Roaring Lion and Cracksman are set to go head to head in next Saturday's Group 1 Qipco Champion Stakes at Ascot, with the latter set to bring the curtain down on his career "whatever the ground".
Trainer John Gosden is in the healthy position of having three favourites for Champions Day, with how he fares likely to determine whether he is crowned champion trainer for the third time. He leads nearest rival Aidan O’Brien by over £900,000 going into racing on Friday.
As well as his high-profile pair in the Champion Stakes, Gosden has star stayer Stradivarius, who is 4-5 for the Group 1 Qipco Long Distance Cup, and St Leger runner-up Lah Ti Dar, who is 7-4 market leader for the Group 1 Qipco British Champions Fillies & Mares Stakes.
Roaring Lion will bid to notch a fourth Group 1 in the Champion Stakes – run over 1m2f – and is 7-4 joint-favourite with last year's winner Cracksman.
Roaring Lion had been under consideration for the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes over a mile, but Gosden said: "Unless it comes up soft to heavy, Roaring Lion will run in the Champion Stakes where he will meet Cracksman for the first time. It will be difficult to split them although the three-year-old will be getting the weight allowance.
"Roaring Lion has improved so dramatically this year. He won despite having an impossible task from out wide at Leopardstown last time [in the Irish Champion Stakes]. I've never had a horse that has the constitution he has and he's just got bigger and stronger."
He added: "This has always been the plan for him but if was testing ground we might switch to the QEII, in which we also have Without Parole."
A late absentee from the last week’s Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe owing to the ground, Cracksman has not run since finishing runner-up in the Prince Of Wales’s Stakes at Royal Ascot in June having also missed the King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes due to underfoot conditions. However, he is set to bow out on Saturday whatever the ground.
Gosden said: "It's hard to criticise a horse who has won two Group 1s this year, but he wasn't quite with us mentally when he was second in the Prince Of Wales's at Royal Ascot. He got very interested in the girls coming back from running in the Duke Of Cambridge Stakes that day. He may well run in headgear, which he has already worn at home, and will run whatever the ground."
Stradivarius has already pocketed the Weatherbys Hamilton £1 million Stayers’ Bonus for winning the Yorkshire Cup, Gold Cup, Goodwood Cup and Lonsdale Stakes in the summer but is not finished yet.
Gosden added: "The achievement of Stradivarius winning the bonus has to be the highlight of the season so far. He's an amazing horse given that he's so small he should be giving pony rides on Brighton beach. He goes there a fresher horse than last year [when third to Order Of St George] when he was coming off a hard race in the St Leger."