Qipco Champions Day at Ascot looked on paper like the best days horse racing of the season and so it turned out to be.
The meeting started with Jim Crowley being crowned Champion Jockey and Josephine Gordon being crowned Champion Apprentice. A great achievement by the former but for me, Josephine’s win in the apprentice title race was even better. This season we have seen the emergence of the best woman jockey since Hayley Turner. Indeed I will go as far as to say she will be better than Hayley IF she gets the breaks once she loses her claim. It won’t be easy for her when she becomes a fully fledged jockey but if anyone woman jockey is able to break to the higher echelons of the jockey ranks its Josephine Gordon.
There are a few women jockey’s who have shone this season, including the likes Georgia Cox and Hollie Doyle who have improved a lot this season, and I am sure will be even better next year. They and other’s can find inspiration from Josephine’s success this year.
Hopefully Champions Day was as profitable for you as it was for me and Eyecatcher Pro subscribers as Journey which I advised to subscribers ante post at 8/1 won the Fillies & Mares race at 4/1 and Brando almost landed another 33/1 ante-post punt when finishing 3rd in the Champion Sprint and Remarkable who finished 2nd, advised 14/1 on the morning, in the Balmoral Handicap.
Although there are a few decent flat meeting’s to be run in October and November. My attention is fully focused on National Hunt racing now. I am in the process of removing most of my flat horses from the tracker. The small number remaining will be those likely to run in the last few weeks of the turf season, a few for the all weather, and two-year old’s with next year in mind.
Next Friday and Saturday we have Cheltenham’s Showcase Meeting which is a sure sign that the winter game is about to kick into action! It’s this meeting that we will start to see plenty of horses for the tracker.
In this week’s column, I will look back at Champion’s Day before looking at this week’s one and only eyecatcher. Like last week I will be giving Eyecatcher Pro subscribers another three of my Ten to Follow over jumps this winter, with the final four being added next week.
Track Bias Casts A Shadow over Champions Day!
Although I thought the racing on Saturday was excellent I think it was clear from the races on the straight course that there was a distinct track bias at work with those drawn far side racing on quicker ground than those nearer to the stands side. Some pundits on Saturday were suggesting a 10 length advantage to those drawn side, I think that was an exaggeration although there was enough evidence to show that you didn’t want to be drawn near side as it was quicker on the far side. This is something that the Ascot Management will have to sort out for next year as you can’t have top races run and won with such a noticeable bias. That slight disappointment aside what a great days sport.
Qipco Champions Day Review
According to the times the forecast good going was nearer to good to firm on the day and there was a track bias in action. Let’s look back on each race in time order:
1:25 – QIPCO BRITISH CHAMPIONS LONG DISTANCE CUP (GROUP 2) – A field of ten went to post for this 2m race with the Aiden O’Brien trained Order Of St George going off the odds-on favourite. Third in the Arc on his last start the four-year-old wasn’t in the best of positions at the back of the field, in a race where it paid to be up to near the pace. The first three home were always up there and in all truth the race turned into a bit of a sprint finish three furlongs from home with seven-year-old Sheikzayedroad just getting the measure of the consistent Quest For More in the final few yards. Maybe Order Of St George’s gallant run in the Arc told on him here which I am sure it did but he was not suited by the pace of the race was run and significantly his best performances have all come in strongly run races. Not taking anything away from the winner but for me Order Of St George is still the best 2m+ horse in training and will be the one they all have to beat again in next year’s Ascot Gold Cup.
2:00 – QIPCO BRITISH CHAMPIONS SPRINT STAKES (GROUP 1) – Fourteen were declared to go to post for this 6f contest but one of the outsiders Mobsta was withdrawn at the start. Sadly Limato was withdrawn by trainer Henry Candy at the 48 hour stage due to the possibility of soft ground which took something out of the race but the way the track was racing on Saturday connections probably wished they had let the horse run as he would have been suited by the quickish ground. The race was won by the James Fanshawe trained The Tin Man who had finished 4th in last year’s race. A much more experienced horse this year he has run well when a close up 2nd to Quiet Reflection in the Betfred Sprint Cup at Haydock on his last appearance. Only a 4 year old there should be more to come from in 2017. Both Quiet Reflection and Mecca’s Angel ran well below their best in 7th and 12th respectively. The former possibly wasn’t suited by the quick ground or it could be that the trainer’s horses have been running below par of late and the three year old just added to that list. For the latter it was a race to far for the mare who was trying 6f for the first time since her juvenile days but she was beaten horse before stamina came into play. She has earned her retirement! My ante post selection for the race Brando was finishing as well as anything inside the final furlong and was probably inconvenienced by racing down the near side but still ran a great race on ground that would have been possibly a shade quick for the four year old. He is one for trainer Kevin Ryan to look forward to for the big sprints next year. Librisa Breeze another that I had put up ante-post for the race tried to come from rear has he had done in the previous race over 7f but the incredible turn of foot that he shown he wasn’t able to replicate over 6f and in Group 1 company. Still it was a good run by the 4 year old to finish 6th on his first start over 6f.
