Saturday’s Champions Day card at Ascot was a tough slog for the favorites, with upsets in five of the six races contested on soft going. The overriding themes were landmark wins for connections and a couple of last year’s runners-up going one better – Addeybb and The Revenant.
Second fiddle to Magical in the 2019 Champion Stakes (G1), Addeybb produced a form reversal in Saturday’s renewal under a well-judged ride by Tom Marquand. The 9-1 chance secured a far better early position tracking Ballydoyle pacesetter Serpentine, while 15-8 favorite Magical was nestled a little further back on the inside.
Addeybb pounced before Magical could work her way into the clear, and the soft-ground aficionado was in his element as he pulled 2 1/4 lengths clear. Fellow stalker Skalleti likewise capitalized on his placement to hold second by a half-length from a belatedly grinding Magical, who turned in a useful prep for the Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1). Serpentine churned on in fourth, but John Gosden’s pair of Mishriff and Lord North ran well below form in eighth and last of 10, respectively, in the 1 1/4-mile feature.
“He traveled like a true good horse throughout the race,” Marquand observed, “and to be honest when I started getting going, I just bombed the straight. It is remarkable, I’ve never ridden a horse like him. He goes over ground that’s as bad as you can get and he makes it feel like you are on quick ground. That is why he’s so good on it.”
Winning trainer William Haggas was delighted that Addeybb scored a Group 1 at home. The Pivotal gelding had achieved the Ranvet (G1)/Queen Elizabeth (G1) double in his Australian venture earlier this campaign.
“We always hoped he had it in him,” Haggas said. “I personally couldn’t see Magical being beaten, because I thought she beat us comprehensively last year, not by very far, and I was frightened that the ground had dried a bit too much today. But it’s pretty horrible and he loves it when it’s horrible. He is at his best when there’s a ground inspection in the morning and it passes. He is pretty versatile, but he’s deadly on this ground.”
Haggas added that Addeybb received a timely form boost Down Under Saturday, courtesy of Verry Elleegant who’s won three more Group 1s since chasing him around Rosehill and Randwick.
“The filly (Verry Elleegant) that he beat in both his Group 1 races in Australia won the Caulfield Cup (G1) today, beating Anthony Van Dyck, so they were smart performances, but he had never won a Group 1 in England. He had been second a few times, so that for us is the great joy – we have finally won a championship race with such a good horse.”
Addeybb raced twice since returning to Britain, finishing second to Lord North in the June 17 Prince of Wales’s (G1) at this course and distance and prepping with a win in Ayr’s Doonside Cup. His resume now reads 20-11-3-2.
A 200,000-guineas Tattersalls October yearling purchase by Shadwell, Addeybb is out of the Kingmambo mare Bush Cat who traces to sister to Hall of Famer Shuvee.
Dirt, in the form of the 2021 Saudi Cup, might be in the future for the Sheikh Ahmed al Maktoum colorbearer.
“We also might consider Saudi Arabia as well, which is dirt, but that dirt track is terrific,” Haggas said. “I was there last year and I thought it was terrific and possibly worth a shot. We shall see and we are going to enjoy this day very much.”
Queen Elizabeth II Stakes
French shipper The Revenant also improved from his second in the 2019 Queen Elizabeth II Stakes (G1) to take top honors in the mile prize. Trained by Francis-Henri Graffard and piloted by Pierre-Charles Boudot, who were both winning their first Champions Day event, the 5-1 second choice prevailed in a tussle with the 28-1 front runner Roseman.
Odds-on favorite Palace Pier made a move into contention, but could not lift in the manner of The Revenant. Still traveling fluently as Roseman came under pressure, and pace attendants Circus Maximus and Century Dream backed out, The Revenant kept finding to see off the longtime leader by a head. Palace Pier suffered his first career loss in third, another 3 1/4 lengths back. Circus Maximus, in the mix for the Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1), checked in 10th of 14.
“He loved the ground, and the trip has been perfect behind Circus Maximus,” Boudot said of his passage from just off the pace. “My horse was very relaxed behind him and when I asked him, he gave me a nice and long turn of foot. He was courageous in the last furlong.”
Palace Pier had a bad day at the office from before the start. Passed fit to race after showing “a small amount of blood in its mouth,” according to the stewards’ report, the Gosden sophomore also threw a shoe along the way.
“You can’t go a mile with just one leg,” his jockey Frankie Dettori said. “You have to use both and I tried to get him to change. It was very unlike him. Obviously, you can’t win a race with three wheels – you need all four.”
The Revenant had his four-wheel drive engaged as a son of Dubawi and Hazel Lavery, whose signature win came over Noble Mission in her career finale, the 2012 St Simon (G3) on heavy going on Newbury. The Excellent Art mare was also runner-up in the Park Hill (G2).
Relentlessly progressive with a 13-10-2-1 mark, The Revenant compiled a six-race winning streak including the Badener Meile (G2) and Prix Daniel Wildenstein (G2). The 5-year-old gelding hadn’t been seen since last Champions Day until returning to repeat in the Wildenstein.
British Champions Fillies & Mares Stakes
The lone favorite to win all day was another French-campaigned runner, Wonderful Tonight, at a lukewarm 4-1 in the British Champions Fillies & Mares Stakes (G1). Wheeling back from her first Group 1 victory in the Prix de Royallieu (G1) on Arc weekend, the Le Havre filly had no problem with the 14-day turnaround or turning back from about 1 3/4 miles.
