Magical's place at the the head of the market for the Qipco Champion Stakes was assured after her defeat of an improved and more consistent Ghaiyyath in the Irish equivalent of this race at Leopardstown last month. 

There was no fluke about that result, with Aidan O'Brien's mare keeping close tabs on Charlie Appleby's frontrunner off a strong pace, before eyeballing him just after the turn for home and ultimately prevailing by three-quarters of a length. 

Ghaiyyath had the sound surface he thrives on that day, but he may not have been quite fresh enough to deliver his absolute best.

Supporters of Magical could make a plausible argument that she may not have been cherry-ripe for her assignment in the Juddmonte International at York in August and that Ryan Moore was a shade premature in his attempt to close ground on Ghaiyyath on the Knavemire. 

The now seven-time Group One winner claimed this race 12 months ago on the back of a fifth-place finish behind Waldgeist in the Arc, where she appeared to do too much, too soon, over a trip that's probably further than ideal. 

A 35-day break since Leopardstown means she should arrive here at the peak of her powers, with no concerns over the soft going or her ability to handle the track. 

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The unfortunate feed incident which ruled the Ballydoyle runners out of the Arc in Paris a fortnight ago, allied to Enable's underwhelming performance in the race, may mean trainer John Gosden regrets not running Mishriff in Europe's premier middle distance contest. 

No Prix du Jockey Club winner has triumphed in Paris on the first Sunday in October since the distance of that race was shortened from 12 furlongs to 10 and a half furlongs in 2005, but Mishriff looked like he might be able to end that drought. 

There may have been stamina doubts in his pedigree, but he wasn't stopping at the end of his French Derby win at Chantilly, where he raced quite prominently and clocked a good time. 

His action may be scratchy and inelegant, but it's one that serves him well on soft ground, as evidenced by his win in a Group Two when he was last seen at Deauville in August.

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It's difficult to dispute Magical's or Mishriff's places at the head of the market, or their current prices. However, the odds of those behind them may be a little skewed at present. 

Lord North is a clear third favourite, with Addeybb fourth in the betting with most firms. 

Skalleti, Japan, Serpentine and Pyledriver occupy the next places in the market, but may hold better chances at the prices. 

The field is rounded off by Extra Elusive, Desert Encounter and San Donato, with Extra Elusive looking the best of the no-hopers. 

Lord North has proven remarkably progressive this year, but holes can be picked in his sole Group One win in the Prince of Wales's Stakes at Royal Ascot. 

The time he recorded in victory was poor for the grade and he may have been flattered to finish within five lengths of Ghaiyyath at York after sitting off a strong pace. 

If Lord North was an emphatic winner of a weak Prince of Wales's Stakes, it doesn't say much for the chances of Addeybb. 

This slower ground will be in his favour and he's been trained with this race in mind, but last year's runner-up faces a far deeper field this time around. 

Pyledriver failed to stay the St Leger trip when third behind Galileo Chrome after pulling too hard. Cutting back in distance looks a smart move, but whether dropping back a full four furlongs is ideal is another matter. 

Trainer Willie Muir will be relying on a strong pace to drag his son of Harbour Watch into the equation, but his best chance of scoring at the top level may come when he returns to 12 furlongs. 

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Japan is something of an imponderable here. His third to a spot-on Ghaiyyath in the Eclipse reads well and he'd be a danger if returning to that form. 

He came back sore after his lifeless run behind Enable in the King George in July and it would be wise not to read too much into his fifth-place finish behind stablemate Magical at Leopardstown. 

Aidan O'Brien wouldn't be known for having his horse fully fit after returning to the track from a setback. Japan's comeback felt like a prep for bigger targets to come. That target should have been the Arc, but for the contaminated feed controversy. 

The booking of Ryan Moore at Lepoardstown caught the eye, but so did the performance. Japan ran a great race until the final furlong, when it was clear his chance of winning was gone, at which point Moore seemed at pains to mind his mount. 

Stablemate and Derby winner Serpentine lines up on the back of just five career starts. 

His 25-1 shock win at Epsom was crabbed by some, who believed Emmet McNamara's rivals were guilty of allowing him too much leeway under his bold frontrunning tactics. 

Sectional times suggest that Serpentine was the best horse in the race on the day, but that the field would have reduced the gap to the winner by a greater margin with more aggressive rides. 

Absent since Epsom and aimed at the Arc, his comeback in the Grand Prix de Paris at Longchamp was highly encouraging. The son of Galileo stuck too closely to a hot early pace and fared best of those to race prominently in finishing fourth. 

In Swoop and Gold Trip finished ahead of him that day and went on to finish second and fourth in the Arc, but with a long absence to overcome, and knowing Aidan O'Brien's modus operandi with such horses, you can argue that he was the one to take from the race. 

Will Serpentine handle this slower ground? If you rely solely on his race record, the answer is a resounding 'no'. 

He finished 10th of 11 on his racecourse debut last September at Galway on his only outing on a testing surface, but basing an assessment of his going preference based on that run looks fraught with danger. 

Serpentine was going nowhere after a couple of furlongs and was hopelessly green on his first day at school, like the kid cowering in the corner of the classroom, waiting for mum to end an unfamiliar experience. 

