Perhaps the forgotten horse on the European mile scene, 2000 Guineas (G1) hero Magna Grecia resurfaces in Saturday’s Queen Elizabeth II (G1) on Champions Day at Ascot.
Aidan O’Brien’s only runner in the straight mile contest has not been seen since checking in a disappointing fifth to Phoenix of Spain in the Irish 2000 Guineas (G1). Magna Grecia reportedly pulled a hamstring that day, excusing the only poor effort of his brief career. His only other loss came by a neck to Persian King in last year’s Autumn (G3), and he’d promptly moved forward to take the Vertem Futurity Trophy (G1) in his juvenile finale. Heavy going would be terra incognita for Magna Grecia, but as a son of Invincible Spirit and soft-ground Group 3 romper Cabaret is eligible to cope. With Ryan Moore in Australia for the Everest, Donnacha O’Brien resumes their alliance.
Magna Grecia faces older horses for the first time off the nearly five-month layoff. His elders are The Revenant, who rocketed to favoritism after a Prix Daniel Wildenstein (G2) romp over Arc weekend; Godolphin’s Benbatl, who chased Winx this time last year and just returned with a sensational score in the Joel (G2); Lord Glitters, victorious in the course-and-distance Queen Anne (G1) during Royal Ascot, and 2018 Queen Anne upsetter Accidental Agent, who’s lost his way since and just had wind surgery; last year’s QE II third Century Dream, last spotted in Dubai; Falmouth (G1) queen Veracious; Move Swiftly, upset winner of the Duke of Cambridge (G2) here in similar conditions; Dermot Weld’s Group 3 scorer Imaging, edged by The Revenant in Germany two back; seven-furlong specialist Safe Voyage; and soft-ground handicapper Raising Sand, third in the heritage handicap known as the Royal Hunt Cup at the Royal meeting.
The remaining five in the 16-horse field are sophomores aiming to step up, including King of Change, runner-up to Magna Grecia in the Guineas and successful in the Fortune at Sandown in his only ensuing start; St James’s Palace (G1) near-misser King of Comedy, no match for Benbatl at Newmarket in his latest but adding cheekpieces; onetime classic hope Mohaather, sidelined since taking the Greenham (G3); the aforementioned Phoenix of Spain, off form since the Irish 2000 Guineas; and Happy Power, with questions to answer on form but sure to be happy on the ground.
The other straight-course feature on the card, the British Champions Sprint (G1), pits the past three titleholders – The Tin Man (2016), Librisa Breeze (2017), and Sands of Mali (2018) – against fresher-faced stars that head the market. Three-year-old Advertise was forced to miss the recent Haydock Sprint Cup (G1), but he’d defeated its eventual winner, Hello Youmzain, in Royal Ascot’s Commonwealth Cup (G1), and fought off Brando in the Prix Maurice de Gheest (G1).
One Master, fifth to Advertise there, comes off a repeat score in the Prix de la Foret (G1) (with Speak in Colours third), and the Lael Stables mare is entitled to go better in their rematch. Also coming in for antepost support is rapid improver Make a Challenge, supplemented after running away with the Waterford Testimonial in his stakes debut at the Curragh. Cape Byron sports course-and-distance wins in the Wokingham during Royal Ascot and the Bengough (G3) over Donjuan Triumphant and Keystroke last out, while Dream of Dreams nearly overturned Blue Point in the Diamond Jubilee (G1). Five-furlong vixen Mabs Cross takes a swing at six after losing her spark of late, and O’Brien’s filly So Perfect likewise adds a panel after outfinishing her when second in the Flying Five (G1) and Prix de l’Abbaye (G1). Fellow filly Forever in Dreams had played second fiddle to Advertise in the Commonwealth Cup, while Khaadem had been well back that day and again at Haydock.
See more Champions Day previews here...