Eleven set for Champion Stakes
Eleven runners have been declared for the Qipco Champion Stakes, at Ascot on Saturday, including the first four home from last year's renewal.
Almanzor and Found are set to re-oppose
Fascinating Rock led home Found, Jack Hobbs and Racing History in the showpiece event 12 months ago but the betting suggests they have a new kid on the block to beat.
Jean-Claude Rouget, who saddled Literato to win this prize in 2007, will be represented by French Derby winner Almanzor who beat Found in the Irish Champion Stakes last time out.
Aidan O'Brien, trainer of Arc winner Found, will have a second string to his bow in Derby runner-up US Army Ranger.
"The Arc was always her [principal] target," he said of his Chantilly heroine.
"All the other races were on the way to the Arc. She takes her races so well. We did it last year [run in the Irish Champion Stakes, Arc and Champion Stakes] and she's been fine since France. It's the way she is.
"We all knew a long time ago that there's something different about her. She's incredible, really, the most genuine horse I've ever seen. She empties the tank every time. The problem is not to let her empty too quick – she goes right to the bottom of herself. It's very unusual."
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Jack Hobbs was pulled up on his only outing this year in April, his only start since last year's race.
"It's not a dissimilar situation to that of Shalaain that he sustained a very similar injury in the Jockey Club Stakes – and he has had to fight his way back," said trainer John Gosden.
"He worked well at Kempton – I was delighted with his work around there – and he is fit and ready. He has strengthened well and having the summer off has given him time to develop.
"He's in great order for it and he's not a type that's ring-rusty, but I'm very aware of the task in hand because I think the best three-year-old in Europe is favourite. I thought his win in the Irish Champion was the finest race of the year, as has been proved by the Arc result straight away. From that point of view we know what task is, but I'm looking forward to getting him back on the track."
One-time Derby favourite Midterm has also struggled with injury this season but is back on track according to trainer Sir Michael Stoute who said: "He's fine.
"His run in the Prix Niel did him the power of good. I'd say a well-run ten furlongs will suit him well."
Clive Cox is hopeful that a return to Ascot will help his Prince of Wales's Stakes winner My Dream Boat.
"He's shown best ever level of form at Ascot, which is good, and he maintained his form at this time last year," he said.
"Some horses go off the boil at this time but last year he definitely kept a spark about him. We are very much looking forward to the race.
"There were eight Group 1 winners in the Irish Champion Stakes – it was probably the best race I've had the privilege to run a horse in. He's had a nice time from that race to here and I'm very pleased with him."
The field is completed by Gabrial, The Grey Gatsby and Maverick Wave.
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