13:45 – Ascot
Well if yesterday is anything to go by we are in for some shocks on desperate ground at Champions Day at Ascot today. We start off with the Long Distance Cup over two miles.
Leading Light is the current favourite for team Ballydoyle and is a worthy market leader. Winner of the Ascot Gold Cup and a St Leger. Last time every jockey was asleep as Richard Kingscote stole the Irish Leger. He is a top class horse who will stay forever. I have my doubts how he will handle this ground and if he will get through it. Not blessed with a turn of foot he may struggle in what will be a slowly run race. Given how short he is I’ll over look on this occasion. Forgotten Rules is a very interesting contender for Ireland and Dermot Weld. He has only had the two runs and is the definition of unexposed. Won a bumper at the Punchestown Festival and a flat race at Galway Festival. The last run was a good performance and beat a 103 rated horse there. It will be interesting to see if he goes in the ground but given he didn’t see a racecourse until four, must be classed a likely non runner.
Estimate has excellent form around Ascot and must have a chance but will find it very hard to overturn Leading Light who won snuggly last time. Big Orange and Marzocco fought out a Listed contest at Ascot last time and that form shouldn’t be good enough.
The horse who will be the selection will be Whiplash Willie, he will love the ground and the distance. My main concern is that the jockey will need to put him in the race sooner than recent races. Andrew Balding horse has been staying on late to place this year and if getting a good run at the leader on this ground should reel them in and cause a minor surprise.
Whiplash Willie (E/W)
14:20 – Ascot From the stayers to the sprinters and a seventeen runner six furlong sprint, won last year by Slade Power who unfortunately is off globe-trotting around the world.
However there is another Power who I think has an excellent chance. Gathering Power ran a good race in defeat to stablemate Viztoria who reopposes today. Fergal Lynch takes the ride on Gathering Power, he rode him to his only two wins. Ground and distance won’t be an issue and could out run his odds of 66/1.
G Force is likely to go off favourite for David O’Meara and nobody in racing would begrudge him a Group One success, he has some excellent form with the best sprinters around and I have no doubt that he will be in the running for all the major sprint races next season. I don’t think he will win today however as the ground has to be a massive concern and he has had a long season.
There are a fair few handicappers in here in disguise, the likes of Baccarat, Alben Star and Absolutley So, who are all hard to fancy. Jack Dexter has to be respected on this ground along with Maarek and Viztoria.
In truth it doesn’t look the strongest renewal of this race and Gathering Power can hopefully run a big race.
Gathering Power (E/W)
14:55 – Ascot
The Fillies an Mares Stakes another Group One this time over a mile and half with only a field of ten going to post.
This race is another that has been cut up due to the ground and a wide open betting heat with Silk Sari at 5/1. She has to be of interest after bolting up at Doncaster in the Park Hill Stakes beating last year winner Seal of Approval. The favourite will go on the ground and must be respected after been supplemented, however this is clearly an after thought and for that reason I’m going to overlook her.
Seal of Approval hasn’t had much look this season but must be respected after winning this race last year, but in my opinion isn’t the same horse this year.
Hadaatha ran a cracker at Longchamp behind We Are and while has never run on soft ground I can’t see it been an issue . Both Trainer and Jockey have had excellent years and they can cap it off with another Group One. She has beaten a couple of these previously and should go well in a wide open contest.
15:30 – Queen Elizabeth II Stakes
One of the main features of the day is the QEII with eleven to due to go to post.
Night of Thunder is the likely and current favourite. However given what this horse has done since winning the guineas is very disappointing and I cannot have any interest at that price.
Charm Spirit who beat Night of Thunder in France in my opinion should be favourite, he won the Jean Prat on soft ground so shouldn’t be any concerns with the ground. You have to take notice when a Freddy Head horse comes to the UK and if reproducing his last runs should be difficult to beat.
Custom Cut is a very likeable horse and deserves his crack at this level. Conditions will be to suit however this is a big step up but hopefully will run a big race. I just feel he won’t get an easy lead today.
He should confirm placings however with Brendan Bracken, Captain Cat, Tullis and Graphic.
An interesting runner is for Aidan O’Brien and Kingsbarns. He ran an excellent race in this last year and the former Racing Post Trophy winner recreates that run he should be hard to beat. This would have been the target for a while and looks overpriced.
Charm Spirit (WIN)
16:05 – Qipco Champion Stakes
The feature race and its a shame that Australia and The Grey Gatsby are unable to show up for what should be the decider.
Cirrus Des Aigles is the favourite and deserves to be, he has form figures in this race of 122 over the last three years and should take all the beating, however I have my reservations and think he has been on the go since March in Meydan with a couple of hard races over the summer and this might just be one step to far for the eight year old.
Free Eagle is likely to be anything however with his participation unlikely in my opinion and he is underpriced I can look past.
Aryad, Noble Mission, Pethers Moon and Western Hymn all have too much to find and would be disappointing winners in my opinion.
Al Kazeem doesn’t appear to be the same horse as before he went to stud and Sheikhzayedroad has been winning races abroad so hard to say how good he is.
So by process of elimination Ruler Of the World is most likely to take this valuable price. He finished third behind the market leader last year. But that was after a long season as a three year old. The O’Brien team have since taken there time with the Derby winner and this would have been the target. Based on last years running he looks on the high side price wise.
Ruler of the World (E/W if 5/1+)
16:45 – Ascot
We finish Champions day with a “easy” twenty eight runner handicap over a mile.
Chatez is the favourite and has been well supported all week given that he likes heavy ground. Alan King has started the national hunt season in excellent form and Chatez will surely have a favourite chance. The value is long gone however.
Similar can be said about Levitate. Mostly saves his best runs for Doncaster but comes here on a nice mark, with talented jockey Joe Doyle on board. At 8/1 in a big field, its too short for me.
Baraweez is in excellent form with two big handicap wins in Ireland over the summer and needs serious respect.
I am going double handed at this race with Velox and Almargo.
The former ran a blinder in the Cambridgeshire and surely would have won if on the right side. He won his side readily and with a bit more luck this time can go close.
Almargo was behind Baraweez in Leopardstown and on these revised weights should run a big race. Its hard to know what effect the ground is going to have on the draw but pace spread across the track this could be a real cavalry charge.
by David Weldon