Weighing up the options for Ghaiyyath this autumn

Ghiayyath has won no less than three Group 1 contests so far this season.
Ghiayyath has won no less than three Group 1 contests so far this season.

Following Ghaiyyath's shock defeat in the Irish Champion Stakes at the weekend, Nick Seddon weighs up the options available to Charlie Appleby's star this autumn...

The journey of Ghaiyyath has been a fascinating one to watch, and the five-year-old has certainly returned as an improved model so far this campaign. 

Indeed, he was often criticised for his consistency during his younger years, but he’s been in stellar form this summer - winning three Group 1 contests on the trot and taking some notable scalps in the process. 

Ghaiyyath has typically shown his very best form at a mile and a quarter, though that’s not to say that he can’t perform over further, and he broke the track record when winning the Coronation Cup on reappearance at Newmarket in June. 

He’s put his disappointing run in last year’s Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe firmly behind him by now, and having defeated Enable in the Coral-Eclipse in July, it seemed likely that he would head back to Paris and aim to confirm himself as the best middle distance performer on the planet. 

However, his defeat to Magical at the weekend has thrown his Arc bid into doubt, and with that in mind, we've taken a look at the options that are open to Charlie Appleby this autumn.

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Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, Longchamp (Sunday 4th October)

Ghaiyyath boasts an impressive strike rate, winning nine of his thirteen starts, meaning that his disappointing run in last year's Arc sits as a rare blot on his copy. Deploying his trademark front-running style, it was disappointing how quickly he faded out of things rounding the home turn last October, and his performance gave the suspicion that the racecourse simply doesn't play to his strengths. Longchamp is a big galloping track with a stiff finish, and although the ground wasn't too soft last year, it can't be denied that Ghaiyyath is better suited by more of a speed test than he faced in that race.

Two of his four career defeats have come in Paris, meaning that the prospect of heading to the Arc just three weeks after a tough race at Leopardstown doesn't make too much sense as a consequence. He would have plenty to prove if taking his chance, and while he'd undoubtedly have serious claims on the bare form, there's a lingering feeling that there are better options for him elsewhere.

Champion Stakes, Ascot (Saturday 17th October)

Magical is perhaps best known for her rivalry with Enable over the past couple of seasons, though should Charlie Appleby decide to send Ghaiyyath to Ascot for the Champion Stakes, it would provide us with round three of what's proven to be a fascinating match-up so far this season.

The case for choosing Ascot is an easy one to make, and on the bare form Ghaiyyath is a top-class performer over a mile and a quarter. Indeed, his two strongest performances to date have both come over that trip this term; first in the Eclipse in July, and then when defeating Magical in authoritative fashion in the International Stakes at York in August. Unlike at York, Magical was able to keep pace with Ghaiyyath throughout the Irish Champion Stakes, and it will be interesting to see whether she would be able to repeat that kind of performance at Ascot - where she would be aiming to defend her crown. As far as Ghaiyyath is concerned, the Champion Stakes provides him with his optimum trip, and although he was slightly below his best at the weekend, there wouldn't be a horse in the field at Ascot who would be able to live with him at his peak.

Breeders' Cup, Keeneland (Saturday 7th November)

Along with Longchamp and Ascot, Ghaiyyath also holds the option of heading to Keeneland for the Breeders' Cup, and he could potentially take his chance in either the Breeders' Cup Turf over a mile and a half, or the Breeders' Cup Classic over a mile and a quarter. Bearing in mind that Ghaiyyath has never run on dirt, the logical option would be the former, and he would likely get quick conditions at Keeneland, which features the typically tight turns that you'd associate with an American racetrack. A fast run affair would certainly play to Ghaiyyath's strengths over the longer trip, and he would be one to seriously consider if he did line-up Stateside. However, the Breeders' Cup falls just three weeks after Champions Day, and if he did run at Ascot, it remains to be seen if he would be handed such a quick turnaround after a busy campaign.

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