Timeform bring you their runner-by-runner guide to Saturday's Champion Stakes at Ascot...
Saturday, 20th October
1. DESRERT ENCOUNTER (David Simcock/Sean Levey)
Won 1½m listed race here in May, and has progressed further on three of four starts since, including when third behind Ulysses and Barney Roy in Eclipse Stakes at Sandown in July. Value for extra when landing 11-runner Legacy Cup at Newbury (by neck from Second Step) last time, quickening to lead inside final furlong and always holding on despite idling, but needs to improve again to turn tables on his Eclipse conquerors.
2. HIGHLAND REEL (Aidan O'Brien/Ryan Moore)
Won King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes here and Breeders' Cup Turf at Santa Anita in 2016. At least as good this year, winning Coronation Cup at Epsom and Prince of Wales's Stakes at Royal Ascot (by one and a quarter lengths from Decorated Knight) in June. Rare below-form effort when well-held fourth to Enable in most recent King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes in July, though was unsuited by softer conditions there, and could easily bounce back if rain stays away.
3. MAVERICK WAVE (John Gosden/Robert Havlin)
Smart on his day but seemingly running here as a pacemaker.
4. POET'S WORD (Sir Michael Stoute/Andrea Atzeni)
Lengthy colt who has progressed well this year, winning handicap at Chelmsford in April and matching form of Huxley Stakes second when landing Glorious Stakes at Goodwood (1½m, by one and a half lengths from Second Step) in August. Creditable half-length second to Decorated Knight in Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardstown last time, pulling clear of rest after making effort wide. That form leaves him with more improvement to find, but still looks on an upward curve.
5. SUCCESS DAYS (Ken Condon/Shane Foley)
Smart front runner who was a game winner of Group 2 at York in July. Unable to lead in Irish Champion Stakes since and very hard to see him dominating this field, though the rain has arrived which will enhance his chances slightly.
6. BARNEY ROY (Richard Hannon/James Doyle)
Won Greenham Stakes at Newbury in April and St James's Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot (by length from Lancaster Bomber) in June, also runner-up (beaten a length by Churchill) in 2000 Guineas at Newmarket, and filled same position in Coral-Eclipse Stakes when narrowly beaten by Ulysses. Creditable two and a quarter lengths third to same rival in Juddmonte International Stakes at York last time, finishing a neck behind Churchill, and ridden more aggressively than the two who finished ahead of him. Connections have already suggested that won't be the case here and--fresh after a two-month break--he has a very realistic chance of reversing the form.
7. BRAMETOT (Jean-Claude Rouget/Cristian Demuro)
High-class French contender who won Prix de Fontainebleau at Chantilly in April, Poule d'Essai des Poulains at Deauville in May and Prix du Jockey Club at Chantilly (by short head from Waldgeist) in June. Disappointed in Group 2 at Deauville in August, but resumed progress when six and a half lengths fifth to Enable in Arc last time. Probably needs to improve again to win.
8. CLIFFS OF MOHER (Aidan O'Brien/Seamie Heffernan)
Won Dee Stakes at Chester in May and improved when three quarters of a length second to Wings of Eagles in Derby at Epsom next time, leading one furlong out until close home. Just respectable efforts since, in Eclipse Stakes at Sandown (fourth to Ulysses), International Stakes at York (fourth behind same rival) and Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardstown (not seen to best effect when only sixth to Decorated Knight, finishing with running left after denied a run two out). Needs to improve again, but cannot be totally discounted given connections.
9. CRACKSMAN (John Gosden/Frankie Dettori)
Won Derby Trial at Epsom (by short head from Permian) in April and improved again when a length third in the main event in June. Only just failed to reel in the enterprisingly-ridden Capri in Irish Derby at the Curragh the following month. but took form to a new level when storming clear in Great Voltigeur Stakes at York (by six lengths from Venice Beach) in August, despite hitting flat-spot. Almost a carbon copy when landing Prix Niel at Chantilly (beat Avilius by three and a half lengths) in September and, with more improvement in him, rates a leading contender.
10. RECOLETOS (Carlos Laffon-Parias/Olivier Peslier)
Won minor event at Saint-Cloud in April, Prix Greffulhe there in May and didn't need to improve on Prix du Jockey Club third when landing Prix du Prince d'Orange at Maisons-Laffitte in September. Best form has come on soft ground and has minor place claims now the rain has arrived
Timeform Champion Stakes 1-2-3
1. Barney Roy
3. Poet's Word
Timeform Analyst's Champion Stakes Verdict
BARNEY ROY and Cracksman look the pair to focus on. The latter continues to go from strength to strength and any rain will be in his favour as he drops back in trip, but Barney Roy has proven high-class form at this distance so makes more appeal at the prices. Poet's Word ran a cracker when a close second in the Irish Champion at Leopardstown and rates the pick of the older brigade.