Blue is the colour
Simon Holt previews Saturday's QIPCO-sponsored Champions Day card and fancies two Godolphin runners.
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FARHH, the fragile horse who always wins when returning from a break, is fancied to lift Saturday's QIPCO Champion Stakes on his first run since destroying the opposition in the Lockinge at Newbury in May.
Godolphin's colt has been very lightly raced but his record fresh is flawless and, apart from that four-length romp at Newbury, his form last season which included two seconds to Frankel as well as being beaten only narrowly by Moonlight Cloud and Nathaniel proves he has serious talent.
- 2pts win Farhh in 16.05 Ascot at best morning price - goes well fresh and has the form to beat the favourite
- 2pts win Dawn Approach in 15.50 Ascot at best morning price - reportedly going well at home and should take all the beating
- 1pt win Eye Of The Storm in 13.45 Ascot at best morning price - favourite too short and this one capable of better still
- 2pts win Talent in 14.55 Ascot at best morning price - best with some cut and a superb effort last time
While effective on a fast surface, softer ground is probably ideal for Farhh and he appears to stay this mile and a quarter trip well.
The favourite Cirrus des Aigles, winner of this race in 2011 and second to Frankel last year, would be very difficult to beat at his best.
But the seven-year-old was undeniably below par earlier in the season and two recent victories in France at Group Three and Group Two level don't quite convince that he is still the horse he was.
That said, Cirrus Des Aigles will relish the ground conditions at Ascot where, despite a disappointing fourth behind Novelist in the King George here in July, his track record is solid.
There has been plenty of support for the Derby winner Ruler Of The World in the last 48 hours but neither this trip nor the quick reappearance after running in the Arc look ideal for all his obvious talents.
The drop in distance from a mile and a half is also a potential negative for Hillstar who could never summon enough pace to land a blow at Declaration Of War in York's Juddmonte International in August, though the slower ground here will be helpful.
If any horse deserves a Group One win this season it is Mukhadram after two brave efforts behind Al Kazeem at Royal Ascot (Prince Of Wales's Stakes) and Sandown (the Eclipse).
William Haggas's colt was given a well-earned break after a somewhat workmanlike win at York in July and could return refreshed and ready for a big run.
Freshness could be key to the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes in which DAWN APPROACH has outstanding claims - again for Godolphin - providing his hard races earlier in the season have not taken their toll.
Trainer Jim Bolger reports his 2000 Guineas winner in rude health on the gallops and, with old rival Toronado skipping a rematch, he could prove too classy for the likes of Soft Falling Rain, Maxios and Gordon Lord Byron.
Dawn Approach was certainly below his best when only fifth to Moonlight Cloud at Deauville on his last appearance in August but the two-month break since (with this race very much his target) will hopefully have revived him.
Of the opposition, Soft Falling Rain is certainly an interesting rival. Rather highly-strung, this handsome colt is a powerful galloper and after his Group Two win at Newmarket last time now looks ready for this test at the highest level.
Meanwhile, an improved showing from Olympic Glory - very lazy when slammed five lengths by Maxios at Longchamp last time - could be expected with blinkers fitted for the first time.
A marvellous day's racing begins with the QIPCO British Champions Long Distance Cup in which Estimate will bid to follow-up her hugely popular Gold Cup victory here in June.
However, Her Majesty The Queen's filly has been off the course since (and was under the weather for a while) and Aidan O'Brien's three-year-old EYE OF THE STORM could prove a tough rival.
This son of Galileo is unexposed over two miles, winning a Listed race at the trip in Ireland last time, but promises to become a decent stayer and earlier career defeats at shorter distances behind Trading Leather and Montiridge at Newmarket last season and behind Sugar Boy at Sandown (Galileo Rock third) in the spring suggest there could be more to come here especially in receipt of the weight-for-age allowance.
Estimate will doubtless bring the house down if able to win again but she looks a short enough price after the lay-off.
Like Ruler Of The World, Maarek makes another appearance after running on Arc day when he produced a stunning late run to catch Catcall in the Prix de l'Abbaye.
The winner of this race last year (beating Hawkeyethenoo and Sirius Prospect), this mud-lover again has conditions to suit and, providing his Longchamp efforts haven't left a mark, ought to be hard to beat at the possible expense of the improving Jack Dexter.
Slade Power was only eighth last year but has really progressed since then finishing third in the July Cup and second in last month's Betfred Sprint at Haydock and, along with stable companion Viztoria who is dropped back in distance after finishing sixth to Moonlight Cloud at the Arc meeting, gives Ireland a very strong hand here.
In the QIPCO British Champions Fillies and Mares Stakes, conditions also look ideal for TALENT who bounced back from a poor effort on fast ground in the Irish Oaks to finish second behind Leading Light in the St Leger last month.
Ralph Beckett's Oaks winner definitely seems best with some cut in the ground and should confirm Epsom placings with the Park Hill winner The Lark while proving too strong a stayer for the likes of Igugu, Dalkala and Hot Snap.
Waila, a ten length winner at Newmarket in July over a mile and a half, looks highly promising and could be a threat if standing this step up in class.