On Saturday its Champion Day at Ascot and for many in the racing hierarchy it now signals the end of the UK turf flat season, despite the fact that there is one Group 1 race to be run, the Racing Post Trophy and the last flat meeting year at Doncaster is on November 11th.
No denying that the introduction of Champions Day has been an undoubted success for British racing and I am sure this years event will provide racing fans with plenty of exciting finishes and top class performances. The going at the time of writing is good but some rain is forecast for later in the week but how much who knows. If the going is heavy on Saturday then the action will be moved to the inner course which is firm, good to firm in places. Hopefully, that switch won’t be needed but I won’t be betting until I know what the going is going to be. All the action of the six-race card begins at 1:25.
Here is my short preview of all six races:
1:25 – Qipco British Champions Long Distance Cup (Group 2) – 2m
Order Of St George is the 6/4 ante-post favourite at the time of writing and has the best form having won last years Ascot Gold Cup and finished second in this year’s race and comes into this on the back of an excellent 4th placing in the Arc.
Big Orange beat Order of St George by a short head in the Gold Cup and has to be respected if he gets his favoured quick ground.
Sheikhzayedroad won last years renewal and although he doesn’t come into the race in the same form as he did last year he can never be underestimated and this has no doubt been his target for the season.
Desert Skyline had been running well over middle distances this summer and put up a career best when winning the 2m 2f Doncaster Cup last month. The three-year-old is another who wouldn’t want the ground to get to deep but if he gets a decent surface can go well against his elders and has solid each way claims
Renneti, trained by Willie Mullins is a talented if quirky dual purpose horse but the eight-year-old isn’t far behind the leading fancies on official ratings. This has been his target since winning at the Galway Festival and last time out he won a 2m Group 3 at Naas. The key to his chance though would be plenty of rain as all three of his career wins on the level have come with soft in the going description.
2:00 – Qipco British Champions Sprint Stakes (Group 1) – 6f
Harry Angel is a best priced 5/4 at the time of writing and if you like you short priced favourites he will be your banker of the day. You can’t fault his form as he has been the best horse in Europe over 6f and he deserves to head the market and arguably should be slight odds on for this.
Brando is a Group 1 winner and was arguably a shade unlucky when 3rd to Harry Angel in the July Cup but he has disappointed on his last two starts although he could easily bounce back to form in a strongly run race.
The Tin Man was beaten 5 ½ lengths into 3rd behind Harry Angel at Haydock last time and has no chance on that form but that was on heavy ground and the five-year-old is a much better horse on a sound surface 7 wins from 10 runs on good or quicker ground and he is also 3 wins from 5 runs at Ascot. One of those wins came in this race last year and on good or quicker ground he has to be considered a strong contender
Quiet Reflection has only had two starts this season she won last years Commonwealth Cup at Royal Ascot on good to soft and the Sprint Cup at Haydock on soft but was only 7th in this race last year on good ground. The four-year-old was an easy winner of a Group 3 at Naas last month once again on soft ground. The filly has won on good ground but she is 5 wins from 6 runs with soft in the going description. The 8/1 available at the time of writing appeals but only if there is soft in the going description.
Add in Caravaggio who is 2 wins from 2 runs at Ascot and won this year’s Commonwealth Cup over C&D and even Librisa Breeze who is 2 wins from 5 runs at Ascot and wasn’t far away in last years renewal or when 4th in the Diamond Jubilee this year and you have the makings of the race of the day.
2:40 – Qipco British Champions Fillies & Mares Stakes (Group 1) – 1m 4f
Dermot Weld has had a season to forget but maybe he can end it on a high note with a win with his 3-year-old Eziyra. Highly regarded as a juvenile over the connections had her down as possible for the Irish 1000 Guineas but she was ready for that race and only made her seasonal reappearance in June. She then went on to finish 3rd to Enable in the Irish Oaks a decent run in the circumstances as the ground would have been plenty fast enough that day, A comfortable win in a Cork Group 3 on soft ground followed in August before the filly showed plenty of stamina and a battling attitude to get up in the shadow of the post in a Leopardstown Group 3 on her last start. If the ground was to ease significantly between now and post time she would have to be in with a strong each way chance.
3:15 – Queen Elizabeth II Stakes (Group 1) (Sponsored By Qipco) (British Champions Mile)
Not a race I will be having an interest in but Ribchester deserves his place at the head of the ante-post betting for the race. A worthy favourite for the race it will take notable performance from his rivals to prevent him winning another Group 1 race.
3:50 – Qipco Champion Stakes (British Champions Middle Distance) (Group 1) – 1m 2f
Another potential blockbuster of a race with likes of Cracksmen, Ulysses, Churchill, Highland Reel and Barney Roy all possible runners. At the prices, I am just tempted to go with the latter of that group. Barney Roy won the Group 1 St James Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot over 1m before going down by a nose to Ulysses in the Coral Eclipse on his first start over 1m 2f before finishing 3rd to that horse in the Juddmonte International on good to soft. Prior to that, the colts best performances had come on good or quicker ground so connections will be hoping that dry conditions prevail on the run-up to the race. Not hard to think there will be more to come from Barney Roy over 1m 2f.
4:30 – Balmoral Handicap (Sponsored By Qipco) (Class 2) – 1m
The final race is a very competitive big field over Ascot’s straight mile. Lord Glitters was a strong finishing 2nd in the Totescoop6 Challenge Cup handicap over 7f 14 days ago. The extra furlong of this race will suit the four-year-old who will be having only his second start for trainer David O’Meara since switching from France. A further 5 lengths back in 7th in the same race was the David Elsworth trained Speculative Bid who was having his first start 788 days. He wasn’t given Lord Glitters was a strong finishing 2nd in the Totescoop6 Challenge Cup handicap over 7f 14 days ago. The extra furlong of this race will suit the four-year-old who will be having only his second start for trainer David O’Meara since switching from France. A further 5 lengths back in 7th in the same race was the David Elsworth trained Speculative Bid who was having his first start 788 days. He wasn’t given too hard a race and was keeping on nicely inside the final furlong. Given his long absence from the track, there is obviously the chance he could suffer the dreaded bounce but if he doesn’t then it looks like he could be on a competitive mark and should get closer on Saturday. Jim Crowley takes the ride and at 16/1 and he makes plenty of each-way appeal for me along with Lord Glitters in a very open race.
My final selections for Champions Day will be available exclusively to Eycatcher Pro subscribers on Saturday Morning by 8am.
Until next time be lucky.