Cirrus Des Aigles (13/8) and FreeEagle (3/1) and now head the market with Paddy Power for Saturday’s Qipco Champion Stakes at Ascot following the defection of Australia and the news that The Grey Gatsby won’t run despite being left in the race but will stay in training next year.
Kevin Ryan’s three-year-old has enjoyed a tremendous campaign, winning the Dante Stakes at York, the French Derby and most recently lowering the colours of Australia in the Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardstown.
“I’m not going to run him on heavy ground. They had 25 millimetres of rain last night and there is more forecast,” said Ryan. “He’s done everything we’ve asked of him this year. He stays in training next season, so we’ll look forward to that now.”
Free Eagle made a deep impression when winning the Group Three KPMG Enterprise Stakes at Leopardstown last month on his belated reappearance and trainer Dermot Weld said: “Free Eagle is very well, in really good form.
“I am not concerned about the quality of my horse, I am convinced that he is up to this class.”
The remarkable Cirrus Des Aigles, winner of this race in 2011 before finishing second in the last two renewals, remains a potent force at the top level.
In the absence of the retired Australia, Aidan O’Brien is set to rely on last year’s Investec Derby hero Ruler Of The World, Kingsbarns - who is also among the QEII acceptors - and Kingfisher.
Noble Mission, a full-brother to Frankel, is firmly on course for the contest, while Al Kazeem, Pether’s Moon, Sheikhzayeroad, Aurad and Western Hymn complete the field.
2,000 Guineas winner Night Of Thunder is joined by stablemates Toronado and Toormore in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes, with Custom Cut and Captain Cat supplemented. The Freddy Head-trained Charm School heads the betting at 11-4.
Custom Cut will bid to crown a stunning season with a first Group One victory.
Snapped up for 95,000 guineas last October after showing smart form in Ireland for George Kent, the five-year-old has enjoyed a superb campaign for David O’Meara, who is keen to give him the chance to test his mettle at the highest level on Champions Day, with the likely testing conditions not expected to be a problem.
“It cost a lot of money to supplement (£70,000), but he’s won five Pattern races in a row, so he bought his own ticket for Saturday, really,” said the North Yorkshire handler.
“He’d run some good races in Ireland for George Kent. He won the Gladness Stakes last year, so he’s always been a good horse.
“We know he handles heavy ground, so any rain that falls at Ascot this week won’t be detrimental to his chances.”
The first and second past the post in the Gold Cup Leading Light and Estimate, separated by a neck that day before Queen Elizabeth’s horse was disqualified for testing positive for morphine, reoppose as 13 were left in the Qipco British Champions Long Distance Cup.
Haydock’s Group 1 Sprint Cup winner G Force was supplemented for the British Champions Sprint Stakes. Gordon Lord Byron and 2012 winner Maarek were also among the 18.
Both Silk Sari and Albashara were supplemented for the Qipco British Champions Fillies & Mares Stakes, while last year’s winner Seal Of Approval and the 2013 Irish Oaks winner Chicquita also feature among the 13.
lWise Dan will not defend his title in the Breeders’ Cup Mile after an ankle injury saw him ruled him out of the Santa Anita Grade One on November 1.
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