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Ten to follow in the QIPCO British Champions Series

25 Apr 2016

Who are going to be its equine stars when the QIPCO British Champion Series starts a fortnight tomorrow? Here are ten likely to make an impact over the months ahead

AIR FORCE BLUE

Age: 3-y-o

Trainer: Aidan O’Brien

Category: Mile

Last season’s champion two-year-old has thrived physically over the winter and his appearances should be something to savour. The War Front colt was not extended to win three group one prizes by an aggregate of more than eight lengths last season, signing off with a sparkling success in the Dubai Dewhurst Stakes. Could start the Series with a bang when he reappears in the QIPCO 2,000 Guineas at Newmarket on April 30, although soft ground would be an unknown.

FOUND

Age: 4-y-o

Trainer: Aidan O’Brien

Category: Middle Distance

Failed to register a win in the Series last year but will surely put that right at some stage this summer. Did not enjoy the rub of the green in a string of big races last year, including when

runner-up in both the Coronation Stakes and QIPCO Champion Stakes. Lowered the colours of Golden Horn in the Breeders’ Cup Turf on her final start and easy to forgive below-par effort in the mud on her return. Versatility regards trip will give connections a stack of options.

JACK HOBBS

Age: 4-y-o

Trainer: John Gosden

Category: Middle Distance

Chased home Golden Horn, his exalted stablemate, in the Derby last summer before going one better in emphatic fashion in the Irish equivalent. Signed off with a creditable third in the Champion Stakes – his jockey had to make plenty of use of him from a wide draw – and appeals as the type who will be more the finished article this time. Should be a potent force in all the top mile and a half races with the King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes a principal target.

LA RIOJA

Age: 3-y-o

Trainer: Henry Candy

Category: Sprint

The daughter of Hellvelyn, who won the Coventry in 2006, confirmed the promise of her debut at Lingfield with runaway wins on contrasting ground over 6f at Newbury and Salisbury. La Rioja impressed with her high cruising speed on both occasions and Henry Candy was going to supplement her for the Cheveley Park Stakes, only to have a rethink when she began to lose her coat. The Commonwealth Cup at Royal Ascot, for which she is 14-1, is an obvious target.

LEGATISSIMO

Age: 4-y-o

Trainer: David Wachman

Category: Fillies & Mares/Middle Distance

One of the stars of the Series last year when, in addition to winning the QIPCO 1,000 Guineas and Qatar Nassau Stakes, she was beaten a short head in the Investec Oaks. Also, she won the Matron Stakes at Leopardstown and went close in two other races at the highest level. Given her consistency and versatility, it will be a big surprise if she does not add to her tally at least once or twice before mid-October.

MAGICAL MEMORY

Age: 4-y-o

Trainer: Charlie Hills

Category: Sprint

Can the grey pick up the baton from former stablemate Muhaarar, who was retired to stud as champion sprinter at the end of last year? The signs are promising, even if the gelded Magical Memory is never going to be visiting the breeding sheds. The grey thrived last year, winning the Stewards’ Cup and signing off with a close third to Twilight Son in the Sprint Cup. A fluent win in the Abernant Stakes on his return yesterday indicates he has not stood still in the interim.

ORDER OF ST GEORGE

Age: 4-y-o

Trainer: Aidan O’Brien

Category: Long Distance

It was a decade ago that Yeats reeled off the first of his four successive Gold Cup triumphs for Aidan O’Brien. Does the trainer have another horse who could dominate the staying division for years to come in Order Of St George? The Galileo colt looked in a league of his own when powering to an 11-length victory in the Irish St Leger at the Curragh in September and, if he stays the extra six furlongs at Royal Ascot, is going to be a tough nut to crack.

POSTPONED

Age: 5-y-o

Trainer: Roger Varian

Category: Middle Distance

The progeny of Dubawi usually improve with age and Postponed is no exception. The highlight of his three-year-old campaign was his polished success in the Great Voltigeur; then last year he edged home in the King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes before following up in the Prix Foy. This spring he has looked better than ever, especially when landing the Sheema Classic without turning a hair in Dubai. Copes with bad ground but clearly well served by better conditions.

SIMPLE VERSE

Age: 4-y-o

Trainer: Ralph Beckett

Category: Fillies & Mares/Middle Distance/Long Distance

Beaten off a mark of 77 in a handicap at Goodwood in May, Simple Verse went on to become one of the surprise packages of last year’s Series. Subsequent wins at Salisbury and Goodwood earned her a crack at the St Leger and she dug deep to fend off Bondi Beach, albeit needing a bit of help to hang on to the spoils. Followed that with a similarly game success in the QIPCO British Champion Fillies & Mares at Ascot. Plenty of options and could still be more to come.

SOLOW

Age: 6-y-o

Trainer: Freddy Head

Category: Mile

The grey established himself as the world’s best miler last season when his flawless campaign included victory in three QIPCO British Champions Series races – the Queen Anne Stakes, Qatar Sussex Stakes and QIPCO-sponsored Queen Elizabeth II Stakes. Those three races are again on his agenda. Extended his winning sequence to ten with the minimum of fuss on his return at Chantilly and a subsequent minor setback is unlikely to keep him away long.