Hayes keen on Awtaad claims

Chris Hayes says Awtaad should not be underestimated in the £1.16 million Queen Elizabeth II Stakes on QIPCO British Champions Day at Ascot on Saturday.

Awtaad is set for 'the race of the season'

The three-year-old Cape Cross colt lowered the colours of Galileo Gold, the QIPCO 2000 Guineas winner, when a decisive winner of the Irish equivalent at the Curragh in May but has finished behind him in their two subsequent clashes, in the St James's Palace Stakes and Qatar Sussex Stakes.

On his latest start Awtaad, who is trained by octogenarian Kevin Prendergast, had his sights lowered a little and resumed winning ways with a fluent success in the Group 2 Clipper Logistics Boomerang Stakes at Leopardstown.

"He's very special to me and the boss and has been our flagship horse all season," said Hayes, who has ridden Awtaad in each of his eight races.

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"In our eyes he hasn't done anything wrong. He was a little bit below par at Goodwood but he came back in great fashion at Leopardstown and he's been trained with this specifically in mind. Touch wood nothing has gone wrong, so we are looking forward to Saturday.

"He was on a retrieval mission at Leopardstown and it was just nice to prove that he was the horse that we think he is – and prove to all the doubters that he still had what he showed in May."

Awtaad is set to meet Galileo Gold for a fourth time, while Jet Setting, the Tattersalls Irish 1000 Guineas winner, and Minding, the QIPCO 1000 Guineas and Investec Oaks heroine, are also possibles. Ribchester, the Jacques le Marois winner, is favourite in the ante-post betting to beat the four Classic winners.

"I think it will be the race of the season at this distance," Hayes predicted.

"He is going to have to be at the top of his form and it's a proper Group 1 but he owes us nothing and provided he gives a good show and we get conditions in our favour I think he will be there or thereabouts.

"Galileo Gold and Ribchester are the main dangers but our guy has beaten Galileo Gold already. It's 2-1 to him [Galileo Gold] in the three times they've met so hopefully Awtaad can make it 2-2."

The young jockey added: "It's very important at this stage in my career to have a horse like him and be involved in a meeting like this with a generous chance in a Group 1. It means the world to me."

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