Champions Day was launched in 2011 to much ‘wailing and gnashing of teeth’, with commentators on racing forums predicting the end of flat racing as we know it. Champions Day would destroy the pattern. Ascot had got too big for its boots, and a few other things. I am sure you read them too. Well the modern-day Jeremiah’s have been proved wrong.
What has happened is that Ascot now hosts the best day’s racing in Britain or Ireland, maybe even in the world. It’s been a huge success that’s for sure. British horse racing has been bound-up in tradition, so it has been hard to accept progress.
I doubt there has been a better initiative in British racing in my lifetime, and thankfully it’s worked an absolute treat. Can it get better? Yes, it can! A 2-year-old race on the card, would be tops. Granted it does have a sense of an end-of-season feel about it, with many connections having the races as a bit of an afterthought, but it is the best day’s racing to be had anywhere.
I was never a fan of the Champion Stakes when it was run at Newmarket. For sure it was unique, the only 1m 2f Group race in the world run on a straight track, but for me it’s a much better race run at Ascot.
On a final note. I have been slightly critical of ITV’s racing coverage, but they are getting better, and their coverage on Saturday was excellent.
Dettori Cracks Rivals
I could spend the whole of this post looking at the great performances we witnessed on Champions Day, but space prevents me. So, I will concentrate on Frankie Dettori. Frankie continues to be the jockey for the big occasion. He might not be the jockey to have on your side, if you are betting your last fiver at a Kempton evening meeting, but he remains the supreme big-race jockey. It’s these sorts of races that keep Frankie in the game.
It was two wins on the day for the most famous jockey in British horse racing. Stradivarius gave him the first win. As the 4-year-old proved he’s one best stayer’s we have seen in a long time. In the race Frankie rode for luck and got it. The gap on the inside opened as the runners came into the straight. He took the opening even though it meant that Stradivarius hit the front earlier than he would have liked. It was a winning move.
Dettori’s second win came on Cracksmen in the Champions Stakes. The 4-year-old had won the previous year’s renewal in scintillating style, but hadn’t really been at the level of form on his last two starts. Cracksmen’s love for the game was questioned, was his mind still on racing, or on other things?
The first-time blinkers were enlisted, and before the start the colt wasn’t as mulish as he had been on his last visit to the racecourse. All looked good for the odds-on favourite. However, his backers must have had a nervous moment when it looked like the jockey was having to keep the horse interested 5f from home. They needn’t have worried. Frankie made the horse’s mind up for him coming to the straight, and the horse accelerated past Capri like he was a selling plater. It was a race-winning move, as he took three or four lengths out of the field to leave his rivals fighting out it for the places.
Cracksman was the best horse in the race that’s for sure, but let’s not forget the jockey’s role in the winning move.
I wouldn’t rate it the best performance of the year as some have. I doubt Capri and Crystal Ocean ran anywhere close to their best, and the proximity of the Czech horse in 3rd and Rhododendron and Verbal Dexterity, has to drag the form down a tad.
Still a great horse, if quirky, a fine ride by the jockey, and a superb training performance by trainer John Gosden. To get a horse, who seemed to have lost his love for the game, to win like he did yesterday shows he has no peers in Britain.
Oh yes, a great day’s sport indeed. Horse racing at it’s very best!
Black Mischief, trained by Harry Fry, was painful to watch on Saturday. The 6-year-old had last been seen winning a handicap hurdle at Kempton in April. Off 8lb higher at Market Rasen, I thought he remained on a competitive mark. Coming to the last, it looked like I was going to be proved right, as the gelding was about to deliver what I thought was a winning challenge. Sadly he came to grief, with the race seemingly at his mercy.
He will no doubt be put up a few pounds by the handicapper for this performance, but’s he still lightly raced over hurdles and can win again while good ground prevails, both his career wins have come on good. He also may prefer a short break between runs, as his form figures on good ground and racing, between 30 & 120 days since his last start, are 3131.
Jumps fans will be getting very excited this week, as Friday sees the first Cheltenham meeting of the National Hunt season. The two-day annual Showcase Meeting is a clear sign jumps racing is now starting to hit top gear.
At the time of writing this post, the going is officially described as good, and it looks unlikely to get any softer, as the weather forecast is indicating that we are in for a relatively dry week.
It goes without saying that some trainers like to target these two-days.
Since 2013 there have been 70 winners from 726 runners at the Showcase Meeting.
The top trainer numerically is Paul Nicholls. He has had:
12 winners from 35 runners
Strike Rate 34%
SP Profit +13.9
Place Strike Rate 46%.
He had five more winners than his nearest rival, Nigel Twiston-Davies whose had:
7 winners from 39 runners
Strike Rate 18%
SP Profit +4.45
Place Strike Rate 31%.
The Nicholls runners have been performing 49% better than market expectations, so not only does he have an attractive win strike rate, but also his runners are providing punters with some value too.
If you wanted to concentrate on his runners even more, you could do worse than look at his hurdlers and NHF horses who have provided the trainer with:
8 winners from 18 runners
Strike Rate 44%
SP Profit +14.65
Place Strike Rate 56%
or just his non-handicap runners which are:
10 winners from 22 runners
Strike Rate 45%
SP Profit +13.57
Place Strike Rate 50%.
Another trainer worth noting is Rebecca Curtis whose had:
3 winners from 9 runners
Strike Rate 33%
SP Profit +19.25
However, she’s not had a runner at the meeting since 2016. Two of her three wins came in NHF race at the meeting.
Good luck with this week’s punting.