Big names still bound for Ascot

Most of the leading middle-distance performers in Europe remain in contention for the QIPCO Champion Stakes after the latest forfeit stage for the race passed this week.

Fascinating Rock and Pat Smullen beat Found and Jack Hobbs to win the Champion Stakes at Ascot 12 months ago.

The field is set to be headed by Almanzor, withdrawn from the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe on Wednesday morning in order to focus upon this £1.3million prize on October 15. The Jean-Claude Rouget-trained colt has already won both the French Derby and Irish Champion Stakes this season

The first four home in last year's renewal – Fascinating Rock, Found, Jack Hobbs and Racing History – could be on course to meet again, while the first two in this year's Investec Derby, Harzand and US Army Ranger, plus Minding, the QIPCO 1000 Guineas and Investec Oaks winner, are other possibles. Minding also has alternative entries in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes and the QIPCO British Champions Fillies' & Mares' Stakes on the same card.

My Dream Boat, Highland Reel and Hawkbill, all also Group One winners in Britain this season, are also still engaged in the Champion Stakes.

Meanwhile, Lightning Spear is on course to spearhead a strong team of challengers for the race sponsor QIPCO elsewhere on the British Champions Day card.

The five-year-old, trained by David Simcock, carries the maroon and gold silks of Qatar Racing and will represent them in the £1.1 million Queen Elizabeth II Stakes.

Lightning Spear was a fine third to Tepin in the Queen Anne Stakes on his last visit to the Berkshire course and on his latest start he was a fluent winner of the Group Two Doom Bar Celebration Mile at Goodwood.

"He's in top form, flying, and we are hoping to see him run a huge race," reported David Redvers, racing and bloodstock manager for Qatar Racing. "I always felt he was a Group One horse, right from his two-year-olds days, and it's been a case of getting there. He's got there now and now we need to win one as I'm hoping he's going to make a serious stallion prospect."

A total of 19 remain engaged in the race after the forfeit stage, including Belardo, winner of the Al Shaqab Lockinge earlier in the year, as well as Galileo Gold and Ribchester, who have already met three times this season.

Galileo Gold, winner of the QIPCO 2000 Guineas and St James's Palace Stakes, got the better of the argument on the first two occasions but Ribchester turned the tables when landing the Jacques Le Marois at Deauville last month.

Other Champions Day contenders for Sheikh Fahad Al Thani's Qatar Racing team include Simple Verse, Pallasator and Mountain Bell.

Simple Verse, winner of the Ladbrokes St Leger and the QIPCO British Champions Fillies' & Mares' Stakes last season, was not at her best in three races over a mile and a half in the first half of the season but, stepped back up in distance, bounced back with a last-gasp victory in the DFS Park Hill Stakes over an extended 1m 6f at Doncaster last month.

She will either defend her crown in the QIPCO British Champions Fillies' & Mares' Stakes or step up to two miles for the first time in the QIPCO British Champions Long Distance Cup. There are 28 left in the former race, with a strong Irish contingent including Zhukova, Minding, Found and Seventh Heaven.

"My suspicion is that she will run in the staying race, but I don't know for sure," Redvers said. "It depends on whether she stays in training next year and that decision has yet to be made by Sheikh Fahad and his brothers. The extra two furlongs makes all the difference to her and you would imagine that the two miles would suit her well.

"We've got another filly running in the latter for sure, in Mountain Bell, so my hunch is that she will go for the staying race."

If Simple Verse does contest the £350,000 QIPCO British Champions Long Distance Cup, for which 23 remain entered, she will be joined by Pallasator, who has finished third and fourth in the past two runnings. Since then, last year's Doncaster Cup winner, trained by Sir Mark Prescott, has been placed in the Qatar Goodwood Cup and the Weatherbys Hamilton Lonsdale Cup on his last two starts.

"Pallasator had a minor setback at home and so had to miss his defence of the Doncaster Cup, but he's back in work and as long as nothing else happens between now and then he should be spot on," Redvers said.

"He seems versatile regards ground but, for a big horse, he's not the bravest and doesn't like to be surrounded. If there's a big field we will need to be away from it because otherwise he slightly curls up."

Other notable entries to stand their ground are the past two winners of the Gold Cup – Order Of St George and Trip To Paris – plus recent QIPCO British Champions Series winners Quest For More and Sheikhzayedroad, as well as the race's 2014 winner Forgotten Rules and Clever Cookie.

Similarly, the 24 who remain in the QIPCO British Champions Sprint include some of the biggest speedsters this season. Mecca's Angel, the dual Coolmore Nunthorpe Stakes heroine, and Quiet Reflection, winner of the Commonwealth Cup and 32Red Sprint Cup, remain on course for a potential clash with the likes of Limato, Twilight Son, Shalaa, Lumiere and Signs Of Blessing.

Dual Group One winner Twilight Son, who finished runner-up to Muhaarar in last year's running, will be having his final race before standing as a stallion at Cheveley Park next year.

"Twilight Son is definitely heading in that direction," Henry Candy, his trainer, said. "He looks fantastic and is in great form."

Read More at Sporting Life

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