After tipping Logician at 12/1 for the St Leger, Matt Brocklebank is keen to get a two horses on side at 20/1 and 12/1 ahead of the QIPCO British Champions Day at Ascot.
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Opposing Stradivarius in the Long Distance Cup at Ascot on Champions Day looks to have some mileage, based purely on the possibility of him not turning up.
John Gosden’s ace got away with it in a muddling contest on soft ground last year but the trainer’s comments after squeezing the Doncaster Cup into his latest bonus-winning campaign had me looking for long-term value against him in this race.
“If you wait for Champions Day and it’s heavy ground he won’t be running there,” featured in Gosden’s post-race analysis on Town Moor and, while the summer lingers on a little for now, there’s clearly a significant chance we could be looking at deep conditions come October 19.
And with Stradivarius no greater than 4/6 at the time of writing we’re looking at 8/1 and bigger the remainder as things stand.
It’s a pretty weak division as we’ve learnt this season and there’s probably room for something that hasn’t been banging heads with Stradivarius all year to muscle in on the action, especially on bad ground - which we’re assuming it will be for the purpose of this bet.
Second-favourite Kew Gardens wouldn’t want it hock deep, especially on his first try at two miles, for that he should really have gone very close to winning the Irish St. Leger at the Curragh last weekend.
He bumped into an enterprisingly-ridden Search For A Song, who has been ruled out of her only Champions Day entry in the Champion Fillies & Mares Stakes.
Her stablemate Tarnawa looks made for that mile and a half race so it’ll be fascinating to see if Dermot Weld sends her back up in distance.
Search For A Song – for a while now considered a future Gold Cup horse – will be put away with next year in mind according to connections.
Kew Gardens was staying on strongly having been caught out of his ground at the weekend and looks more than ready for a first crack at two miles. He’s a far more appealing bet at 8/1 compared to the antepost favourite but it could pay to cast the net a little wider.
Gosden will have a lot of decisions to make when it comes to who goes where on Champions Day – just take a look at that Fillies & Mares – and we’ve seen him do it to great effect in the past.
Just last year Gosden left it quite late with the Roaring Lion QEII call but he pulled it off, with the ill-fated grey gaining that Group One at a mile and Cracksman winning his second Champion Stakes.
His only other entries in this year’s Long Distance Cup are Ben Vrackie and ROYAL LINE, and the latter looks worth chancing at the 20/1 available generally.
He’ll love the ground (we’re assuming the mud is flying, remember) having produced his very best performance to date when sluicing through soft conditions to win last year’s November Handicap at Doncaster.
That came from a mark of 105 and earned him a 6lb rise to 111. This year his comeback was delayed but he put in a perfectly respectable effort over a completely inadequate 10 furlongs in the Gala Stakes at Sandown won by Elarqam.
What followed was a move back up to a mile and a half and a convincing success at Kempton over proven all-weather stayer Mootasadir, with Prince Of Arran and Sun Maiden also in behind.
The 121-rated Best Solution wasn’t able to run his race back in seventh but Royal Line was strong at the finish to lead close home and smacked of a horse desperate for another try over further.
He ran over the mile and three-quarters at Newbury as a three-year-old so staying has seemingly been at the back of Gosden’s mind for a while with this horse, as has the autumn time given the way his campaign has been framed.
He’s lightly raced, open to further improvement following just the two outings in the year and hails from the king of late-maturing types in super-sire Dubawi.
This race looks bound to cut up between now and the race and if the biggest name of all fails to materialise as a certain runner, then having his stablemate on side at 20s should look a good bit of business.
Elsewhere on the big day, Wokingham winner Cape Byron comes under consideration in the QIPCO British Champions Sprint Stakes.
He got back on track - following a no-show when well supported (6/1) for the July Cup at Newmarket - when third to Shine So Bright in a Group Two over seven furlongs at York and stepping back to six furlongs in what promises to be a reasonably sized field should play to his strengths.
His course record at Ascot reads 102711 so a bold bid looks likely if he pitches up but the only thing putting me off is the fact that even on his best form he'd have plenty to find with Sprint Cup winner Hello Youmzain, who looks a major improver himself and will also be suited by autumn ground.
The QEII is a little bit messy at this stage and it could pay to wait to see how the race shapes up nearer to the time. The supplementary stage on October 14 is worth keeping an eye out for as we could conceivably see the emergence of Line Of Duty in this event.
He really stepped it up around this time of year in 2018 and his form from the Breeders' Cup is very strong. Charlie Appleby admits to taking a while to fully work the horse out but there have been signs in his two French runs back at a mile this year to suggest he's not done with yet.
He didn't get a clear run behind Circus Maximus and Romanised in the Prix du Moulin at Longchamp last time but boxed on well for third and when you consider they are are 7/1 and 8s respectively for the QEII, it'll be interesting to see where Line Of Duty slots into the market if it becomes the intended target.
For a second bet I'm heading to the QIPCO Champion Stakes in which Deirdre has been quite well backed having been unlucky not to finish very close to Magical in the Irish Champion over the weekend.
She might yet be supplemented for the Arc de Triomphe and she's not the only one who could run at Longchamp before dropping back to 10 furlongs at Ascot.
Japan, Ghaiyyath and Magical feature in that bracket but the one I'm most keen on is SOTTSASS and, win, lose or draw in the Arc, he looks made for this event.
As touched upon already this week, the French Derby winner's pedigree strongly suggests he'll be most effective at nine and 10 furlongs and it was only really his brilliant turn of speed which enabled him to get out of trouble to win Sunday's Prix Niel.
That was his first go over a mile and a half but it was far from conclusive in terms of proving his stamina as the five-runner field meant it wasn't a strongly-run race by any means.
He'll face a different test altogether in the Arc and - being a son of Siyouni - will surely drop back in distance providing he comes out of it in good shape.
His two-length defeat of Persian King in the Prix du Jockey club marked him out as a future champion and he also handles soft ground extremely well so ticks a lot of boxes.
We've had two French-trained Champion Stakes winners in the past eight runnings, including Almanzor for Sottsass' trainer Jean-Claude Rouget in 2016, and at 12/1 he appeals more than anything else at this stage.
Posted at 1300 BST on 18/09/19
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