We have a fantastic day’s racing to look forward to on the flat, which is ending with a bang both at home and abroad with Grade 1 racing in both hemispheres. The big issue here at British Champions Day is the ground, which we can expect to be soft following a lot of rain over the past few days – especially the total of 7mm that fell in the 24 hours to 7.30am on Friday – with more expected to fall overnight. The inner course will not be used.
QIPCO British Champions Long Distance Cup (Group 2) (1.25): Order Of St George has had the rain come at the right time following his fine fourth in the Arc, but it’s not easy to forget his rather laboured fourth that came in this event last year after an effort that was just as good and all the value has been taken out of his price now the field is known. It’s a surprise he come here instead of the Group 1 Prix-Royal Oak given the circumstance but he’s very much the one to beat here.
The ground is the issue for Big Orange, who beat Order of St George in the Gold Cup, and Stradivarius, who beat Big Orange in the Goodwood Cup before then finishing a fine third in the St Leger behind two horses who had superior pace. Neither of them has any form and anything slower than good and that also applies to Desert Skyline too who has been consistently improving through this year.
Duretto has improved steadily over the past year and heavy ground was no issue as he managed to outstay AcrosBuy Cheltenham Racecourse tickets The Stars at Chester, a few months on from having finished third in a good renewal of the Ormonde. He has form here a swell and the track ought to suit more than Chester so he is interesting. So too is Dartmouth, who was disappointing when eighth in the Irish St Leger but whose other form matches up really well. The previous Hardwicke winner has a lot going for him if that run is forgotten and he caught the eye, as did Torcecor, second in the Irish St Leger when making his first start since the Ascot Gold Cup.
Sheikhzayedroad won this last year and hasn’t been in the same form until his third in the Doncaster Cup, and a repeat of that run would give him a decent place shout although we might have seen the best of him so far. Montaly took the Yorkshire Cup but disappointed at Doncaster; He can handle the ground but he now has something to prove too and this looks trappy.
Advice: 1 pt each/way Dartmouth (22/1 SkyBet)
QIPCO British Champions Sprint Stakes (Group 1) (2.00): Harry Angel is the one to beat in no uncertain terms but the market has had him snuffed out for a long time and whilst his Sprint Cup win was a special performance, there has to be value in looking outside him, perhaps for an each/way bet in what’s a decent field to end a good year of sprinting. He once again beat Caravaggio, who didn’t have things drop for him in either the July Cup (slow start combined with less pace than in Commonwealth Cup) or at Deauville (foot/plate issue). It’s interesting to note how, when back onto a soft surface at the Curragh, he appeared much more comfortably in the Flying Five, but he must prove Harry Angel hasn’t improved past him since and he will need the favourite to overrace again, something which looks unlikely.
Quiet Reflection made a fine reappearance when she beat two very good yardsticks when taking an easy win in the Renaissance Stakes, and it is fair to expect a better run from her this year than last, on soft ground and with a much less busy season.
She is a big each/way player here but so too is The Tin Man, a horse who has quickly made Ascot his best course and who has finished third in the 2015 renewal of this before taking it last year, having reversed form with Quiet Reflection from Haydock. He took the Diamond Jubilee here at the Royal Meeting when he got the better of Limato, Librisa Breeze and Tasleet, and his run in the July Cup can easily be forgiven. He was a much better third at Haydock in the Sprint Cup and the ground here ought to be less testing on a course that suits more.
Tasleet should also be backed each/way. A stellar winner of the Duke of York Stakes at the beginning of the season, he was a neck behind the Tin Man at Royal Ascot and was then second in the Sprint Cup. A solid, reliable sprinter who is adaptable regarding pace in the race – he gets 7 – he looks too big at 12 and these horses make the most appeal although Brando was third In this last year (lost way since) and Donjuan Triumphant did well to take the restaged Ayr Gold Cup.
Advice: 1 pt each/way The Tin Man (12/1 Paddy Power, 10/1 general), 1 pt each/way Tasleet (16/1 Bet365)
QIPCO British Champions Fillies & Mares Stakes (Group 1) (2.40): A strong race but they will all have to go some to beat Bateel, who disappointed in this last year but who was impressive when taking the Prix Vermille from two and a half lengths ahead of last year’s winner Journey. It is fair to expect improvement from John Gosden’s runner, making her first appearance since July – and giving her first good run of the year – but Bateel had a good deal in hand and had been improving beforehand with wins in the Prix de Pomone and Pinnacle Stakes, beating solid yardsticks on both occasions, and she is confidently predicted to go well.
Coronet ran a fine race in a strong edition of the St Ledger when last seen and she deserves a lot of respect with her stamina likely to be an asset. Hydrangea must prove this, stepping up two furlongs following her very close second in the L’Opera to stablemate Hydrangea. If she stays, then she would probably have the best form – she won the Matron Stakes when beating Winter – but that looks to be a big question mark for her.
The Juliet Rose’s Prix de Royallieu victory over Arc weekend was a third success in Pattern company, and she did well considering that she had to make her own running but she was well behind Bateel when the two last met and she will need to take a further step forward although that
Left Hand won the Vermille last year but was well beaten this time around and then fifth in the L’Opera, a creditable run back at 10 furlongs. She can go well, whilst Horseplay needs to improve on her fourth in the Prix Malleret.
Alyssa’s hugely game win in the Park Stakes was a career best and the improvement of runner up Aljezeera marks it down as a performance that’s worthy of serious respect. The ground has come right for her and she will surely use her stamina to good effect.
The Black Princess was well beaten behind the principals in the Vermille and the L’Opera whilst Wild Irish Rose looks exposed.