Jockey William Buick wisely made use of her proven stamina to take up a forward tracking position in second and committed for home early in the 1 1/2-mile affair. Market rival Dame Malliot gave chase but could get no closer than 2 1/2 lengths, and Passion did her best work late in third. Mehdaayih launched a good-looking bid out wide before floundering to fourth.
“She was a filly who I was looking forward to riding all week,” said Buick, who along with trainer David Menuisier was celebrating a first Champions Day success.
“The only question mark was whether she had recuperated from the Arc weekend or not,” Menuisier noted. “I hadn’t, but I am glad she did!
“You never know, especially with fillies, whether they are going to train on or not, but we wanted to keep her as a 4-year-old to target the Arc next year. We nearly ran her in the Arc this year – I think she would have run a stormer – but she wasn’t a Group 1 winner yet. Now she is, so the sky is the limit.”
Now 4-for-8, Wonderful Tonight had garnered the Prix Minerve (G3) on heavy ground at Deauville before a fifth in much quicker conditions in the Prix Vermeille (G1). A private sale for €40,000 as an Arqana August yearling, she is a half-sister to Aqueduct stakes winner and course record-setter Penjade. Their dam, the Montjeu mare Salvation, hails from the extended family of Camelot.
British Champions Long Distance Cup
Hollie Doyle, who just eclipsed her own record for most wins by a female jockey in Great Britain, continued her stellar season with another historic accomplishment. By guiding the improving 11-1 shot Trueshan to a romp in the British Champions Long Distance Cup (G2), Doyle became the first woman to ride a winner on Champions Day.
Racing in proximity to 11-10 favorite Stradivarius in midpack much of the way, the Alan King trainee didn’t settle too kindly, but had more than enough energy in reserve. As Stradivarius backpedaled and eased home beating only one rival, Trueshan powered to the fore and drew off by 7 1/2 lengths. Search for a Song closed from far back to deny Fujaira Prince runner-up honors by a half-length.
French-bred Trueshan was passing two simultaneous tests in his Group debut, and first try at two miles. The 4-year-old gelding had captured the July 17 Tapster prior to an eighth behind Fujaira Prince in the Ebor. He regrouped with a score in Salisbury’s conditions race named in honor of Persian Punch last out.
“He was almost over-traveling with me,” Doyle said. “I had to stay out a bit wide for the first 3 furlongs and luckily I managed to slot in and get a nice position upsides Stradivarius. The further I was going, the better and he was tanking me – he went through the ground like a tractor, he loved it!”
The first Group winner sired by Planteur, the 31,000 guineas Tattersalls Guineas Breeze Up purchase is out of Shao Line by General Holme.
British Champions Sprint
Doyle made it a rapid-fire double by notching her first Group 1 aboard the 16-1 Glen Shiel in the British Champions Sprint (G1), just lasting by a nose from the 80-1 Brando. Going straight to the early lead in the 6-furlong dash, the Pivotal gelding fended off a challenge from Oxted and bravely reached for the wire as Brando bore down late.
One Master did her Breeders’ Cup Mile hopes no harm in a close third. Art Power shaped with promise for next year by staying on in fourth. Oxted faded late to fifth, but the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint (G1) candidate is likely to prefer the going at Keeneland. Mile possible Lope Y Fernandez wound up seventh, edging 3-1 favorite Dream of Dreams who retreated to eighth.
Glen Shiel also furnished a milestone first Group 1 win for young trainer Archie Watson, and Doyle credited him with the vision to recast Glen Shiel as a sprinter.
“This is not about me, it’s about Archie Watson, as he has campaigned this horse unbelievably. No one else would have won a G1 with this horse.
“We got him out of Andre Fabre’s and we ran him over 10 furlongs. Archie kept stepping him back and back in trip and I am not going to lie, even I doubted it, but this is obviously the key to him.
“My heart sunk when I got joined on the line, I thought Tom Eaves had just nabbed me, so I didn’t know if I had won. I honestly thought I hadn’t won to be honest.
“It was too close for comfort really. I thought I hadn’t won so, to have had the result we have was incredible. Me and Oxted had a good old battle from the three-pole and I thought that I would be doing well to hold on like I did, but Glen Shiel is such a game horse. He is incredible.”
A Darley-bred initially campaigned by Godolphin, Glen Shiel changed hands at Goffs UK last May for £45,000. At that time, his career highlight was a victory in the 2017 Prix Le Fabuleux. The 6-year-old gelding has progressed since Watson shortened him up to 6 furlongs this season, winning the Aug. 9 Phoenix Sprint (G3) and recently placing second to Dream of Dreams in the Haydock Sprint Cup (G1).
Glen Shiel is related to European highweight Farhh, hero of the 2013 Champion. Both are by Pivotal, and Glen Shiel’s dam, the Group 3-winning Big Shuffle mare Gonfilia, is a half to multiple Group 1-winning Gonbarda, dam of Farhh.
Sire Pivotal was registering a double on the day with Glen Shiel and Addeybb, and he can claim The Revenant as a more distant descendant. Doyle’s tally of two wins was equaled by Marquand – her partner – who also steered home the Jessica Harrington-trained Njord in the Balmoral Handicap. The couple discussed their banner day: