The British Champions Fillies' and Mares' Stakes is one of several Group One contests to go to post during the Champions Day meeting at Ascot on Saturday, and the top-class 1m 4f contest gets underway at 2.35pm where a quality field of runners will do battle to land a winners’ purse in excess of £300,000.
Formerly the Princess Royal Stakes, the contest has a rich history since it was first run in 1946, and recent past winners include Simple Verse, Seal Of Approval, Oujia Board and dual-scorer Crystal Capella.
Aidan O’Brien could mount a strong challenge for this contest with the likes of Found and Minding amongst five entries for the race; however, both could have alternative targets in the Champions Stakes instead, while Minding could alternatively run in the QEII Stakes later on the card.
Seventh Heaven is likely to be Aidan O'Brien's main runner in Saturday's Champions Fillies & Mares' Stakes.
Despite the anticipated defection of both of those stars, the Ballydoyle maestro still holds strong claims with his Seventh Heaven who arrives bidding for a hat-trick of successes following a pair of Group One wins at the Curragh, and at York where the Galileo filly had Found behind her when winning the Yorkshire Oaks.
Her sole defeat this term came at Epsom behind stablemate Minding, where she clearly didn’t act on the track as she trailed home sixth of nine runners and some thirty lengths behind; but she has set the record straight since, and she will be a tough nut to crack in this contest.
O’Brien could also saddle one or both of Even Song and Pretty Perfect; however, both have finished behind Seventh Heaven in starts earlier in the season, including at York, and it is hard to see either reversing that form.
Journey found only Simple Verse too strong in this race twelve months ago, and John Gosden’s charge is another hat-trick seeker having won at Haydock and Newmarket this term.
Her latest run came in the Listed Harvest Stakes from Lady Of Camelot, where Beautiful Romance was back in third; and the Dubawi filly had earlier landed the Group Three Pinnacle Stakes at Haydock, beating Sweeping Up.
Impressive last time, this will demand more; but she remains progressive given her lightly-raced profile, and no surprise if she were in the shake-up.
Hat-trick seeking Journey can go well for John Gosden.
Gosden could also saddle Furia Cruzada who has shown smart form in her starts, but remains winless since arriving from Argentina, where she was a multiple winner at Grade One level.
Her best effort on these shores came behind Endless Time at Haydock in July in the Lancashire Oaks; but she has come up short since behind Seventh Heaven at York, and also at Newmarket in September when beating only one home behind Dal Harraild in Listed company.
California could be a third runner in the race for the master of Highclere, but the Azamour filly would have a fair bit to find on her form to date.
A Group Three winner at Goodwood in July, she could only finish third to Simple Verse last time, beaten five lengths; but still open to improvement she can give a good account without quite being good enough to trouble the best of these.
However, Zhukova has impressed in landing a hat-trick of her own, registering wins at the Curragh and Naas in the earlier part of the summer in Listed and Group Three company; and the Fastnet Rock filly stepped up on that form back from a break to defeat US Army Ranger and others in good fashion to land the Enterprise Stakes at Leopardstown in September.
The balance of her form leaves her something to find with Seventh Heaven, but Dermot Weld has reportedly had this race on the agenda for some time for the daughter of Fastnet Rock; and open to considerable improvement she could give the Ballydoyle runner plenty to think about if taking another forward step.
Zhukova steps up in class at Ascot on Saturday, but Dermot Weld's progressive filly can go well.
Simple Verse won this race twelve months ago, but the 2015 St Leger winner seemed appreciative of the stiffer test when returned to that longer trip to resume winning ways over Pretty Perfect in the Park Hill Stakes.
Although she toughed out a win in this race last year, this trip has since caught out Ralph Beckett’s charge in a trio of runs this term and she may be vulnerable over this lesser distance if lining up; although a tilt at the Long Distance Cup rather than this contest looks on the cards.
Godolphin could be represented by both Charlie Appleby’s Endless Time and Saeed bin Suroor’s Promising Run, although the former looks the strongest of the pair from the boys in blue.
