Queen Elizabeth II Stakes: Paddington favourite for more Ascot glory
Aidan O’Brien’s Paddington is the clear favourite in Coral’s Queen Elizabeth II Stakes betting odds to make a triumphant return to Ascot on British Champions Day 2023.
The three-year-old has enjoyed an immense run of form through the season, winning a string of races that carried him from a Naas handicap to a Group One four-timer that included the Irish 2,000 Guineas, the St James’s Palace, the Coral-Eclipse and the Sussex Stakes.
His sole defeat of the season, and only the second loss of his career, came at York in the Juddmonte International as he came home third behind Mostahdaf and Nashwa.
That was in August and the Siyouni colt has not been seen on course since, meaning he will arrive at Ascot a fresh horse and he is 13/8 to regain the winning thread.
“Obviously he’s had a very busy year and it was nice for him to get a little bit of time after his last run,” O’Brien told Sky Sports Racing.
“Everything has been really good with him and everyone seems very happy with him. We were very happy with his run at York, it was a great run. Frankie (Dettori, on Mostahdaf) went a very strong gallop out in front, Ryan (Moore) just let our horse relax and he came home very well but just didn’t catch him.
“It’s a very strong, competitive race, which is what you would expect and want.”
John and Thady Gosden’s Nashwa swerved the Champion Stakes to drop back to a mile after her fine effort on the Knavesmire and is third in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes betting odds at 4/1.
The Frankel filly has form over both trips having won the Falmouth Stakes in July and arrives at Ascot off the back of two valiant runs in defeat in both the Juddmonte International and the Irish Champion Stakes.
She will be ridden as ever by owner Imad Al Sagar’s retained jockey Hollie Doyle, who said: “It really hasn’t mattered to me which race they chose.
“Nashwa seems just as good at a mile as a mile and a quarter, so the trip doesn’t seem to be an issue, and she goes on any ground. She’d have had a right shout in either of them.
“She’s been great lately when placed against the colts in the Juddmonte International and the Irish Champion Stakes, and those two runs have been close to her career best.
“Physically she does well year in, year out, and she’s really stepped forward again this year. The figures say she’s improved significantly again, which is mad, so I’m delighted she’s staying in training.”
Ground permitting, Dermot Weld hopes to saddle the Aga Khan’s brilliant filly Tahiyra, whose season has so far involved victories in the Irish 1,000 Guineas, the Coronation Stakes and the Matron Stakes.
There are also a pair of French-trained contenders in Christopher Head’s Big Rock and Jerome Reynier’s Facteur Cheval.
The latter was beaten just a head in the Prix d’Ispahan in May and then gave Paddington a race to finish second behind him when carrying 7lb more on soft ground in the Sussex at Goodwood.
Such conditions are no hindrance to the horse and Reynier is looking forward to seeing his gelding take his chance against a quality field.
“All lights are green, the only question mark is the straight course as he’s never been racing on one, but he handles the soft ground,” he said.
“He was racing against Paddington in the Sussex and he was carrying much more weight that day, it’s always been the plan to angle the season around this race.
“We are happy, he is very consistent and he is a lovely horse. We can only hope for the best, it is a very competitive race and it’s very exciting to have a runner in what is probably the best race of the year.
“We don’t mind any ground with him, he is such a consistent individual and we are happy with the conditions.
“Paddington has had a bit of a rest and is nice and fresh, him and Big Rock are two horses that are ridden prominently so if we can keep up and follow them, that would be a good thing.”
Big Rock has been popular with punters this week and has been cut from 12/1 to 13/2 as he prepares to make his first start outside of France.
The colt racked up a four-race winning streak earlier in the year that carried him from an all-weather handicap to victory in the Group Three Prix de Guiche.
That run then paved the way to the Group One Prix du Jockey Club, where he was beaten three and half lengths behind Ace Impact.
Two more second-placed runs followed as Big Rock dropped back to a mile, finishing behind Inspiral in the Prix Jacques le Marois and Sauterne in the Prix du Moulin.
Coral’s David Stevens said: “Big Rock has proven form on soft ground, and has gone close to landing a first Group One on his three most recent starts, so it’s perhaps not surprising the French runner has attracted support for what looks a top class QE II.”
Andrew Balding is represented by Chaldean, the 2000 Guineas winner who was then second behind Paddington at the Royal meeting.
The chestnut’s next outing was a beaten effort in the Prix Jean Prat, where he was seventh, but that was in early July so the horse has had a good break since.
Barry Mahon, of owners Juddmonte, said: “His work is very good and Andrew and the team are very happy with him.
“In fairness to Oisin (Murphy, replaced by Frankie Dettori), he’s been a great help the last few weeks riding him in his work and everyone seems very happy with the horse.
“In terms of the ground, we know we handle soft ground, whether we handle heavy ground or not will be another question, but he’s in very good form, he’s had a good break and his form from earlier in the year is up there with the best of them.
“It’s a top-class race, as you’d expect on Champions Day, and any of one of them would be plausible winners.”
Ralph Beckett will saddle Angel Bleu after a supplementary entry for a final run before his racing career comes to a close and he heads off to stand as a stallion in France.
Beckett said: “It’s going to be tough, but he’s in very good form and when the ground became soft we made the decision to supplement. The ground will even everything up as he is a proven soft-ground performer, unlike some of the others.
“This will be his last race as he is off to stud at the French operation of his new part owner Nurlan Bizakov.”
Tom Clover’s Rogue Millennium, winner of the Duke of Cambridge at the Royal fixture, William Knight’s Checkandchallenge, Kevin Ryan’s Hi Royal and the Gosdens’ Epictetus complete the 11-strong field.
Queen Elizabeth II Stakes betting odds
13/2 Big Rock
12/1 Facteur Cheval
20/1 Angel Bleu
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All odds and markets correct as of date of publication