2:35 – QIPCO BRITISH CHAMPIONS FILLIES & MARES STAKES (Group 1) – A field of thirteen went to post for this 1m 4f race for fillies & mares. The winner Journey was given a tremendous ride by jockey Frankie Dettori. Drawn out wide the four year old got into a good position behind the clear leader Pretty Perfect and was in the ideal place to strike for home a furlong or so out for a few strides I thought she might be caught by the eventual 2nd Speedy Boarding and 3rd Queen’s Trust but once Frankie asked the filly to go she was not for catching. Speedy Boarding is probably better over slightly shorter than 1m 4f and Queens Trust, who has now finished in the places in three Group 1 races, is still 0 from 6 on turf and her only win remains a maiden at Kempton on her racecourse debut last year. Clearly highly regarded it will be interesting to see if she stays on in training as a four year old as he still has potential. The favourite for the race was Irish Oaks & Yorkshire Oaks winner Seventh Heaven who was drawn out widest of the whole field in stall 13. Ryan Moore was forced to drop the filly in form the start and she was never in a really good position in the early part of the race and although she eventually did find top gear, by then the race was over and she finished a never-nearer 5th at the line. The Dermet Weld trained Zhukova, so impressive when winning a Group 3 at Leopardstown on her last start was still; contention two out but when coming under pressure didn’t find anything and quickly faded out of the race to finish well beaten 7th. Possibly the ground was a shade to quick for her on this occasion or more likely something wasn’t right with her on the day and she is surely better than this run?
3:10 – QUEEN ELIZABETH II STAKES (Group 1) (Sponsored by Qipco) (CLASS 1) – Thirteen went to post for this 1m race on the straight course. Not much to say here apart from what a tough and versatile filly Minding is! The 1000 Guineas and Epsom Oaks heroine has been on the go since May and she showed here that she was better than the classic colts over a mile. Once asked for here effort by Ryan Moore two furlongs from home there was only going to be one winner and although Ribchester was cutting into her lead at the line, the filly had won the race between the last 2 furlongs and it was no surprise that major move began to take its toll in the closing stages. Her superiority at the finish was much more that the final winning distance of ½ length suggests. This win made it 7 Group 1 wins for the three year old and she became the first filly to win the race in 29 years. It’s to be hoped that connections keep her in training as a four year old.
3:45 – QIPCO CHAMPION STAKES (British Champions Middle Distance) (Group 1) – A field of 11 went to post for the richest race on the card with £737,230 on offer to the winner. The French-trained three year old Almanzor who had shown such a good turn of foot to beat a top class field, including Found & Minding, in the Irish Champion Stakes and showed that connections were right not to go for the Arc and come here instead. Despite not the best of starts the colt was always travelling well under Christophe Soumillion and he showed her that he could also quicken in a slowly run race as well as he had quickened off a strong pace in Irish Champion Stakes. Once taking up the running he had too much speed for Arc winner Found and the staying on 3rd Jack Hobbs, who had not raced since a pelvic injury in the spring. No doubt he will be back as a five year old and like in last year’s Champion Stakes the former Irish Derby winner needs 1m 4f especially in a moderately run race like this. Almanzor will also be staying in training with connections looking to step him up to 1m 4f next year with a tilt at the Arc looking likely.
4:20 – BALMORAL HANDICAP (Sponsored by Qipco) (CLASS 2) – A very competitive handicap closed Champions day with just 11lb between all 19 starter in this valuable 1m contest. Once again it paid to race far side with the winner Yufton coming out of stall 1. The winner was clearly trained for the race by his new trainer Roger Charlton and was a well handicapped horse on the best of his two year old form. There wasn’t a great pace in the early stages of the race and the winner was given a confident ride by Andrea Atzeni and although he hung to his left inside the final furlong he was a decisive winner of the race. The second home Remarkable ran well to finish 2nd but is better suited to shorter in my opinion. Of the rest the 3rd home Firmament was unlucky in the run, although once in the clear though was finishing best of all. Morando who had been well backed in the morning came into the race looking for a four-timer but the three year old didn’t get the race run to suit and didn’t get the clearest of runs when making his effort a furlong out and although he was staying on nicely when in the clear he could only finish 7th. There should be more to come from the lightly raced horse as a four year old. I can’t end without a mention for the Robert Eddery trained Donncha who always seems to run well in this big field handicaps without winning. Once again he was bang in contention for a place when hampered inside the final furlong and his final position of 9th doesn’t do the gelding justice with his jockey Pat Smullen letting the horse come home in his own time, after the interference he had suffered. A tilt at next year’s Lincoln Handicap looks on the agenda for the five year old.
This Week’s Eyecatcher
Saturday 17th October
Court Frontier – Paul Morgan – Was having his third start for connections since moving from Ireland and this was run was easily best of the three. The rain that changed the track from good to soft by the time of this race was clearly in the 8-year-olds favour, as he had won over hurdles on heavy at Fairyhouse last November. Well backed before the race he was held up out back by jockey Davy Russell was staying on strongly after the last but had been given too much to do over this 2m 4f trip, could never reach the winner and he had to settle for 2nd at the finish. The Fairyhouse handicap hurdle win came over 2m 7f and he won twice in Irish Point to Points over 3m. On the evidence of this run, he looks on a winnable handicap mark over fences, with a return to further likely to see him into the winner’s enclosure for new connections.
All that’s left now is to wish you a profitable week’s betting and let’s looks forward to Cheltenham on Friday & Saturday. I can’t wait!