Sapphire shines in Champion
Sapphire came home best of all to win the QIPCO British Champions Fillies' And Mares' Stakes at Ascot.
Pat Smullen bided his time on the Dermot Weld runner (5/2 joint-favourite) but his mount was always travelling well and moved through to challenge Shirocco Star for the lead with a furlong to run.
Once in front the daughter of Medicean soon strode clear and won with plenty in hand.
Shirocco Star (10/1) took second under Kieren Fallon, with Hughie Morrison's charge running a big race depsite being short of room turning for home, whilst the front-running Dancing Rain (7/1) was third for William Haggas and Johnny Murtagh.
The victory was well-received at the track, and as well as completing a double for Weld and Smullen, it was also the third Irish-trained winner from the first three races.
Weld said: "It was either going to be Princess Highway, who won the Ribblesdale for us, or this filly, but with the weather forecast it looked like dry ground in Canada and a good cut in the ground here and this filly always appreciates nice ease in the ground. Hence we decided to come here.
"I was confident she would take a lot of beating. She appreciates some ease in the ground and is unbeaten over a mile and a half. I wasn't happy with her just before the Irish Leger, so we decided to concentrate on this and Ascot has always been a lucky track for me. I trained a double at the Royal meeting and we've been fortunate to have 17 Group winners here.
"I'll have to speak to the owner, but I would say it is unquestionable she will stay in training next year and in the back of my mind she might be a filly for the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe."
Smullen said: "I was very confident of a big run. "They went a good pace, I just had to get her to settle and she travelled extremely well through the race.
"I was quite happy to have cover and come late. She's a very good filly on this ground.
"We were going to run her in the Irish Leger but she wasn't quite herself.
"Again the trainer has shown great patience and produced her in tip-top shape.
"This filly has won three times on deep ground so that tells you about the ground."