Champion Stakes the target for 'amazing' Magical with O'Brien set to run three
Magical will spearhead what is likely to be a three-pronged Ballydoyle attack on Saturday's Qipco Champion Stakes with Aidan O'Brien convinced that at the age of five she is at her peak.
A winner at this meeting in each of the last two years, Magical heads to Ascot in search of a British Champions Day hat-trick off the back of a hard-fought defeat of Ghaiyyath in the Irish Champion Stakes, with O'Brien stressing that the seven-time Group 1 heroine is always at her best in the autumn.
Ladbrokes cut Magical into 2-1 favourite (from 5-2), replacing Mishriff at the head of the market, after the Champion was confirmed as her target.
O'Brien's five entries in the £750,000 feature also include the four colts who were withdrawn from the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe over fears of contaminated feed, with Japan almost certain to join Magical and Derby hero Serpentine also under strong consideration.
When O'Brien and the Coolmore partners make their final running plans, Grand Prix de Paris winner Mogul is likely to be held in reserve for the Breeders' Cup Turf – now an unlikely target for Love who O'Brien suggested is now finished for the season – while Sovereign will line up over two miles in the Qipco British Champions Long Distance Cup which opens the card on Saturday.
"We were delighted that the lads decided to keep Magical in training this year and we feel that she came forward from last year," said O'Brien. "It's into the autumn that she usually starts to progress and we saw that the last day at Leopardstown. She's in good form and she ran in this race last year and loved it."
Reflecting on Magical's defeat of Ghaiyyath in the Irish Champion, O'Brien added: "It was a great race, they went a nice even pace. She's a very solid filly and tactically she can stand by herself, she doesn't depend on anyone else to help her, she's very happy to plough her own furrow. She's an amazing filly."
While Ascot has always been the aim for Magical, O'Brien admitted that the change of plans forced on him at the eleventh hour with horses destined for the Arc meeting in Paris had presented a series of problems.
"We were really looking forward to Arc weekend, the horses were training really well for it and this had been their target for a long time," said O'Brien. "The likes of Japan had been using those races as a stepping stone to the Arc and it was the first time we really felt we had him really right.
"We think that he's in a good place and probably better than for his runs before. We're looking forward to him running again."
Serpentine remains the enigma among the potential O'Brien runners on Saturday, and while his trainer made positive noises about a drop back to ten furlongs, he also made it clear that the loss of the Arc had forced a difficult set of decisions on everyone concerned
"His prep for the Arc [when fourth in the Grand Prix de Paris] was very good and we felt that he had moved up plenty from it," said O'Brien. "He has to run somewhere shortly, either that or we have to back off him altogether.
"We saw in the Derby he's able to go a real good tempo and keep going. It's back to a mile and a quarter and it's a very competitive mile and a quarter to bring him back into. We think he has plenty of class and usually those mile-and-a-half horses who have class, they're able to cope with it."
O'Brien described Royal Dornoch as "a strong possibility" to join Circus Maximus in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes with a decision yet to be taken about Lancaster House.
Sovereign, Broome and Dawn Patrol are all on course for the Long Distance Cup, while Passion is a likely runner in the Qipco British Champions Fillies & Mares Stakes, possibly to be joined by Laburnum.
Ascot clerk of the course Chris Stickels reported no change in the going by early Tuesday evening after the course received just half a millimetre of rain during the course of the afternoon.
"We're soft, heavy in places and we're due some light rain showers through the night as we've a low pressure system circling just to the north east," said Stickels. "After tomorrow morning I don't see anything more than an occasional shower through to the weekend.
"There's still a lot of moisture in the ground from the meeting we lost the other weekend and I imagine it will be predominantly soft with some heavy ground on the round course."
Qipco Champion Stakes
Ladbrokes: 2 Magical, 5-2 Mishriff, 7 Skalleti, 8 Addeybb, Mogul, 9 Lord North, 12 Japan, Pyledriver, 14 Serpentine 20s bar.
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