Queen Elizabeth II Stakes (Group 1) | 1m (Str) | 3yo+ | ITV/SKY
Confidence growing in Magna Grecia
Some 51 weeks ago Magna Grecia looked to have the world at his feet after landing a first Group 1 success in the Vertem Futurity Stakes at Doncaster.
It would seem strange to say that a horse who has subsequently landed the Qipco 2,000 Guineas has endured anything other than a fruitful season, but after suffering an injury when attempting to double up at the Curragh, Magna Grecia has been forced to sit out the summer.
A potential comeback over Irish Champions Weekend was shelved but Aidan O'Brien has been making extremely positive noises about his Classic miler this week ahead of a race he has won four times.
"We are all very happy with Magna Grecia," said O'Brien on Friday. "He pulled his hamstring in the Irish Guineas at the Curragh and it has taken a long time for that to settle down.
"He has been in work for quite a while, though, and everything seems very good with him now. It has all settled down and he seems to be in very good form."
The Revenant out to maintain French run
Since the inception of British Champions Day in 2011 – and the switching of this race to the straight course – French-trained horses have a fine record in the QEII.
Charm Spirit (2014) and Solow (2015) were both victorious while Immortal Verse was third behind Frankel in 2011.
Francis Graffard has been patient in his campaigning of The Revenant, who will be trying Group 1 company for the first time, but arrives in search of a seven-timer.
Kept fresh for the autumn, The Revenant overcame a three-month absence to surge past Olmedo and Shaman a fortnight ago in very soft conditions, a performance that helped persuade many punters he was the one to side with when the rains came earlier in the week.
Graffard said: "He travelled over safely and arrived around midday Friday at Ascot. I'm very pleased with him and he's ready to go. He is very good when the ground gets deep but he won on good at Baden Baden."
Ground a concern for classy Benbatl
Benbatl had been out of action for almost a year since chasing home Winx in the mighty mare's swansong Cox Plate when making his reappearance at Newmarket last month, but any expected rust was quickly shaken off as he surged five lengths clear of the smart King Of Comedy.
A triple Group 1 winner, Benbatl is clear of his rivals on Racing Post Ratings, although he has been easy to back this week as doubts rose over his adaptability to testing ground.
"Benbatl won nicely at Newmarket on his latest start and has done well since," said Saeed bin Suroor. "I have been pleased with his work but we know that he doesn't like heavy ground – he ran on it once at Haydock and didn’t enjoy it at all. We have declared him and will check the ground at Ascot on Saturday."
O'Meara hopeful about Queen Anne hero
The five Group 1s open to older horses at or around a mile in Europe run so far this season have produced as many different winners.
Lord Glitters is the only one of those five to line up here and does so over the same course and distance as when edging the verdict over Beat The Bank and One Master in the Queen Anne.
Trainer David O'Meara is not overly concerned by the heavy conditions for his arch hold-up artist.
"He runs well there and he's in good form," said O'Meara. "I don’t really have any concerns about the ground. He goes on anything."
Don't neglect the outsiders
Since 2013 there have been several big-priced horses filling the frame at 66-1, 33-1 (twice), 25-1 and 14-1 (twice). Last year's surprise package was Century Dream, who was beaten only three-quarters of a length by Roaring Lion. He returns for his first start since the Dubai Turf in March.
What the others say
Richard Hannon, trainer of King Of Change
He's plenty fit enough and in great form. Since his very good second in the Guineas, we have deliberately given him a break and prepared him for the autumn. There was nothing flukey about his run in the Guineas. He's the sort of horse that might like soft ground. He's big, strong and I think he will deal with that no problem.
John Gosden, trainer of King Of Comedy
Like many in the race, he's unproven on the heavy ground, which I can't remember it being on the straight track for this meeting for many years. He ran into multiple Group 1 winner Benbatl in the Joel Stakes last time when finishing a good second and has trained well since.
William Haggas, trainer of Move Swiftly
When you win a Group 2 in June it's quite hard. You've got to wait for Group 1s and she loves soft ground. We ran her at Deauville when it was way too firm for her, so we basically came to the view that it should rain for Ascot – and it has. But it's a very strong race, she’s got a lot to find. She’ll have run a career best if she's placed.
John Quinn, trainer of Safe Voyage
He’s been wonderful this year. He ran well in France and he deserves his chance, albeit it’s a spicy race. He’s in very good form and he’ll go on the ground. My first plan for him this year was the Lincoln off about 14lb lower than he is now. But the ground was quick and he didn’t go. It would have been interesting to see him off 99 given where he is now. One would hope he’ll stay as in all his races he’s run through the line.
Eve Johnson Houghton, trainer of Accidental Agent
He had a minor adjustment to his soft palate in August. He's in great form and I'm really pleased with him. He loves Ascot and he likes soft ground. I wouldn’t know about heavy but then what does go on it? I'm expecting him to run a real big race. If he's back to his best, he’s in there with a shout.
Marcus Tregoning, trainer of Mohaather
He's been going well and I don't think the ground will be an issue. It's a test of stamina to the full, but he goes there a fresh horse in good form, fit and ready to go. We're hopeful he’ll run a big race. He's always looked like he'd stay and he was running in Group company over seven furlongs as a two-year-old and again this spring. He always looked like he was doing his best work at the end and the family do get a mile.
Andrew Balding, trainer of Happy Power
He will love the ground – that’s a big plus. This race has always been the plan. He’s at big odds, but is a very capable horse on his day, and goes there with place prospects.
Chris Richardson, racing manager to Cheveley Park, owners of Veracious
She'd been off a while and ran well in the Sun Chariot. Sir Michael [Stoute] feels she is in very good form and she’s grown up mentally and physically. She remains in training next year and while the ground won’t be ideal for her, it won’t be for plenty of them. She's in good form and has come out her last race well.
Jamie Osborne, trainer of Raising Sand
We took a view that he wasn't going to win a Balmoral off 109. We're probably not going to win a QEII but he's got all the circumstances in his favour. He's got horribly heavy ground on his favourite track. What we're hoping is that a lot of these horses underperform because of the ground and, if they do so, it would be nice to think we could pick up some prize money.