He remained a slow learner when he returned in a Curragh maiden in June, finishing fifth in a race where he should have done better, after racing towards the head of affairs in a slowly run race. 

Serpentine then blossomed weeks later and looked a different animal, so it may just have been cluelessness and a lack of fitness that led to that uninspiring opening effort at Galway, and not the state of the terrain.  

His knee action and pedigree also point to a colt who should act on slower ground. 

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French raider Skalleti arrives as a winning machine, yet something of a dark horse, as his successes have come at a lower level.

Jerome Reynier's representative has won 12 of his 15 lifetime starts, but is stepping up to Group One company for the first time at the age of five. 

The ground can't be testing enough for the son of Kendargent and heavy ground would have been preferable to the soft surface that is likely to prevail. 

Finishing third to Persian King off an early dawdle on his second run of the year at Saint-Cloud was better than it looked. 

He followed that up with a narrow win over Sottsass at Deauville, but it was a little disappointing that he couldn't win with more authority in receipts of 6lbs. 

He wouldn't have been fully fit that day, but that's a comment that also applies to the runner-up. 

However, the defence of his Prix Dollar title on Arc weekend offers plenty of hope that he can mix it in this exalted company. 

Despite suffering major interference in the closing stages and having his progress checked and momentum almost halted, he won in impressive style. That takes some doing, particularly in testing conditions. 

His hold-up style muddies the waters further in terms of establishing the ceiling of his ability. Skalleti only ever does enough. That could aid him in a race where a number of the leading protagonists will likely race in the front rank.

The grey has been afforded plenty of time between his races and this marks a quick return to the track for him, but turning up at Ascot is no afterthought for connections. It's been a year in the planning. 

There may still be stamina doubt over Skalleti, despite all those wins over 10 furlongs. 

His forte appears to be his ability to deliver a potent turn of foot in races run at a steady gallop, and a brisk early tempo might blunt that finishing effort. 

Mixed messaged can also be gleaned from his pedigree, with one brother a miler and the other one that stayed 12 furlongs. If he can show as much stamina as Skazino, he will outrun his odds, but if he is more in the mould of Skalleto, his trainer may regret not taking a tilt at a QEII that lacks strength in depth. 

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Choosing between Serpentine at 16-1 and Skalleti at 11-1 as each-way alternatives to the market principals isn't easy, and you can argue a case for backing both, particularly with four places being paid by one firm. But it's Skalleti's run style, as much as his talent, that makes him the selection if you're only aiming one bullet at this particular target. 

The Group One Queen Elizabeth II Stakes is the highlight on the undercard on British Champions Day, with odds-on favourite Palace Pier bidding to extend his unblemished record to six races. 

He's obviously the one to beat and his St James's Palace Stakes win over Pinatubo was impressive. His most recent victory in the Jacques le Marois needs to be treated with a little more caution. The son of Kingman benefitted from a masterful ride from Frankie Dettori at Deauville, with the veteran rider happy to bide his time at the rear as his rivals set an unsustainable pace in the first half of the mile contest. 

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While Dettori's mount can justify his place at the head of the market, The Revenant's position as clear second favourite is open to more scrutiny. 

Francis Graffard's French raider has conditions in his favour, just as he did last year when second in the race to King Of Change. 

He arrived at Ascot last year in scintillating form after a bloodless victory in the Prix Daniel Wildentein, which was his fourth win on the trot. 

The five-year-old only made his seasonal reappearance this term at Longchamp on Arc weekend, again capturing the Prix Daniel Wildentein, but he didn't score with the same elan as he displayed in 2019, while his rivals looked like lesser foes than those he faced a year earlier. 

He'll strip fitter for that outing, but he'll need to find considerable improvement to score a first Group One success. 

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Throw out an awful effort from Circus Maximus in the Prix du Moulin last time out, and he enters the picture, while Nazeef, Lord Glitters and Veracious all appeal as better value than the second favourite. 

There's one other runner that seems overlooked by the market. That horse is Century Dream, who could only finish seventh in last year's edition.  

However, that effort came on the back of a 203-day break. Seventh was a good showing, given his lack of match fitness. He was also beaten by less than a length by Roaring Lion in this race in 2018 and has enjoyed another good campaign. 

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Century Dream's optimum trip is a mile and he does prefer a little give underfoot. The nine-furlong trip of the Prix d'Ispahan at Chantilly in July stretched his stamina a little too far and he could finish no better than fifth. But he's won two of his three outings over his ideal distance in 2020 and that fifth-place finish at Leopardstown on Irish Champions weekend isn't as bad as it looks. 

Century Dream and main market rival Lancaster House overdid things as they duelled it out up front, with those exertions telling in the closing stages. While Lancaster House trailed in more than 22 lengths behind Safe Voyage in last place, Century Dream was beaten less than seven lengths on drying ground. 

There's nothing sexy about Century Dream's profile. He's a thoroughly exposed six-year-old and unlikely to win a Group One at this stage of his career. But he's also overpriced at 20-1 in a race where a number of firms are paying four places on each-way bets.