Runner-up to Left Hand last time at Chantilly when beaten less than one length in the Prix Vermeille, the Sea the Stars filly had earlier beaten Furia Cruzada at Haydock prior to posting a disappointing effort behind Seventh Heaven at York.
Charlie Appleby’s charge did however beat Simple Verse last term, prior to winning in Listed company on her final start when successful at Naas. Still open to progress, she nevertheless needs to step up again.
Promising Run meanwhile hasn’t quite reached the heights expected from her since winning in effortless fashion at Newmarket in September last year. Her sole success this term has come in a Turkish Group Three contest, and the Hard Spun filly was no match back on these shores when last sighted at Newmarket where she finished five lengths adrift of Laugh Aloud in Listed company.
Speedy Boarding (right) had a hard race at Chantilly last time.
Dual-Group One winner Speedy Boarding has been progressive this term, bouncing back from a disappointing last of five runners behind Minding in the Pretty Polly at the Curragh to score at both Deauville and latterly at Chantilly.
James Fanshawe’s charge finished ninth in this race twelve months ago behind Simple Verse, and although she showed plenty of determination to get back up last time out over ten furlongs she has to prove she gets this far and she’s come up short on both attempts over this trip. She had a hard race last time also, which may have taken the edge off her chances, and this could come too soon.
On the balance of their respective levels of form, it is difficult to fancy either of the pair of Bateel or, Bocca Baciata; but ARCHITECTURE could be worth a second look at a price.
Hugo Palmer’s charge has just one career success to her name, at Nottingham in maiden company; but while she hasn’t won this term, she has posted excellent runner-up efforts behind Seventh Heaven at both Lingfield in May, and again at the the Curragh in July; and she found only Minding too strong at Epsom in the Oaks. She possibly found the ground too soft in the Ribblesdale at Royal Ascot when posting a disappointing run behind Even Song, and that run can be ignores.
The Zoffany filly lost little in defeat last time in the German Oaks behind Serienholde at Dusseldorf, beaten just over two lengths where the furlong shorter trip may not have suited; and the return to this longer distance should see Hugo Palmer's charge in a better light with underfoot conditions likely to prove ideal.
The triple-Oaks runner-up could go well at a big price and she probably wouldn’t need to find too much improvement to figure here, given her close promixity to Seveth Heaven twice already this term, yet she is available at significantly longer odds than Aidan O'Brien's charge.
Queen’s Trust meanwhile finished runner-up to Minding in the Nassau Stakes at Goodwood, prior to running an excellent third behind Seventh Heaven in the Yorkshire Oaks.
Sir Michael Stoute’s Dansili filly is another who is open to improvement, and she likely to give a give account although she probably needs more to be competitive.
Seventh Heaven and Zhukova battle it out at the head of the market, and at first glance this contest looks a match between the pair, with Journey being the only other one to trade at single figure prices.
With Found, Simple Verse and Minding all likely to take on other engagements elsewhere on the card, ARCHITECTURE could be worth an interest at bigger odds as a viable each-way play.
Hugo Palmer’s charge has finished in the runner-up berth in three separate Oaks this term, behind Minding and Seventh Heaven in the Epsom and Irish equivalents; and possibly found the lesser trip just against her at Dusseldorf in the German Oaks.
The Zoffany wasn’t beaten far behind Seventh Heaven in the Oaks Trial at Lingfield, but finished further adrift at the Curragh; nevertheless, at double-digit odds with conditions to suit, it isn’t hard to see her getting competitive in this contest with Zhukova having to step up again in class, and Speedy Boarding potentially finding this race coming plenty soon enough after Chantilly, as well as also stepping up in trip thus requiring to prove her stamina.
She looks worthy of an each-way interest in a race that is perhaps more open than the betting would otherwise suggest.
2016 BRITISH CHAMPIONS FILLIES & MARES SELECTION – ARCHITECTURE