By Billy Nickson/Qipco British Champions Day
France: Skalleti and The Revenant, the French-trained geldings who both scored over the Arc weekend at ParisLongchamp, will head to Britain with high hopes on Qipco British Champions Day at Ascot on Saturday.
The prolific pair, who between them have won 21 of their 27 races, will travel over together on Friday and are to be ridden by two-time French champion jockey Pierre-Charles Boudot.
Unable to run in the Arc owing to being gelded, Skalleti made it 12 wins from 15 starts to complete back-to-back successes in the G2 Prix Dollar. The five-year-old grey lines up for the Qipco Champion Stakes, while Prix Daniel Wildenstein victor The Revenant bids to go one better than last year’s runner-up effort in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes.
They will seek to add to the four triumphs that French-trained runners have previously enjoyed on British Champions Day: two in the Champion Stakes (Cirrus Des Aigles in 2011 and Almanzor in 2016), plus two in the QEII (Charm Spirit, 2014, and Solow, 2015).
Shall we talk about it?
Skalleti – Jerome Reynier (trainer): “I really like my horses to travel and it’s a dream to have a runner at a big event like Qipco British Champions Day. Although he’s never been abroad before, he’s used to travel as every time he goes from Marseille to Deauville it’s a ten-hour trip each way. And from Chantilly to Ascot is not very far.
“I don’t think the course will be a problem for him as he travels nicely during a race and is pretty easy. He is a very genuine horse and a big fighter. I don’t think I’ve ever had him in better shape, mentally or physically.
“He has been in pretty good shape since he won the Prix Dollar and he has remained in Chantilly. I will see him again when he does his last canter on Wednesday morning and then he will be ready to go. He won the Dollar pretty easily – in the space of half a furlong it was done because he showed such a good turn of foot.
“Mentally he can be a bit hot. We used to use earplugs on him and having no crowd and a quiet environment has been very helpful for him this year. The weather forecast is not with us and the ground may not be soft enough for him. If there was more rain I would be much more confident.
“He is not just a heavy ground horse, but it slows the others down and he handles it very well. He has now won three Group 2s and there are not many Group 1 opportunities for geldings like him so it’s time to try.
“This year he has been competing with the likes of Persian King and beating Sottsass, which shows that he is up to Group 1 standard. His owner [Jean-Claude Seroul] has never won a Group 1 and I really hope to give that gift to him.”
The Revenant – Francis-Henri Graffard (trainer): “He has had no physical issues since last year. I had him ready to run at the beginning of the season, then lockdown came and since we had no idea how long it would last and feared that it would force him to run on summer ground that he does not like, we decided to turn him out and wait until the autumn. He came back in July to allow us to get him ready for this race and the Wildenstein.
“The Revenant has come out of his Prix Daniel Wildenstein victory very well. He needed the race badly, so he will come on a lot.
“The softer the ground the better for him. Last year it was very soft which helped us. It would be great if he runs a similar race and, with humility, I see Palace Pier as the one to beat, and if we were placed again it would be a very good performance.
“It’s been a very good season for us already, with three Group 1 wins, and I have already had to miss one of them, when In Swoop won the German Derby, which I watched on the phone.
“I’m not quite sure where I will be on Saturday, so I may end up watching on my phone again. Victory in a big race like the QEII, especially one in England, is very important for the whole team. We are just hoping for a good run and to be competitive.”
• For more information, visit the British Champions Day website