The Covid-19 pandemic will rob Saturday’s QIPCO British Champions Day of the presence of one of the sport’s most passionate observers in Prince A A Faisal. However, you can be sure that when the Prince’s homebred colt Mishriff steps into the starting stalls for the day’s showpiece, the QIPCO Champion Stakes, there will be few onlookers watching more closely.
Like any owner, Prince Faisal enjoys attending the races in person. The pride of watching the 1989 May Hill Stakes with Prince Fahd Salman as homebred Rafha outbattled his friend’s Knight’s Baroness is recalled by the owner as if it was yesterday. Yet the idea of being unable to watch Mishriff in the flesh as he takes on his biggest challenge at Ascot on Saturday is accepted as a minor inconvenience in today’s Covid-stricken world.
“I will be watching the race on TV in Saudi Arabia,” says the Prince. “I have always enjoyed watching racing on TV anyway. This way, I can watch it again two, three, maybe four times immediately after the race.
“Besides if they win, I go numb – and sometimes until midnight! Then I can’t sleep. So I go downstairs and watch it all over again.”
Mishriff heads to to the Champion Stakes as a 7/2 shot off an unbeaten three-race streak for John Gosden. After beginning his season in Saudi Arabia with a fast-finishing second on dirt in the Saudi Derby, he returned to home to win the Newmarket Stakes back on turf before making the successful leap to Classic company in the Prix du Jockey Club. The son of Make Believe defeated The Summit by a length-and-three-quarters to win that day and went on to beat the same horse, albeit by a wider margin, when taking the Prix Guillaume d’Ornano at Deauville on his last start in August.
Despite Mishriff’s progressive profile, however, Prince Faisal remains grounded in his assessment of the colt’s next challenge, for which he will again be partnered by Frankie Dettori.
“He has only run against three-year-olds and the last twice, he has beaten the same horses,” he says. “So it will be interesting to see how he gets on against older horses.
“But he did win the race in Deauville very well and John thinks very highly of him. Obviously you have to respect his opinion as he is a wonderful trainer – his attention to detail is second to none. Now we come to the best, and we hope that he runs well.”
There were calls from some quarters to run Mishriff in the Arc but according to Prince Faisal, that idea was never fully entertained.
“John told me that he didn’t want to run him over 1m4f this year,” he says. “Mishriff is still growing and he wanted to give him as much time as possible. He may try next year.”
Making the development of Mishriff all the more satisfactory for his owner is the fact that he is the product of two parents in Make Believe and Contradict also raced by the Prince. In the case of Contradict, she is a third generation homebred as a granddaughter of his wonderful mare Rafha, the 1990 Prix de Diane heroine who foaled Invincible Spirit and Kodiac.
Make Believe, meanwhile, was bought as a foal and campaigned to win the Poule d’Essai des Poulains and Prix de la Foret. Mishriff is the highlight of four stakes winners from the first crop of the stallion, who stands at Ballylinch Stud.
“It’s exciting just to breed and raise a horse, and then for it to win a race – well that’s an incredible feeling,” says the Prince. “But the point is that you need a lot of luck in this game and I’ve just always been very lucky.”