By Andy Stephens
There are 26 Group One winners who remain possible runners on QIPCO British Champions Day at Ascot on Saturday but the £4.3 million card also offers the prospect of them being upstaged by rivals who have yet to win at the highest level.
Here are five horses without a Group One success who have the potential to end the afternoon with a crown on their heads.
Cracksman (QIPCO Champion Stakes):
Best odds: 3-1 general
Rarely has a horse who has not won a Group One race attracted so many headlines and so much attention.
It stretches back to April when the Frankel colt scrambled home on his reappearance and became a candidate for the Derby.
Cracksman came up a bit short at Epsom, as he did next time in the Irish version at the Curragh and then his possible participation in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe became a hot topic after bullying wins in Group Two company over inferior rivals at York and Chantilly.
John Gosden and Anthony Oppenheimer decided against the idea - perhaps wisely as it transpired given the swagger of stablemate Enable - but confidence in the camp at Clarehaven is high for this mission.
Of course, if he does win in style then Arc debate will be reignited. More headlines, more column inches.
Beat The Bank (Queen Elizabeth II Stakes):
General odds: 9-2 general
The new kid on the block in the mile division, who has emerged as a genuine threat to Ribchester.
He has thrived since joining Andrew Balding this year, with his only blip coming in the Jersey Stakes at Royal Ascot when he scoped dirty afterwards.
Since then, the building blocks have been put together very tidily. A fluent Listed success at Newmarket was followed by a smooth Group Three win at Goodwood and then, last time, a Group Two demolition job at Newmarket.
Beat The Bank now jumps up to the highest level for the first time but who knows when he will reach his ceiling.
Librisa Breeze (QIPCO British Champions Sprint Stakes)
General odds: 14-1 with Boylesports and Bet 365
Librisa Breeze has not won for more than a year and has been beaten the previous five times that he has run in pattern company. It is not beyond the realms of possibility, however, he could spoil the party for Harry Angel and company.
Dean Ivory’s five-year-old has won two competitive 7f handicaps at Ascot and was also runner-up in the Royal Hunt Cup last year.
He also has the speed to be effective over six furlongs and caught the eye when sixth to The Tin Man in the Champions Sprint last year, and when fourth behind the same horse in the Diamond Jubilee Stakes at Royal Ascot.
Soft ground would help bring his stamina into the equation and stranger things have happened.
Eziyra (QIPCO British Champions Fillies & Mares Stakes)
Best odds: 9-1 with Bet 365
George Ezra is providing the post-race entertainment at Ascot, by which time punters may already be singing the praises of Eziyra.
This daughter of Teofilo, trained by Dermot Weld and owned by the Aga Khan, has slipped into Champions Day under the radar but underestimate her at your peril.
Weld is a master of tee-ing one up for the meeting and is four from nine with his runners on Champions Day. He will also be encouraged to see the rain forecast because Eziyra looks a galloper well served by some give underfoot.
She plugged on to be a distant third to Enable in the Irish Oaks but, since then, has achieved back-to-back wins in Group Three company.
The odd flash of the tail suggests she is a filly who knows her own mind but if you go back to her early days as a two-year-old you will find a defeat of Hydrangea on her CV.
Desert Skyline (QIPCO British Champions Long Distance Cup)
Best odds: 10-1 general
Paddock watchers will probably not spend too much time observing Desert Skyline because as David Elsworth, his trainer, concedes “he is not a great specimen”.
However, the trainer is also right when he says “it’s not the size of the dog that fights, it’s the size of the fight in the dog” and so do not discount him serving it up to the likes of Order Of St George and Big Orange in the first race on the card.
Desert Skyline has spent most of this season being a supporting act, including when third in the Goodwood Cup in August, but there was plenty to like about the way he pounced from off the pace to land the Doncaster Cup last time.
Elsworth hopes he will develop into a Gold Cup contender and, versatile regards the ground, he is likely give the big names a run for their money.