GBI RACING

Hydrangea in frame to defend Champions Day crown

Hydrangea on her way to winning the Qipco British Champions Fillies & Mares Stakes at Ascot last year

Hydrangea could attempt to land back-to-back victories in the Qipco British Champions Fillies & Mares Stakes at Ascot on October 20.

It was her success that saw trainer Aidan O’Brien equal the previous world-best record of Bobby Frankel for 25 Group or Grade One winners last year before going on to beat it.

“It was a special occasion when Hydrangea won last year and equalled the record. It’s very much possible that she could be back to try and win the British Champions Fillies & Mares Stakes again,” said O’Brien.

Bateel, runner-up in 2017, is being aimed at the race again by her trainer Francis Graffard.

“Bateel will definitely be aimed at the Qipco British Champions Fillies & Mares once again as it’s a race that really suits her,” said Graffard.

“She ran a fantastic race last year to be second, so we’ll enter her again and it’s definitely a big part of her autumn programme. She’ll run in the Prix Jean Romanet next, and then depending on the result we might go to the Prix Vermeille again or take a chance in the Arc before coming back to Ascot.”

Graffard’s fellow French trainer Alain de Royer-Dupre has made an entry for the lightly-raced Shahnaza, who was last seen in the Prix de Diane.

“The British Champion Fillies & Mares is a possibility for Shahnaza as she is a very good filly,” he said.

“She was hurt in the Prix de Diane but we are trying to get her back for the end of the year and this could be an interesting option.”

Three-year-olds have won four of the seven renewals of this race and one of the best of the current Classic crop is Laurens.

She lifted the French Oaks on her latest start and her trainer Karl Burke could point her to Ascot after she takes in the Darley Yorkshire Oaks at York later this month.

“She had a good, proper three weeks off and ended up putting on 22 kilos but you really wouldn’t know it because she is such a strong filly and the weight went on all over,” said Burke.

“We’ve had some time to start getting the weight back off now and she is only about five to six kilos above her racing weight so with another couple of pieces of work we should be right there.

“I don’t think she will have a problem with a mile and a half at York and if that’s the case then the British Champion Fillies & Mares Stakes will certainly be a race we look at very carefully.

“The Arc is another race she has an entry for and although they are a little close together, running in both wouldn’t be an impossibility. The Champion Stakes might come into consideration, for which she has also been given an entry.

“She looks in fantastic shape at present and hopefully the break she has had since Chantilly will help her continue to progress until the end of the season.

“At the moment we’re focused on getting her to the Yorkshire Oaks and after that, we can work out what the best route to take might be.”

Other top-class fillies in the 53-strong entry include Enable, Sea Of Class, Forever Together and Wild Illusion.

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