Guest post written by Willy Weasel
The Qipco Champion Stakes was originally run at Newmarket, but since 2011 it has become part of the Qipco British Champions Day at Ascot, where it’s the final race in the middle distance category of the Qipco British Champion Series. This year’s renewal is due off at 4.10 p.m. on Saturday 20th October.
It’s not often a race worth £1,300,000 in guaranteed prize money revolves around the participation of just one horse, but that’s the case with the Qipco Champion Stakes this year. The horse in question is, of course, Sir Henry Cecil’s 4-year-old colt Frankel, who has won all 13 of his career starts, including the JLT Lockinge Stakes, the Qipco Queen Anne Stakes, the Qipco Sussex Stakes and the Juddmonte International Stakes this season alone.
At the end of his 3-year-old career, Frankel had a Timeform rating of 143, a mark only ever surpassed by three horses, Sea Bird II, Brigadier Gerard and Tudor Minstrel. Following his 11-length demolition of Excelebration and nine others in the Qipco Queen Anne Stakes on the opening day of Royal Ascot this year, Frankel had a rating of 147, higher than any other horse in the history of Timeform ratings, which stretches back to 1948. He was equally impressive when cruising to victory in the Sussex Stakes at Goodwood, over a mile, and the Juddmonte International Stakes at York, over a mile and a quarter, in August. Barring accidents, he looks unbeatable. At the time of writing he is best priced at 1/10, or shorter, so the bookmakers aren’t taking any chances.
When entries closed for the Qipco Champion Stakes on 7th August, 46 horses stood their ground, but it’ll be interesting to see just how many of them Frankel frightens away by the day of the race. Prize money goes down to £17,550 for sixth place, so connections of some of the higher rated entries may decide to a have a tilt.
Excelebration, his current trainer Aidan O’Brien and his previous trainer Marco Botti must all be sick of the sight of Frankel. In the absence of Frankel, Excelebration has won all seven of his races since June 2010, but he has also come up against, and been beaten by, Frankel five times during that time, by an aggregate of 26¼ lengths. He had a welcome change of luck when winning the Prix Jacques le Marois at Deauville in August, but is running for second place, at best, here. That said, he is one of the higher rated entries here and he appears to act on any ground so, at odds of 14/1, he could be one for place only or forecast punters.
Cirrus Des Aigles, trained by Mme. Corine Barande-Barbe, is officially the best horse in France, according to Timeform, but is still rated fully 14lbs inferior to Frankel. He’s won three Group 1 races, this race last year, the Dubai Sheema Classic at Meydan in March and the Prix Ganay, on heavy ground, at Longchamp in April. He’s been absent since May, but his trainer intends to run him in the Prix Dollar at Longchamp on 6th October en route to the Qipco Champion Stakes. Whatever the outcome of that race, he looks to have little chance of beating Frankel and, consequently, his current odds of 8/1 look too short.
Of the others, Nathaniel and St. Nicholas Abbey are also declared for the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe on 7th October, so it’ll be interesting to see where their connections decide to run them. Frankel was value for more than the official winning margin in the Juddmonte International, but even if the form is taken at face value St. Nicholas Abbey has 7 lengths to find with Sir Henry’s Cecil colt. A line through Farhh, who finished second at York, suggests that Nathaniel is about the same horse as St. Nicholas Abbey, yet Nathaniel is available at odds of 7/1, while St. Nicholas Abbey can be backed at 33/1. Indeed, St. Nicholas Abbey only has three-quarters of a length to find with Nathaniel on their running behind Snow Fairy in the Irish Champion Stakes, so he could be another one for place only or forecast bets.
Realistically, if Frankel runs to form none of the others should get anywhere near him. Indeed, at the time of writing Paddy Power is offering just 6/4 that Frankel wins by 8 lengths or more. The best advice is just to sit back and watch one of the best, if not the best, thoroughbred racehorses the world has even seen. You’re not going to get rich backing 1/10 chances, but, if you must have a bet, you could do worse than back Excelebration or St. Nicholas Abbey, or both, for a place and/or put one or the other, or both, in straight forecasts with Frankel.