Saturday's Champion Stakes at Ascot, which is the showpiece event on British Champions Day.

1. Addeybb (Tom Marquand/William Haggas)

A classy performer, who made significant waves Down Under in Australia in the spring, bagging victory in two Group 1 contests. Returned to British shores and has continued his fine form by running a huge race to finish second to Lord North in the Prince Of Wales's Stakes at Royal Ascot. Warmed up for this event with a comfortable success in a listed event at Ayr last month, and having finished second in the 2019 Champion Stakes has to be regarded as a leading player.

2. Desert Encounter (Jim Crowley/David Simcock)

An ultra-consistent eight-year-old that has been placed in a host of Group 2 and Group 3 races, but has often found one too good. David Simcock's charge was last seen finishing second in the Cumberland Lodge Stakes at York and he looks to have a big mountain to climb now handed this huge Group 1 test. One of the outsiders in the betting, Desert Encounter will need a host of rivals to underperform if he is to play a notable role at the finish.

3. Extra Elusive (Hollie Doyle/Roger Charlton)

Notched up a brace of impressive Group wins in August, where he won the Rose Of Lancaster at Haydock and the Winter Hill at Windsor, but failed to land the hat-trick when third in the Arc Trial at Newbury last month. Roger Charlton's raider finished behind the aforementioned Desert Encounter in that event, so faces a huge task to land a blow here in what is a Group 1 event awash with proven top-class performers.

4. Japan (Colin Keane/Aidan O'Brien)

A top-class three-year-old, who won the Grand Prix de Paris and the Juddmonte International, but the Aidan O'Brien-trained raider has struggled to replicate that top notch form in his four-year-old year. Has contested four Group 1 races this season, but was well beaten in the Prince Of Wales's Stakes, Coral-Eclipse, King George and last time out in the Irish Champion Stakes, where he was no match for stablemate Magical. If he can recapture his old form then he has to be considered, but you can have no confidence him at the moment.

5. Lord North (James Doyle/John Gosden)

Vastly improved over the last two years, where he's turned from a classy handicapper to a Group 1 winner, and Lord North will now look to add another big prize to his impressive CV. The 2019 Cambridgeshire winner kicked off this season with a win in the Brigadier Gerard Stakes, while he produced a career best to win the Prince Of Wales's Stakes at Royal Ascot in June. Unable to make it three wins in a row when third of five in the Juddmonte International, but has shown he relishes the test Ascot offers and he has to be a leading player.

6. San Donato (Andrea Atzeni/Roger Varian)

A lightly-raced six-year-old, San Donato has found life tough this season as he's been involved in some red-hot races. A gallant second behind Mohaather in the Summer Mile at Ascot, Roger Varian's charge showed he can run to a high level at the Berkshire venue, but he was then well behind that same rival in the Sussex Stakes at Goodwood, while he was last of eight in the City Of York Stakes. Well beaten by Addeybb at Ayr last month, San Donato rightly heads into this event as a huge outsider, and he will find it tough.

7. Skaletti (Pierre-Charles Boudot/Jerome Reynier)

Eleven wins from 14 starts has seen Skaletti become one of the stars of French racing, and the Jerome Reynier-trained five-year-old will look to make waves on British soil on Saturday and looks an intriguing contender in the Champion Stakes. A fine winner of the Group 2 Prix Dollar last time out, Skaletti had also previously won a Group 3 contest, where he got the better of Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe hero Sottsass, so he has to be a major player, if he can show his best at Ascot.

8. Magical (Ryan Moore/Aidan O'Brien)

A multiple Group 1 winner, who is aiming to retain her Champion Stakes crown on Saturday. Aidan O'Brien's five-year-old mare has been a model of consistency throughout her career and will head into this contest as the one they all have to beat. Group 1 wins in the Pretty Polly Stakes, Tattersalls Gold Cup and Irish Champion Stakes show what a class act she is, and her only defeat this season came in the Juddmonte International at York. Entitled to be a warm order, and is sure to run to her best, so has a terrific chance of landing a fourth Group 1 of this season.

9. Mishriff (Frankie Dettori/John Gosden)

John Gosden's Mishriff has been a revelation this season racking up a trio of fine victories and heads into the race with potentially more to come. The three-year-old kicked off his British campaign with a taking win in a listed event at Newmarket, while he followed up with a sublime performance in the Group 1 Prix du Jockey Club. Last seen winning a Group 2 at Deauville, Mishriff is one of the most intriguing contenders, who could well have more to come, and receiving weight from his older rivals here, Gosden's charge could be one of those fighting out the finish.

10. Pyledriver (Martin Dwyer/William Muir)

William Muir's Pyledriver has rocketed into the limelight this season and will be another classy three-year-old taking his chance. Second in the Classic Trial at Kempton on his first start in 2020, Pyledriver then caused a huge shock at Royal Ascot as he bounded to glory in the Group 2 King Edward VII Stakes. Sent to Epsom for the Derby, Muir's raider failed to fire, but bounced back to victory at York next time out as he won the Great Voltigeur Stakes. A fancied runner in the St Leger last month, the Harbour Watch colt could only finish third and will now drop back in trip for Saturday's test.

11. Serpentine (William Buick/Aidan O'Brien)

A once-raced juvenile, Serpentine first showed his ability when winning a Curragh maiden in an impressive time, but it was his next run that propelled him into the limelight. Sent off a 25/1 shot for the Derby at Epsom, Serpentine produced a fantastic lead-all-the-way performance, as he pulled a dozen lengths clear of his rivals, who failed to read the pace of the race, and Serpentine maintained his advantage to claim a shock win. Last seen finishing fourth in last month's Grand Prix de Paris, Serpentine will have his work cut out and could be regarded as the least fancied of the Aidan O'Brien-trained triumvirate.

Verdict

A fascinating renewal with reigning champion Magical setting the standard, but the Aidan O'Brien-trained wondermare will face some notable rivals including hugely progressive three-year-old Mishriff, who is aiming to cap off a sparkling season with a win on Champions Day at Ascot.

Lord North and Pyledriver have shown they can perform at a high level on their day, while Skaletti is an interesting French contender, but Addeybb could be worth siding with in this contest. Second to Magical in this race 12 months, the William Haggas-trained raider is arguably in better form this term, and he can outbattle the Aidan O'Brien hotpot, who may just have to settle for the minor honours here.

Champion Stakes
Addeybb silk

Addeybb

won
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