Big guns hold sway in star-studded list for Champion Stakes at Ascot

Mon 16 Oct 2017

Watch an interview with John Gosden as he discusses the chances of Cracksman in the QIPCO Champion Stakes at Ascot on Saturday.

By staff

Cracksman, Ulysses and Barney Roy are among 17 horses confirmed for the Qipco Champion Stakes at Ascot on Saturday. Between them, those standing their ground have won 18 Group One races.

The John Gosden-trained Cracksman is not among those to have won at the highest level but since placing in the Derby and the Irish equivalent at the Curragh has impressed in the Great Voltigeur Stakes at York and the Prix Niel at Chantilly.

Connections decided against a clash with stablemate Enable in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe and he is instead set to drop to a mile and a quarter on Champions Day. Betfair make him a top-priced 100-30.

“He is still maturing and strengthening – he’s bigger and stronger than he’s ever been, 16 or 17 kilos more than when he ran at Epsom in April," Gosden said. "There are a couple of factors I’ll watch – the draw is important, and so is the pace.

“We are coming back in distance and are taking on older horses, which is something he hasn’t done before. He’s been running with the three-year-olds only, in two Derbys, and the big Group 2s at York and Chantilly.

“He’s won over a mile and a quarter and is bred to be more of a miler. I think he’s got the pace for it.

“It’s a big challenge but Cracksman is well and it’s a long, quiet winter and he will be about the place walking and trotting. He’s very lively – plenty of playing and rearing up, which is one of his favourite tricks.

“It’s a fabulous race and it’s great to be in it. We are really looking forward to it.”

Barney Roy, 5-1 with Betfair and bet 365, trained by Richard Hannon for Godolphin, was runner-up to Churchill in the 2000 Guineas before gaining his revenge in the St James's Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot.

The Excelebration colt has since been beaten by Ulysses in the Coral-Eclipse at Sandown and in the Juddmonte International at York.

Ulysses, a standout 4-1 with Coral, still has the option after finishing third in the Arc at the start of the month. Trainer Sir Michael Stoute could also saddle Poet's Word.

Aidan O'Brien's battalion includes Highland Reel, Churchill and Rhododendron – but not multiple Group One-winning filly Winter, who will not be running on Champions Day.

Potential French challenger Brametot is another interesting contender.

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