Champions Day: Cracksman takes aim at Highland Reel and Barney Roy

Thu 19 Oct 2017

Watch Nick Lightfoot's interview with Richard Hannon, the trainer of Barney Roy, ahead of the Champion Stakes at Ascot

By staff

Cracksman will face nine rivals in the QIPCO Champion Stakes at Ascot on Saturday.

Connections of the John Gosden-trained colt decided against a clash with stablemate Enable in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe and he instead drops to a mile and a quarter on Champions Day.

Sir Michael Stoute has not declared Coral-Eclipse and Juddmonte International hero Ulysses, who was last seen finishing third in the Arc.

In his absence, Stoute relies upon Irish Champion Stakes runner-up Poet's Word.

Barney Roy, 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.

“Last year I didn’t have a runner on Champions Day and basically went there for lunch," Hannon said. "Runners on that day should be very special; it should be about the top-class horses and that’s what Champions Day has become. The Champion Stakes is a great race and even if I didn’t have a runner in it I would be there to watch it.

“Barney Roy goes there in great nick. I don’t think James [Doyle] did much wrong last time [in the Juddmonte International at York] but we ended up taking each other on [Churchill] two-and-a-half furlongs down and it very much played very much into the hands of Ulysses.”

The Excelebration colt has since been beaten by Ulysses in the Eclipse and the Juddmonte International, but nevertheless holds strong claims.

James Doyle, his regular jockey, said: “I sat on him at Kempton last week and he did his usual spin round - like he usually does ten or 12 days out from his race - and he seemed perfectly well. It was a nice leg stretch around there and he feels like he has physically improved a touch for his little break since the Juddmonte. I’m quite excited.

“He’s gradually getting the hang of it with each run - he’s quite a slow learner as you saw in the Eclipse when he got a bit lost and hit all the ridges wrong. He’s quite a long-striding horse. In the Eclipse they didn’t go any kind of gallop and I was always gaining on the horses in front of me, so it can prove a little bit tricky.

“We had to ride him a little more aggressively in the Juddmonte from the draw we had and because of the lack of the pace. I suppose we’ll just hope for a bit of pace and I’ll ride him like I did in the St James’s Palace.”

Highland Reel - POW - Royal Ascot - RF

Highland Reel will be seeking a seventh Group One success on Saturday

Aidan O'Brien has whittled his team down to two, with six-times Group One winner Highland Reel joined by stable companion Cliffs Of Moher.

French challengers Brametot and Recoletos, Ken Condon's stable star Success Days, David Simcock's Desert Encounter and Gosden-trained outsider Maverick Wave complete the line-up.

Cracksman is a standout 9-4 with Bet 365, wit Barney Roy a general 4-1. Poet's Word is 7-1 with the others 8-1 or bigger.

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