Advice: 3 pts win Bateel (5/2 Boylesports)
Queen Elizabeth II Stakes (Group 1) (3.15): A belter of a race. Al Wukair was third in the 2,000 Guineas when just about everything that could go wrong did go wrong and since then he has been injured and returned to take the Jacques Le Marois form injury when he beat the reopposing Thunder Snow and Inns Of Court by the shortest of heads, showing an admirable attitude under pressure. The addition of cheekpieces should help him a great deal and assuming he finds cover, he should hopefully have a smoother run here than at Newmarket, when he hated the dip and the lack of pace, and neither is an issue here.
Ribchester, the winner of the Lockinge, Queen Anne and Moulin this season, ought to take the beating in his bid to go one better than last year and looks pretty bombproof from most form angles. Churchill, the winner of both Guineas who bombed out in the St James’s Palace, was a good second in the Juddmonte International but disappointing in the Irish Champion. This looks to be his trip, but he had a lot in his favour when he won the 2,000 and one wonders if we’ve seen the best of him.
Beat The Bank has been hugely progressive this season and took apart Sir John Lavery in the Joel Stakes in the style of a horse who would be taking races at the top level before too long. He ought to go well, although this is a far harder test here.
Thunder Snow looks big of the rest, having been behind Churchill in both Guineas but never beaten by far, and only a short head behind Al Wukair in the Marois. Persuasive has run well in the Matron and Sun Chariot Stakes, but was beaten both times by the three-year-old Roly Poly there and would need to improve on that basis. She was ahead of stablemate Nathra who ran well both times.
Here Comes When revealed in the extreme conditions at Goodwood when he beat Ribchester but conditions will be nowhere near as testing tomorrow and he is likely to struggle without that aid. If it’s not soft enough for him, it’s going to be too soft for Lancaster Bomber, whose best form is all with firm in the going description.
Sea Of Grace enjoys getting her toe in and perhaps this suits more than a mile, but she was still disappointing when only fourth in the Blandford Stakes and this is a lot tougher than the Pouliches in which she was second.
Lightning Spear just got the better of Zonderland when he took the Goodwood Mile by a short head from Zonderland, but he has a long losing streak against Ribchester and Zonderland was well beaten the last time he ran in Group company.
Advice: 2 pts each/way Al Wukair (13/2 general)
QIPCO Champion Stakes (Group 1) (3.50): Fiercely competitive. Cracksman missed the Arc after a tiresome ‘will he won’t he’ saga regarding his participation, but he adds a fascinating edge to this race although he does not make appeal from a betting front. John Gosden’s charge was deeply impressive in the Great Voltigeur and Prix Niel, but the fields he met there pale in comparison to what he will meet here and on both occasions his stamina was just as imperative in victory as his class. He took a long time to get going in both races and whilst he will have a strong pace to aim at, cheekpieces might have been a help and he appears short.
Barney Roy was beaten just a nose by Ulysses in the Eclipse, arguably the best form in this field, but he did too much racing too early when third in the Juddmonte Stakes next time out. He’s been aimed at this since presumably, but the soft ground that has prevailed is not ideal although he will get a pace made for him thanks to Maverick Wave.
Brametot ran well to be fifth in the Arc, behind only Enable, Cloth Of Stars, Ulysses, and Order Of St George, and if he can reproduce that effort he would have a big chance here. It’s also not hard to remember his last to first win in the Prix du Jockey Club earlier in the season, when he nailed Waldegist with a fine late run (form that puts him close to Cracksman). He also had the speed to take the Poulains before that, and Ascot should suit him ideal if he managed to jump with the field, increasing interest in his chance, and he can go well.
So too can Poet’s Word, who has been one of the most progressive horses of the season, going from Chelmsford Handicap winner to Group 1 runner up in the Irish Champion Stakes. Soft ground is no issue – he sliced through the tacky surface at Goodwood when he romped home in the Gordon Stakes before going to Leopardstown – and it would not a surprise if he can get better still.
Highland Reel’s win in the Prince Of Wales’s Stakes is possibly the best form in this field but it took place on a rock hard surface and he needs that to be at this best. The ground hopefully won’t be as testing as it was in the King George when he was fourth but
Cliffs Of Moher didn’t get a run in the Irish Champion Stakes and was overused in the Juddmonte when he took on Barney Roy too early to great effect, but he still has a bit to prove and the better the ground the better his chance would be.
Recoletos got home by a nose in the Prix du Prince d’Orange at Deauville when he’d been off for a good while beforehand. He got a bad draw in the Jockey Club so did well to be third, although he was perhaps flattered to be so close to Brametot given the late run.
Success Days took the York Stakes thanks to a great ride there but he couldn’t lead them all the way in the Irish Champion Stakes and it’s likely to be the same story in this equivalent. Desert Encounter has run well at a big price in a 10-furlong Group 1 earlier this season – he was third in the Eclipse – and he also took a decent Group 3 last time.
Advice: 1 pt win Brametot (11/2 general) & 1 pt each/way Poet’s Word (7/1 general)
Advice on British Champions Day at Ascot
1.25 Ascot – 1 pt each/way Dartmouth (22/1 SkyBet)
2.00 Ascot – 1 pt each/way The Tin Man (12/1 Paddy Power, 10/1 general), 1 pt each/way Tasleet (16/1 Bet365)
2.40 Ascot – 3 pts win Bateel (5/2 Boylesports)
3.15 Ascot – 2 pts each/way Al Wukair (13/2 general)
3.50 Ascot – 1 pt win Brametot (11/2 general) & 1 pt each/way Poet’s Word (7/1 general)
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