Trainer Corine Barande-Barbe is quietly confident as her French superstar Cirrus Des Aigles bids to regain his crown in the Qipco Champion Stakes at Ascot.

It is three years since the popular gelding caused a minor upset in the prestigious mile-and-a-quarter event, beating a strong field that included So You Think, Snow Fairy and Midday to clinch his first success at the top level.

Any notion that surprise triumph may have been a flash in the pan has been completely blown out of the water since, however, with Cirrus Des Aigles adding a further five Group One victories to his CV, as well as filling the runner-up spot in the last two renewals of the Champion Stakes behind Frankel and Farhh.

Despite his advancing years, this has arguably been the veteran's finest campaign yet, passing the post in front on each of his four starts in Europe, albeit losing out on a fourth win in last month's Prix Dollar at Longchamp after being demoted by the stewards.

That fine display showed the injury he suffered when winning the Coronation Cup at Epsom in June has caused no lasting damage and he will surely bring the house down in Berkshire if he can come up with the goods once more on Saturday.

Barande-Barbe said: "Everything is perfect. The horse is looking very good and we are very much looking forward to the race.

"He is the favourite and we have big hopes he can win, of course, but the race is never won until after it is run.

"The ground will be soft, but that should not be a problem - he knows how to swim!

"It is very exciting to be going back to Ascot and I am just concentrating on my own horse instead of looking at the opponents.

"I know Frankel's brother, Noble Mission, is running. We could not beat Frankel, so hopefully we can beat his brother."

As a full-sibling of a horse widely regarded as one of the greatest Flat performers of all time, Noble Mission has had plenty to live up to from the start and for a couple of years he appeared intent on playing the role of the naughty younger brother.

While his talent has never been questioned, he often failed to display the same application as his esteemed former stable companion, but that has changed in 2014.

This year he has proved beyond doubt he belongs at the top level, claiming a couple of Group One successes to secure himself a place alongside Frankel at owner Khalid Abdullah's Juddmonte Farms.

He has not been seen since being narrowly denied in a top-level assignment in Germany in July, but has conditions to suit this weekend and trainer Jane Cecil is excited to find out whether he can emulate his brother with victory on Saturday.

Cecil said: "He's been a real flag bearer since we decided to use more forcing tactics. It's turned him around and he's just enjoying it.

"He gave a couple of his races away the year before by starting slowly so we wanted to be more forceful out of the gate.

"We took him and Retirement Plan to Great Leighs, we wanted something to lead Retirement Plan, and Noble led and you could just see the way he went round there with his ears pricked, he just loved it.

"Prince Khalid has been marvellous, they could have retired Noble Mission last year.

"We had faith in him, but it was very good of them to let us go on. He is Frankel's full brother after all.

"We know that he likes soft ground and given the trip and the ground, this was the obvious race for him. We hadn't originally intended to give him such a long break but he has done well for it.

"You hardly dare dream, but so far we've got the ground, and he's in great form. He's had a long break, he's done well with it, we couldn't be happier with him.

"Just to have a runner on Champions Day is wonderful but to have a horse in with a chance is a privilege and not something to be taken lightly."

With dual Derby hero Australia a significant absentee from Saturday's race after being forced into retirement by injury, the big Irish hope in the line-up is Dermot Weld's hugely-exciting colt Free Eagle.

Connections insisted he was not seen at his best when beaten at odds-on by Australia in the latter part of his juvenile campaign and he made a sparkling three-year-old debut in last month's Group Three Enterprise Stakes at Leopardstown.

His inexperience is the obvious concern ahead of his debut at the top level, but Weld has no doubt he has the ability to make his presence felt.

He said: "Free Eagle is very well, in really good form.

"I am not concerned about the quality of my horse, I am convinced that he is up to this class."

Big-race jockey Pat Smullen said: "He's in good form and everyone is very happy with him at home.

"The ground is a bit of an unknown, obviously, and it's a big step up in class for him, but he's a horse we've always held in very high regard."

In Australia's absence, Aidan O'Brien relies on last year's Derby hero Ruler Of The World, who was a close third in this race 12 months ago.

He is turned out just after a fortnight after finishing ninth in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe and connections are anticipating a bold show.

Harry Herbert, racing manager for part owners Al Shaqab Racing, said: "He's been very lightly raced this year and Aidan certainly wouldn't be running him if he wasn't happy with how he'd come out of the Arc.

"The ground was a little bit lively for him in Paris, but he ran very well in this race last year and he has his favoured ground, so I think it's the right spot for him.

"Cirrus Des Aigles is always a tough nut to crack, particularly on this ground, but our horse was close to him last year and is a year older and a year stronger now.

"Hopefully he'll run a big race."

The Richard Hannon-trained Pether's Moon has won a couple of Pattern events over a mile and a half this autumn, prompting connections to supplement him for this event, with ground conditions in his favour.

"Pether's Moon is very well, otherwise we wouldn't have supplemented him. It is a logical step for him and he deserves a crack at that monumental prize money," said Hannon.

"He is very versatile ground-wise and he has plenty of speed so the drop back in trip should not be a problem.

"He is the type of horse who pulls himself up when he gets to the front, but I will be happy enough is he gets to the front in the Champion Stakes."

David Simcock's Sheikhzayedroad completed a hat-trick with a Grade One win in Canada last month and jockey Martin Lane believes he has a live chance.

"He's done an awful lot of improving since Dubai last winter. He's become a lot more rideable, which is where the improvement is coming from," Lane told At The Races.

"He won really well in Canada and he's going there with a great shout."

John Gosden's Western Hymn, the Roger Charlton-trained Al Kazeem and Roger Varian's outsider Ayrad complete the nine-strong field.