Matt Brocklebank looks to unearth the early value on QIPCO British Champions Day at Ascot, with four big-priced suggestions.
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**Unfortunately Ghaiyyath was ruled out of a Champion Stakes bid on Tuesday (click here for full story)
Roaring Lion stands head and shoulders above his rivals in this year’s QIPCO British Champion Stakes but while the possibility - although slim at this stage with the weather holding - of him maybe switching targets to the QEII remains intact, there's a temptation to look for a spot of value in the big one.
John Gosden has a lot to weigh up, not least the perfectly understandable, age-old notion of keeping stable stars apart if at all possible, but also the potential future benefits to Roaring Lion’s owners Qatar Racing should the Coral-Eclipse, Juddmonte International and Irish Champion hero also become a Group One winner over a mile in his alternative engagement on October 20.
Can Cracksman really beat Roaring Lion over 10 furlongs around Ascot? Not on this season’s evidence.
But he could give the rest a lot to think about, even if not back to the brilliant form that saw him run away with the Champion 12 months ago.
Perhaps they’ll both line up in the main event, but until that is absolutely confirmed I’m tempted to look elsewhere for an each-way alternative in the hope that the heavens open and Gosden slots Cracksman into the Champion, and Roaring Lion the QEII.
Even if the latter does turn up then he’s had a long, hard season, taking in seven races already en route to Champions Day, and perhaps a completely fresh GHAIYYATH might be able to bridge the gap with his fellow three-year-old.
Charlie Appleby has had a golden year and has held high hopes for this son of Dubawi since winning the Autumn Stakes at Newmarket last October. He went into the winter as the yard’s number one hope for the Derby, which tells you all you need to know given Appleby managed to win it with Masar, and the setback which saw him miss the bulk of the season must have been hard to take.
But last month’s comeback victory in Group Three company in France suggested that Appleby’s patience will be richly rewarded in time, and it looks worth rolling the dice with Ghaiyyath in a race that should play to his strengths.
He’s a proper galloping type – racing solely over a mile as a juvenile – but there was a spark in his stride when scoring over 10 furlongs at Longchamp which suggested he’s capable of mixing it in the big league at this distance, before really coming into his own over a mile and a half next year.
Arc contenders Enable and Crystal Ocean both sit between Gosden’s aforementioned pair and Ghaiyyath in the Champion Stakes betting and no matter how things pan out this weekend it’s not hard to see the Godolphin runner shortening.
If Roaring Lion starts to show the effects of his gruelling campaign, or even goes over a mile instead, then Appleby could be in line for yet more Group One glory.
One Gosden runner surely there to be shot at is £1million bonus scorer Stradivarius in the QIPCO British Champions Long Distance Cup.
He looked like he might have been starting to feel the pinch when winning the Lonsdale Cup at York last time and his trainer’s pronounced puff of the cheeks as the horse passed the line had many heading straight to this antepost market.
SOUTHERN FRANCE was a 16/1 chance in places at that stage and while now a top price of 12s, he’s definitely worth having on side having since run such a promising race in the William Hill St Leger.
Four lengths adrift of Lah Ti Dar in third at Doncaster, he simply bumped into two high-class, middle-distance horses and he’s surely going to enjoy every inch of the two mile trip at Ascot.
There's bags of stamina in his pedigree and there was already talk of the staying game being his forte when he finished second to Kew Gardens in the Queen’s Vase at Royal Ascot.
Aidan O’Brien could obviously opt to supplement Flag Of Honour into this following his Irish St Leger romp and he, too, looks made for a race of this nature in the autumn of the campaign on potentially easy ground.
But Southern France still has lots of improvement in him after just six career starts and this looks a more logical next port of call, rather than pitching him into the handicap battle of a Cesarewitch.
CENOTAPH (33/1) is chanced at a massive price in the QIPCO British Champions Sprint Stakes.
The top of the market is just a little suspect, with The Tin Man only seemingly able to peak once a season these days and Harry Angel on a recovery mission at a track that hasn’t been kind to him so far (0-5).
Blue Point is getting quicker with age and has to prove himself again over this distance, while Brando and last year’s winner Librisa Breeze are not all that predictable, and probably about the right sort of price anyway.
Tasleet comes under consideration having been second last year but his Haydock effort lacked a bit of oomph so the big prices about Jeremy Noseda’s entry are there to be snapped up.
Cenotaph didn’t make the grade at Ballydoyle but Noseda looks to have turned him inside out this year and the horse has racked up three straight handicap wins at Chelmsford.
Hardly Champions Day form on the face of it, but all-weather action continues to be underestimated when it comes to transferring to turf - see runaway Cambridgeshire winner Wissahickon as the latest high-profile example – and Cenotaph is now up to an official rating of 108 with the promise of more to come.
He was electric when scoring from Charles Molson from a perch of 103 last time out at the start of September and on that evidence, dropping back to a strongly-run six furlongs will be ideal.
Noseda has spoken of Group-race targets in the Emirates into the New Year but it makes sense to test the water on home soil while the son of War Front is clearly thriving, and he won’t be out of place despite obvious fears over the return to turf having a negative effect.
The QIPCO British Champions Fillies & Mares Stakes revolves around Leger runner-up Lah Ti Dar, with the only negatives being the drop in distance, and obviously her price (already 7/4).
She’s a classy filly with a big future but PILASTER may be able to find the 7lb-10lb required to give her a run for her money.
Roger Varian’s Nathaniel filly made a massive impression when winning by six lengths at Kempton in July and she’s since added the Group Two Qatar Lillie Langtry Stakes at Goodwood.
She’s not the finished article by any means but is learning quickly and the good ground and painfully slow tempo were dead against her when beaten half a length into third at Doncaster subsequently.
The race just didn’t pan out for Andrea Atzeni there but the filly was finishing powerfully on the approach to the line.
She is another dropping back from two and three-quarter miles but she looks the type to be suited by a strong gallop in a Group One field, and if the ground eases slightly before the end of the month then that should also play into her hands.
Posted at 0900 BST on 02/10/18.