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Queen Elizabeth II Stakes (Group One) (Sponsored By Qipco) (British Champions Mile)
Historically one of the best mile races of the entire season with a veritable “Who’s Who” of winners including household names such as Rip Van Winkles, Frankel, Excelebration, Solow, and Minding last year, and with six winning favourites in the last eleven runnings, three of them odds on, it’s been a poor race for the bookmaker’s satchels. Three-year-olds have dominated with eight of the eleven winners and are sure to well represented again in 2017. Once again we can expect to see a high-quality line up, so why not have a read of our ante-post race preview ahead of the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes on Champions Day in October.
As things stand the official ratings suggest the blue colours of Godolphin are all set to dominate this year’s renewal and thank to their sporting attitude, they may well allow more than one to have a run at picking up the £623,810 first prize with Ribchester heading the early betting. The Richard Fahey trained son of Iffraaj has won two of his four starts this season with a three and three-quarter length win in the Group One Lockinge Stakes at Newbury in May followed with a length and a quarter defeat of Mutakkayef in the Queen Anne Stakes at Royal Ascot but he was surprisingly beaten a neck by Here Comes When, who was officially rated fifteen pounds his inferior. Although officially soft ground that day William Buick described it as heavy after the race and that would not have suited him at all, but he will need to bounce back to his best form to beat the younger generation here which is far from impossible but he will clearly need to be at his peak in the expected field here.
Aidan O’Brien won this last year with Minding and has a list of entries as he looks to follow up with Churchill the shortest in the early betting. The winner of his first two starts this season with the English and Irish 2000 Guinea when he had Barney Roy and Al Wukair behind him at Newmarket and Thunder Snow behind him at The Curragh, all of which are on course to re-oppose here. He looked an absolute superstar in both races and was thought to be a world beater but his form has tailed off in two races since with a four and a half-length fourth to Barney Roy at Royal Ascot in the St James’s Palace Stakes and a two length second to Ulysses at York when stepped up to a mile and a quarter and looking a bit one paced in the process. At his best he may well be capable of winning this in receipt of three pounds from his elders but his master trainer will need to find a way to reinvigorate him here which may not be as easy as it sounds.
If Churchill is a no show then the O’Brien stable have an adequate substitute in the shape of the brilliant Winter, a daughter of top sire Galileo who started her season with a second to stable companion Hydrangea at Leopardstown in April, and hasn’t looked back since. Wins at Group One level in the English and Irish 1000 Guineas were followed with a Coronation Stakes win at Royal Ascot and a Nassau Stakes win at Glorious Goodwood when stepped up to a mile and a quarter, and she may well be one of the best fillies we have seen for many a year. She does have other options on Champions Day including the possibility of a step up to a mile and a half, but this still seems to be her best trip and with her three-year-old allowance added to her fillies’ allowance, she would surely prove very difficult to beat if sensibly directed here by her powerful connections, with Ryan Moore most likely to be in the saddle.
French raiders do well here with Freddie Head responsible for Charm Spirit in 2014 and Solow in 2015, and even though his possible representatives here look likely to come up short, the same cannot be said about Andre Fabre’s Al Wukair. Owned by Al Shaqab Racing, he won his first three races with any amount up his sleeve, he did come unstuck at Newmarket when a length and a quarter third to Churchill and Barney Roy but was left with a bit too much to do that day and really ought to have finished even closer. Frankie Dettori took over in the saddle for his next run from Gregory Benoist when he was bitterly disappointing after a slow start to be beaten two lengths in a Group Three at Maisons-Lafitte at odds on in what was supposed to be a confidence booster, but got back to his best last time out to take the Group One Jacques Le Marois at Deauville by a short head after being produced at the last second to get up on the line, but may well have more improvement to come and could yet be an each way option for his master trainer.
As mentioned earlier Godolphin could well have more than one runner here with the improving Barney Roy also entered for trainer Richard Hannon. Two wins from five starts this season peaked with a victory in the St James’s Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot over this trip where he had Thunder Snow in third and the odds-on Churchill in fourth, after which he has been tried over further with a nose second to Ulysses in the Coral-Eclipse at Sandown and a two and a quarter length defeat by the same rival in the Juddmonte International in August. He is clearly a class act but seems to be a fraction short of the top over a mile and is yet to prove he really stays further in a truly run race and he may well have to settle for a place at best if all the big guns stand their ground.
One more against the field and Andrew Balding’s Beat The Bank would need a career best and then some to get involved in the finish here but is improving rapidly and could well catch a few of these off guard. Four wins from his first five races marked him out as a horse to keep on the right side of with a three-length win in the Group Three Bonhams Thoroughbred Stakes when quickening up in the style of a decent horse, and if there is a surprise package hiding anywhere in this field, he could yet be the one to challenge.