Hawkbill has Qipco Champion Stakes at Ascot in his sights

Hawkbill, winner of the Coral-Eclipse, is among 55 entries for the Qipco Champion Stakes at Ascot on October 15.

Hawkbill has Qipco Champion Stakes at Ascot  in his sights

The Godolphin-owned colt could renew rivalry with The Gurkha and Time Test, who were second and third behind him at Sandown last month, should he line-up for Europe’s richest mile-and-a-quarter race.

Hawkbill was winning his sixth race in succession at Sandown and has since been given time to recharge his batteries ahead of his next objective, the Juddmonte International at York on August 17.

“He had a little bit of a break after Sandown and is on target to run next in the Juddmonte International,” said trainer Charlie Appleby.

“I’m sure it will be a good race and have a bearing on who we will see in the Qipco Champion Stakes on Champions Day.

“Hawkbill had a battle on his hands up the Sandown straight but he’s come out of it well and is getting mentally stronger with each run.

“It was pleasing to see The Gurkha subsequently go and do the job in the Sussex Stakes.

“We didn’t totally discard the King George but, with the future in mind and going beyond the Juddmonte, we wanted to give him a little bit more time. He’s our flagbearer this year.”

The first five home in last year’s Champion Stakes - Fascinating Rock, Found, Jack Hobbs, Racing History and Air Pilot - could turn up again.

As well as Hawkbill, this year’s Classic generation could be represented by Harzand, US Army Ranger, Idaho and Wings Of Desire, who filled the first four places in the Investec Derby.

Aidan O’Brien’s outstanding filly Minding, who picked up her sixth Group One in the Nassau Stakes at Goodwood, has also been given an entry.

Jean-Claude Rouget has already indicated the Champion Stakes is the principal autumn target of his Prix du Jockey Club scorer Almanzor, who is among 11 contenders from France.

Another noteworthy entry is Yorker, a multiple winner at the highest level in South Africa who is now in training with William Haggas in Newmarket.

“If we can get him back to his best he’s worth a shot at any decent race in Europe,” said Haggas.

“He’s had a few issues but at the moment he’s in really good nick. We are hoping very much to get him ready for the Strensall Stakes at York and hopefully it will be onwards and upwards from there.”

Gabrial, who was third in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes on Champions Day last year, could go the extra quarter mile of the Champion Stakes this time.

On his latest start the seven-year-old, trained by Richard Fahey, kept on to be fifth in the Sussex Stakes, being beaten under four lengths.

“We are quite keen to go down the Champion Stakes road,” said Fahey.

“He’s not been stopping at the end of his races and, though he’s an older horse, he is starting to relax more now. He’s been a star and any soft ground would suit him well.”

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