Timeform bring you their comprehensive runner-by-runner guide to Saturday's Champion Stakes at Ascot and pick out their 1-2-3...
"...looks the one they all have to beat..."
Timeform on Magical
1. Addeybb (William Haggas/ Tom Marquand)
Strong gelding who won the Ranvet Stakes at Rosehill in March and the Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Randwick in April, both on soft ground. Ran well back in a domestic Group 1 when three and three quarter lengths second to Lord North in the Prince of Wales's Stakes over C&D at Royal Ascot, and made the most of a good opportunity to win a listed event at Ayr last time. Finished second to Magical in this last year and the ground has come in his favour, so can't be ruled out.
2. Desert Encounter (David Simcock/ Jim Crowley)
Completed a four-timer in the Grade 1 Canadian International last year (winning the race for the second time) and has typically held his form well this season without winning. Drop back to a mile and a quarter not sure to suit, though, and his best days are perhaps behind him.
3. Extra Elusive (Roger Charlton/ Hollie Doyle)
Proved better than ever to gain a belated breakthrough win at pattern level in the Rose of Lancaster Stakes at Haydock in August and ran to a similar level when following up in the Winter Hill Stakes (heavy) at Windsor. Wasn't disgraced when conceding weight all round in the Legacy Cup at Newbury last time and has an outside chance of hitting the frame under conditions which will suit.
4. Japan (Aidan O'Brien/ Colin Keane)
Bagged a second Group 1 last season when narrowly edging out Crystal Ocean in the Juddmonte International at York, and shaped better than the bare result in fourth in the Arc on his next start. Best effort this season came when third to Ghaiyyath in the Coral-Eclipse, but he has been disappointing in two starts since, including when fifth behind Magical in the Irish Champion Stakes.
5. Lord North (John Gosden/ James Doyle)
Very progressive winner of the Cambridgeshire last season, and has taken his form to a new level this year, making a winning return in the Brigadier Gerard Stakes before recording a first Group 1 success in the Prince of Wales's Stakes over C&D at Royal Ascot. Lacked his usual turn of foot in the Juddmonte but is best judged on his previous efforts and he'll have no problem with easy ground. Very likeable type who should be in the mix.
6. San Donato (Roger Varian/ Andrea Atzeni)
Smart two-year-old but only made the track once last season when a length third to Persian King in the Poule d'Essai des Poulains. Similar form when finding only Mohaather too good in the Summer Mile here in July, and finished a creditable third to Addeybb on his first start at this trip at Ayr last time. Barely stayed on that occasion, though.
7. Skalleti (Jerome Reynier/ Pierre-Charles Boudot)
Has won 12 of his 15 starts, including the Prix Gontaut-Biron at Deauville (by a neck from Sottsass, who gave 7 lb) in August and the Prix Dollar at Longchamp (for the second year running, readily by one and a quarter lengths from Patrick Sarsfield) earlier this month. Revels in the mud and looks an interesting contender on his first foray into Group 1 company.
8. Magical (Aidan O'Brien/ Ryan Moore)
Remarkable mare who produced a career-best effort when winning the Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardstown (by three quarters of a length from Ghaiyyath) last time, landing a seventh win at the highest level. Also won this race last season (by three quarters of a length from Addeybb) and looks the one they all have to beat once more.
9. Mishriff (John Gosden/ Frankie Dettori)
Bolted up in a heavy-ground maiden at Nottingham on his final start in 2019 and has done nothing but progress this season, notably winning the Prix du Jockey Club at Chantilly and the Prix Guillaume d'Ornano at Deauville on his last two starts. Had plenty in hand last time, leaving the impression he has more to offer, and he is entitled to respect.
10. Pyledriver (William Muir/ Martin Dwyer)
Caused a surprise when winning the mile and a half King Edward VII Stakes at Royal Ascot (Mogul disappointing in behind) and put a lesser effort in the Derby behind him when successful in the Great Voltigeur at York, confirming the form with Mogul. Has since run well in the St Leger over a mile and three quarters, but was beaten by a couple of stronger stayers. Drops significantly in trip now, but possesses a good turn of foot and easy ground shouldn't bother him. Commands respect.
11. Serpentine (Aidan O'Brien/ William Buick)
Shock wide-margin win of the Derby at Epsom in June. Was unable to confirm that form when four and a quarter lengths fourth to Mogul in the Grand Prix de Paris at Longchamp last time, but he was ridden with more restraint which didn't seem to suit. Related to some soft-ground performers and too early to give up on him, particularly if getting an attacking ride back at a mile and a quarter.
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Timeform's Champion Stakes Verdict:
It’s hard to look past last year’s winner Magical, who has had this race as her target since defeating Ghaiyyath in the Irish Champion. A repeat of that form would make her very much the one to beat here, especially as we know that testing conditions hold no fears for her. Lord North is feared most back at the scene of his win in the Prince of Wales’s Stakes, leaving last year’s runner-up Addeybb to complete the shortlist.
2. Lord North