Next up: key quotes as Snowfall bids to bounce back to her best
Saturday: 2.35 Ascot
Qipco British Champions Fillies & Mares Stakes (Group 1) | 1m4f | 3yo+ | ITV/Sky
Just 18 horses have run on Champions Day after competing in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, 12 of those were trained by Aidan O'Brien. The quick turnaround after a tough race on testing ground in France has never put the Ballydoyle trainer off a crack at an Ascot Group 1 and he adopts the same route with Snowfall this year.
That's not to say that the optimistic autumn double has regularly paid off. Just three out of 18 Arc runners have backed up and won at Ascot and two of those victories came courtesy of Magical in 2018 (Fillies & Mares) and 2019 (Champion Stakes).
It takes a bombproof constitution and although Snowfall handled her racing well in the past two years she is yet to prove she boasts the same consistency at the top level as her now-retired stablemate.
The daughter of Deep Impact didn't seem to possess star quality last term but rapidly shot to the top of the three-year-old filly rankings with decisive strikes in the Musidora, Oaks, Irish Oaks and Yorkshire Oaks to begin this season. Although she seemed to breeze home in each of those contests, Snowfall largely faced the same group of inferior rivals.
Nevertheless, on those performances she could be considered a near certainty in what is a weak field for this 1m4f Group 1. The nagging doubt is not just the quick turnaround but the fact she disappointed at 1-5 in the Vermeille in September.
Snowfall has 10lb in hand of her nearest rival Albaflora on official ratings and receives a further 7lb weight-for-age allowance, which makes the task for Ralph Beckett's four-year-old all the more difficult.
However, Albaflora was kept fresh for this race after finishing a gallant four-length second to Snowfall at York in August and is sure to be favoured by the return to Ascot, a track that clearly suits her well.
Her Buckhounds Stakes victory over this course-and-distance in May was a monstrous performance and any cut underfoot will surely help her cause. Tribal Craft, who finished seven lengths adrift at 50-1 that day, reopposes and will need a huge career-best to reverse the form.
The two new fillies on the scene are Eshaada and Invite, who have had just four and six starts respectively and will look to liven up a shaky division. Andrew Balding is yet to uncover Invite's full potential after picking her up from Marco Botti but he was given plenty to work with when she romped home by two lengths at Chester on her yard debut last month.
Race analysis by Tom Collins
Snowfall out to re-establish her dominance
The make-up of this race altered drastically upon declarations on Thursday with previous market leaders Free Wind and La Petite Coco not declared, which seemingly sets the stage for Oaks heroine Snowfall to crown her season in style after being rerouted from the Champion Stakes.
The aura of dominance Snowfall built around herself following a hat-trick of Group 1 victories through the summer has dimmed in the last month following two defeats in France, the most recent when finishing sixth in the Arc 13 days ago.
Before then she won the Oaks, Irish Oaks and Yorkshire Oaks by a combined 28 and a half lengths and trainer Aidan O'Brien is satisfied his star filly is ready to go again as he seeks a third victory in the race.
The Ballydoyle trainer also runs La Joconde, who was only half a length behind Snowfall in the Prix Vermeille, and he said: "Snowfall ran a very good race in the Arc. She hasn't done much since but seems to be in good form. La Joconde seems happier over a mile and a half."
'To get another Group 1 would mean the world to me'
Saturday could be a momentous day for the Egan family as just over an hour before David rides Mishriff in the Champion Stakes, his father John will be aboard Invite against red-hot favourite Snowfall.
It has been 15 years since 53-year-old Egan last won a Group 1 – on Les Arcs in the July Cup – and he is relishing the chance of a return to the big time.
"To get another Group 1 would mean the world to me," he said. "I couldn't imagine anything as important as that right now and hopefully it all works out.
"To have a father and son both riding in Group 1 races on the same day is not something that happens often, if ever. My dad came over to see the both of us, so it will be great and I can't wait for it."
The dream of the pair walking away victorious is far from a fantasy, with Invite gathering plenty of support following a career-best performance in Chester's Listed Stand Cup Stakes on her first start for Andrew Balding last month.
Egan, who rode Invite in each of her last three starts including when fifth in the Italian Oaks, is confident she has what it takes to step up to Group 1 company.
The jockey said: "I'm really looking forward to the ride and we're there with a fighting chance. She ran a great race at Chester last time and she should love the ground, especially if it's more soft than good.
"She's ran some nice races for me and I would draw a line under her run in the Italian Oaks – things just didn't work out that day. Other than that she's been very consistent and I think she's got a good chance.
"I'm sure Aidan wouldn't be bringing Snowfall over if she hadn't come out of the race well and she'll be difficult to beat, but we have a better chance now that Snowfall did run in the Arc than if she hadn't."
What they say
Roger Varian, trainer of Eshaada and Lady Hayes
I'm happy to put a line through Eshaada's Yorkshire Oaks run and that's the only blip in her career. The form of her Ribblesdale second took a boost when Loving Dream won the Royallieu and if she reproduces that form she has every chance of finishing in the first three. Lady Hayes needs to find a few pounds to feature at the finish but ran well in the Lancashire Oaks and the easy ground should be right up her street. She's training well and could outrun her odds.
Rossa Ryan, rider of Albaflora
We have a few lengths to make up but my filly is as good as she can be and she's been aimed for this, so it all comes down to whether Snowfall comes out of her last race or not. It's a strong race but we're as happy as we can be. A shower in the morning would be ideal to keep the ground loose, the slower side of good would be better.
George Boughey, trainer of Mystery Angel
She's been a superstar for us and this will be her last run before she goes to the Mares Sale at Tattersalls. She's a filly who loves to go forward and handles all ground. I think she's a bit underestimated, she's got good form lines and should give a good account of herself.
Oisin Murphy, rider of Tribal Craft
It looks a tough assignment against Snowfall who would probably win this even on her Arc run. She likes cut in the ground, is a stable favourite and has been a star, so everyone wants her to run a big one.
Reporting by Sam Hendry
Next race off:
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