At The Races expert Declan Rix talks us through Saturday’s Champion Stakes on British Champions Day, live on Sky Sports Racing.
Addeybb (William Haggas)
Consistent and tough globetrotter who loves it at Ascot. Was a dominant winner of last year’s race, but faces a comfortably stronger field this time around on contrasting ground.
While highly capable on good to soft, the son of Pivotal is most certainly better in genuine soft and heavy going and his form has looked a little regressive this season as he ages.
Al Aasy (William Haggas)
Quality three-year-old colt last season, but took form to new heights at the start of this campaign, winning impressively twice at Newbury before finishing second in the Group One Coronation Cup at Epsom.
Form has regressed since however, with the gelding operation in July seemingly not aiding his cause. This is a strong race to try and bounce back in.
Euchen Glen (Jim Goldie)
Hold-up performer who has had a really good season, winning twice at Listed and Group Three level. Has winning form here at Ascot, but this looks a tough spot for the eight-year-old.
Mishriff (John & Thady Gosden)
Winner of last year’s French Derby, but has significantly improved this campaign, winning three times and putting together an incredible CV.
Has just under two lengths to find with Adayar on their King George clash, but given he was in a worse tactical position early, wide into the straight and the 12 furlong trip stretched him, has every chance of reversing that form.
Looked to improve again when winning the Juddmonte International at York, for all, it wasn’t a strong renewal. That form makes him the horse to beat as he runs over his ideal trip.
Adayar (Charlie Appleby)
This year’s Derby and King George winner who, before his slightly disappointing Arc run, continued to get better and better. On firm ground in the King George, he recorded his career-best effort when beating Mishriff, but the trip certainly played to his strengths more so than the runner-up.
Twelve furlongs wasn’t an excuse in the Arc, but the combination of very soft ground, not being suited by making the running while keen and maybe even needing the race possibly found him out.
The drop to 10 furlongs maybe won’t play to his strengths, but given his ability and class, he obviously has to be respected.
Bolshoi Ballet (Aidan O’Brien)
It feels like a long time ago now, but Bolshoi Ballet was sent off 11/8 favourite for this year’s Derby when finishing 17 lengths behind Adayar.
He got a poor ride that day, three-wide without cover for large parts, but connections reported him to have a hind-leg injury post-race. Hasn’t run in Europe since, but did manage to win the Grade One Belmont Derby Invitational before disappointing in two subsequent Stateside runs.
Not sure the American-type tracks play to his strengths so should love getting back on a proper galloping course, but he’s impossible to fancy on recent runs.
Dubai Honour (William Haggas)
Started his season officially rated 91, but after four efforts, now resides on 116. That tells the tale of this three-year-old’s progress. Not only has the son of Pride Of Dubai improved with each run however, but he is also a thoroughly likeable character, blessed with bravery and a great attitude.
Among his physical weapons, includes a strong ability to travel and a potent turn of foot. This represents his biggest step up in class and his form needs to improve to get to the same level as the market leaders, but looks to hold strong each-way claims with his profile suggesting he might improve again.
Foxes Tales (Andrew Balding)
Another progressive three-year-old whose mid-season form ties in with Dubai Honour. Since his Royal Ascot success in the Golden Gates Stakes, he has continued to get better, although, maybe not at the same rate as Dubai Honour.
Has course and distance form in the bag, will have no issues regarding ground, but needs first-time blinkers to spark a significant amount of improvement to trouble the judge.
Mac Swiney (Jim Bolger)
This season’s Irish 2000 Guineas winner before being beaten comprehensively in the Derby and Irish Derby.
He then put in an improved performance to finish fifth of seven behind Mishriff in the Juddmonte International, but he was well-held and comes here on the back of a disappointing run at Irish Champions Weekend.
Will enjoy getting his toe in on the round course, but just doesn’t look good enough.
Sealiway (Cedric Rossi)
His second to St Mark’s Basilica now looks better than it did at the time, and he was arguably the biggest eyecatcher in the Arc 13 days ago; travelling strongly throughout and looking a huge danger to all early in the straight before tiring late.
He came from quite an uncompromising position that day, too, and this drop in trip looks a good move, but possibly could have done with some typical Champions Day soft ground to trouble the market leaders. Has each-way claims if over the exertions of the Arc.
Declan’s big race verdict
With Mac Swiney being the only natural front-runner in this year’s race, a potentially tactical Champion Stakes may ensue. With that type of scenario likely to play against the strengths of Adayar, a proven strong stayer over 12 furlongs, William Buick will surely look to make this at least a fair test for his mount as they drop back to 10 furlongs.
Whatever the pace setup, I doubt it will make a difference to MISHRIFF. A strongly-run race will help what is usually a strong-travelling horse settle, but a sedate gallop surely means he’ll have too many gears for Adayar – these two, as the market suggests, are the race’s form horses.
However, if you are looking for a bit more bang for your buck and don’t want to back Mishriff, the hugely likable Dubai Honour is an interesting alternative at 5/1 in the ‘without Mishriff’ market.