Alex Hammond Blog: Champions Day preview and tips

Magical and Coronet do battle again, this time in the Champion Stakes
Magical and Coronet do battle again, this time in the Champion Stakes

Alex Hammond looks ahead to QIPCO British Champions Day at Ascot and highlights her best bets, including Clon Coulis in the Balmoral Handicap..

It's QIPCO British Champions Day on Saturday and we could be looking at another memorable Frankie Dettori day at Ascot – what are his best chances, and where can we oppose him?

You bookies need to be afraid, very afraid!

Frankie at Ascot has been synonymous with bookie bashing over the years and this Saturday could be no different.

He's better at the Royal racecourse than anyone is, or has been, and after his Arc disappointment he'll be keen to be centre stage once more. Let’s list his rides first of all...

Advertise in the opening Champions Sprint - Great chance, should enjoy the ground.

Stradivarius in the Long Distance Cup - Watch out bookies, another cracking chance.

Star Catcher in the Fillies & Mares - Have you buried your head in your hands yet you bookies?

King Of Comedy in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes - Ok, not an absolute certainly, but I love this horse and he’s handled soft ground in the past.

Coronet in the Champions Stakes - Another superstar filly who has proven herself at the highest level this season and is a winner on heavy. *starts thinking it could be another Dettori day*.

Lord North in the Balmoral Handicap - Granted this race is no 'getting out stakes', but the Cambridgeshire winner has plenty to recommend him (see question question below).

Does that answer your question? Oppose him at your peril is my advice.

Star Catcher and Frankie Dettori win the Ribblesdale
Star Catcher and Frankie Dettori win the Ribblesdale

Which horses are going to be best suited by the soft conditions this weekend?

Well, first of all I have to praise Ascot’s executive for using their initiative and moving the longer races onto the inner track (or hurdle track as us jumps fans call it!), which will allow us to enjoy this magnificent celebration of some top class racehorses.

I’m really excited to be covering Champions Day at Ascot for the first time for Sky Sports Racing, having attended as a racegoer many times in the past.

The unpredictable autumnal weather has made our task of finding winners that little bit harder, but to be honest, any trainer declaring their horse(s) to run aren’t expecting that those horses will hate the ground.

Quite the opposite in fact, it will be hoped that any horse competing on Saturday won’t find the conditions too much of a problem. The one thing it has done, is make the races much more competitive, which is a good thing for you and me.

So, the horses I’m most looking forward to seeing given the conditions are:

Advertise and One Master in the Sprint, Stradivarius in the Long Distance Cup, Star Catcher and Sparkle Roll in the Fillies and Mares, Mohaather in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes, Coronet and Mehdaayih in the Champion Stakes, And see below for my idea of the protagonists in the Balmoral Handicap...

Mehdaayih spreadeagles her field at Chester
Mehdaayih spreadeagles her field at Chester

Can you try and help unravel arguably the most difficult punting puzzle on the day – the Balmoral Handicap?

Ah once again, saving the best til last!

I made the mistake of overlooking Lord North for the Cambridgeshire based purely on his price and was left counting the cost.

John Gosden's improving three-year-old reminds me very much of another horse he trains: Wissahickon.

Wissahickon has his quirks and this horse also has to have his mind managed by his master trainer, but he’s definitely on top of him at the moment.

The son of Dubawi has always been considered a potential Group performer by Gosden and his win at Newmarket looked like he was on his way to fulfilling that prophesy. He’s been raised 12lb by the handicapper for that cheeky win and as a result I don’t expect we’ll see him running in handicaps after this race on Saturday.

Wissahickon won the Cambridgeshire off 107, Lord North off 98 and I think there’s a little bit of wiggle room off 110 in this ultra-competitive one-mile handicap.

He’s a winner on soft ground, but whether he’ll cope with heavy is anyone's guess and at 7/2 with Sky Bet (despite the assistance of Frankie) do you want to take that chance?

So, I’m going to pick a couple at a bigger price and hope they can give us a run for our money. The first of those is Clon Coulis and at 10/1 with Sky Bet he looks a bit more tempting.

The David Barron trained horse has one big advantage and that advantage is the assistance of Jamie Spencer in the plate. I know some punters find him incredibly frustrating to follow, but you find me a list of jockeys that ride Ascot’s straight track better.

This horse was only just touched off in the Royal Hunt Cup back in June off the same handicap mark he runs off on Saturday and he won’t mind the ground.

At an even bigger price (33/1 with Sky Bet) Mitchum Swagger will love conditions and he hails from the in-form yard of Ralph Beckett.

He’s slipped down the weights a touch recently and if you are looking for a horse that will relish conditions, he's your man.

Jockey Jamie Spencer
Jockey Jamie Spencer


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