The Insider: A 'Max' bet
The Insider looks to the skies and fancies some mudlarks to make an impression on the Champions Day card.
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Saturday's QIPCO Champions Day at Ascot is shaping up nicely and it looks all the more fascinating from a punting perspective with the forecast of more rain to come.
Last year saw the curtain come down on Frankel's extraordinary career with another peerless performance, but those brilliant memories shouldn't detract from what promises to be a thrilling afternoon's sport 12 months on and there is no shortage of betting opportunities following Monday's acceptance stage.
With some horses doubly engaged and others unlikely to stand their ground due to the conditions, there's a strong impression that there might be value to be found in the ante-post markets, even if bookmakers are already building in some margin for potential non-runners.
Take the betting for the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes for example, where Toronado, Sky Lantern, Farhh, Magician and Declaration Of War are all chalked up between 9/2 and 10/1.
Each have lingering doubts hanging over them, whether regarding their likely participation or current wellbeing.
The two sitting at the top of the market, namely Dawn Approach and Soft Falling Rain, appear realistically priced, while last year's third Elusive Kate, a four-time Group One winner in her own right, is tempting at around the same odds (14/1) as the supplemented Top Notch Tonto, but she now has to bounce back from two pretty low-key performances.
One who has no such point to prove is Maxios, trained by Jonathan Pease for the Niarchos Family and arriving in Berkshire on the back of a career-best effort.
After winning twice at two, the son of Monsun struggled to make much of an impact in his Classic campaign when stepped up to middle distances during 2011, but the following year yielded three wins, all coming over 10 furlongs.
This season we witnessed the five-year-old break through at the highest level with victory in the Prix D'Ispahan at Longchamp in May, and although subsequently beaten into sixth by Al Kazeem in the Princes Of Wales's Stakes, the summer ground was not ideal for him then and a drop back in trip sparked something special last month.
Sent off a largely unconsidered 7/1 chance for the Prix du Moulin, he simply made a joke of those odds, slamming Richard Hannon's Olympic Glory by five lengths and in the process maintaining his perfect record (3-3) over a mile.
The odds going into this weekend suggest the general assumption is that Maxios was flattered, stealing the race after taking it up from the runaway leader before Hannon's charge had time to react.
There is admittedly some weight to that argument, and it would be no surprise to see Olympic Glory finish closer at Ascot, but we are not talking about a fluke victory from an unknown animal - Maxios is a progressive top-class performer and I'm willing to take the chance he can confirm those placings on 2lb better terms than at Longchamp, especially given that he's a point and a half bigger than his rival at 6/1.
Another apparently overlooked French challenger worth siding with is Jean-Claude Rouget's Morandi in the big one - the QIPCO Champion Stakes.
He has already come in for good recent support, and it's not hard to see why, but there still looks to be plenty of juice in his price of 20/1 with Sky Bet, Bet365 and Betfred.
The three-year-old hasn't tasted success since completing a hat-trick of wins in the Group One Criterium De Saint-Cloud last November but two of his most recent runs have been his best.
Beaten a couple of lengths when second to subsequent Arc third Intello in the Prix du Jockey Club in June, Morandi put a disappointing good-ground outing behind him when pushing Intello even closer in a Longchamp Group Three last month.
He has won twice on heavy ground in the past so Rouget, who trained Literato to take this prize in 2007, will be glad to see there is more rain on the way.
Maarek seems very solid at the head of the market for the QIPCO British Champions Sprint Stakes but his current odds are bordering on the prohibitive.
A far more attractive proposition is backing Soul each-way at 20/1 (Sky Bet, Bet365 and Stan James).
Godolphin's runner hasn't matched the form he showed in 2012 so far this year but has clearly been kept fresh for a back-end campaign, having had just the four starts, and he's another we can get stuck into now before sitting back and watching his odds contract as the ground deteriorates.