Ante-post favourite Mishriff tops 42 entries for next month’s Qipco Champion Stakes, with John Gosden having no hesitation in taking on Ghaiyyath if he also lines up at Ascot.
Mishriff is unbeaten in three European starts this term, winning a Listed event at Newmarket back in June before going on to land the Prix du Jockey Club and the Guillaume D’Ornano in France on his two subsequent runs.
With connections having ruled out a crack at the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe for the three-year-old, Gosden is hoping Mishriff can emulate his dual Ascot hero Cracksman, regardless of whether this summer’s star performer Ghaiyyath is in the field.
He said: “Cracksman was a pretty smart horse, winning the Ganay and the Champion Stakes twice, and winding up getting a very, very high rating. Hopefully Mishriff is of a similar level.
“We don’t know yet, of course, who he will meet in the Champion Stakes – but if Ghaiyyath is there he’s there.
“Mishriff has been around the place a bit – having run this year in Saudi Arabia, and then at Newmarket, Chantilly and Deauville – but his races have been quite well spaced, which does no harm, and he’s taken the travelling very well.
“We debated about where to go with him next, but he’s been very happy at a mile and a quarter and we see that as his trip, so the Champion Stakes looks the race for him. His pedigree doesn’t exactly scream any more than that, but if he stays in training perhaps he will.
“That decision will be made a little later, and it will be entirely up to his owner Prince Faisal.”
Gosden has also entered three-time King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes winner Enable – although her primary target is an unprecedented third Arc – Prince of Wales’s hero Lord North, last year’s St Leger winner Logician, and the fillies Mehdaayih, Nazeef and Terebellum.
Charlie Appleby is keeping all options open for Ghaiyyath, who has bagged the Coronation Cup, Eclipse and Juddmonte International in three British outings this summer and is currently the highest-rated horse in the world in the Longines rankings.
Appleby said: “He’s got four options, and they are the Irish Champion Stakes, the Qipco Champion Stakes, the Arc and the Breeder’s Cup. That’s two at a mile and a quarter and two at a mile and a half, and I’d like to think he’d be favourite for any of them bar the Arc.
“He was exceptional at York and has come out of the race very well, but he put in big sectionals at every stage and so we are monitoring him on a daily basis and keeping everybody informed. We don’t have to make a decision quite yet.
“It doesn’t have to be just one of those races either – far from it. It could be Irish Champion and on to the Qipco Champion Stakes or Arc for example. Any combination is possible.”
Despite inevitable cuts to prize funds because of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Champion Stakes remains the richest race in Britain, and Aidan O’Brien has last year’s victor Magical in the mix once again – although she does have an alternative option on the big day.
Last year’s Grand Prix de Paris and Juddmonte International winner Japan, and this year’s Investec Derby and Oaks victors Serpentine and Love also feature in O’Brien’s entry – but all are far from certain to feature on October 17.
The Ballydoyle handler said: “It’s a long way away, but Magical would be a possible again. She would have the Fillies & Mares as an alternative, but I would have thought the Champion Stakes would be her race again.
“Japan is another possible, although we are looking first at the Irish (Champions) Weekend. Love has an entry too, and is also in the Fillies & Mares, but obviously we are looking at the Arc first with her.”
Addeybb finished second for William Haggas last year and is another notable entry – along with Pyledriver, Alpine Star, Sottsass, Persian King and Skalleti.
The Champion Stakes is the headline event on British Champions Day, which is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year.
Gosden believes the Ascot event appeals to younger spectators and is hoping crowds will be allowed back on course by then, with trial events for the return of racegoers following Covid-19 restrictions kicking off at Doncaster’s St Leger meeting next week.
He added: “It was a very bold initiative from Qipco and Ascot when British Champions Day was conceived, and it has worked very well. It’s done a great job confirming champions, and it’s provided a great wrap-up to the European season before the Breeders’ Cup.
“One thing I noticed when I walked the track last year was that a younger crowd goes to Champions Day, so I hope we have spectators by then.
“There’s some overlap, of course, with the Royal Ascot crowd, but it’s in the diaries of a slightly different group – and the average age when I was walking through the grandstand was in the twenties or thirties. There were teenagers too, and that’s a very healthy thing.
“It’s a good, fun day out, and a great chance to see a lot of high-class horses.”