Go for Glory on Champions Day
It's QIPCO British Champions Day - the culmination of the European Flat racing season - this Saturday at Ascot, an afternoon that sees five Group races, including three Group Ones, televised on C4.
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1.45 QIPCO British Champions Long Distance Cup (Group 3) 2m CH4
The stayers are first up and all eyes will be on the Queen's Royal Ascot winner, Estimate. She was last seen winning the Ascot Gold Cup back in June and has been saved for this since. She's unbeaten from three runs at the Berkshire track and with Ryan Moore on her back she's sure to play a big part here.
The consistent Godolphin runner Ahzeemah has finished in the top two in all of his last 11 starts so the e/w players will be falling over themselves to support this four-year-old.
The Irish have won the last two runnings, so keep an eye on anything they send over - especially Dermot Weld or Aidan O'Brien runners. However, I'll take a chance on HARRIS TWEED. This 6 year-old loves soft ground and although he's got to prove himself over this trip I think the ground could be key on Saturday and I'd rather be siding with horses that have shown a liking for these conditions.
2:20 QIPCO British Champions Sprint Stakes (Group 2) 6f CH4
The Irish-trained Maarek took this 12 months ago and was a winner at Longchamp last time out - he's another that will love it if the ground is soft. Heaven's Guest won a decent handicap here a few weeks ago, but this is a big step up in grade so will need a career-best effort if he's to take this - it is interesting, however, that Ryan Moore sticks with him.
For me though, in what doesn't look the best renewal, I think Jim Goldie's JACK DEXTER rates a decent e/w option. Yes, all his wins have been at a lower level, but he did land a Group 3 earlier this season up at Newcastle. Add in that all his wins have been on soft (or worse) ground then that's a huge positive for this versatile sprinter, who has also run well on all his three previous visits to Ascot.
2:55 QIPCO British Champions Fillies' And Mares' Stakes (Group 1) 1m4f CH4
John Gosden's Pomology could be anything after making it three-from-three at Deauville last time and it's interesting that he thinks she's good enough to take her chance here. Lady Cecil's Hot Snap returned to form with a decent second, behind Belle De Crecy, at the Curragh last time, but if the ground does remain on the soft side then this will be the most testing conditions she's faced to date.
The French won this in 2009 and could have Dalkala and Galvaun running, but trainer Michael Bell has his horses in fantastic form and THE LARK, under Jamie Spencer, is the one for me.
Third in the Epsom Oaks earlier in the season, she also won that horrible race (Park Hill Stakes) in which Hayley Turner took that horrible fall in, but it was an easy win and looked the winner despite the tumble of his main rival. She's got winning form in soft ground too, while will have no stamina doubts should this turn into a test.
3:30 Queen Elizabeth II Stakes (Sponsored By QIPCO) (British Champions Mile) (Group 1) 1m CH4
South African raider Soft Falling Rain was a very decent winner last time out at HQ, but all his wins have been either on the dirt or on fast surfaces on the turf - that would be a worry for me. John Gosden's Elusive Kate will certainly be fine on the ground (she's won on all sorts), but she comes here off the back of two poor efforts and is, therefore, becoming a rather in and out performer for me.
Aidan O'Brien has won the race three times since 2006 and at this stage has Declaration Of War, Magician and Kingsbarns running, but this could go to the Richard Hannon camp - they run OLYMPIC GLORY.
Yes, he was a beaten favourite last time over in France, but the time before ran the classy Moonlight Cloud close at Deauville. He's got top-notch form in soft ground too and although he still needs to totally convince over a mile (all wins over 6f and 7f) under Richard Hughes, who has won on him 5 times, he'll have a jockey who knows him inside out.
4:05 QIPCO Champion Stakes (British Champions Middle Distance) (Group 1) 1m2f CH4
A lot of focus will be on the French raider Cirrus Des Aigles, who won this in 2011. However, 10 of the last 11 runnings have gone to horses aged 5 or younger so at 7 years-old he's got this huge trend to overcome. The filly, and this year's 1,000 Guineas winner, Sky Lantern, is interesting upped to 1m2f - her turn of foot will be a useful asset, but the ground (if on the soft side) will be an unknown. That really only leaves us with FARHH. This Godolphin-trained 5 year-old saw the back of Frankel a few times last season, but has only been out once this term, when winning the Lockinge impressively at Newbury. Yes, he's got a lay-off to overcome, but has gone well fresh in the past and has winning form on good-to-soft too.
Champion Stakes Trends
11/11 - Won at least 4 times before
10/11 - Won a Group 1 or 2 race before
10/11 - Won between 4 and 8 times before
10/11 - Aged 5 or younger
10/11 - Finished in the top 3 in their latest race
10/11 - Won over 1m2f previously
9/11 - Raced within the last 6 weeks
8/11 - Raced 5 or more times that term
8/11 - Aged 3 or 4 years-old
6/11 - Raced at either Longchamp (3) or Goodwood (3) last time out
6/11 - Won their last race
5/11 - Favourites unplaced
5/11 - Returned a double-figure price
3/11 - Won by a French-based trainer
3/11 - Trained by the Cecil yard
3/11 - Ridden by Tom Queally
2/11 - Favourites to win
The average winning SP in the last 10 years is 9.4/1
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