QIPCO British Champions Day on Saturday is all about, well champions.
We have Oisin Murphy and William Buick on target to take their fight for the jockeys’ title to the wire on Saturday – and what a way to decide it.
Proceedings at Ascot will have a big bearing on the trainers’ crown too although bizarrely that runs through to December. Matt Brocklebank looks at how that could play out on Saturday right here.
But what of the horses? Well bragging rights in at least three divisions are still up for grabs and for once the champions and the pretenders to the thrones, are all rolling up their sleeves for a final autumn dust-up.
Bring it on.
The staying division has been one of change in 2021. That’s chiefly because Father Time has gradually and subtly started to win his battle with Stradivarius. It took him until the age of seven to dim the powers – and even so his Doncaster Cup win and second to Trueshan in the Cadran are only six or seven pounds off his peak on Timeform ratings.
But that deterioration has opened the door to his rivals and Subjectivist barged through it to claim the Gold Cup at Royal Ascot in the manner of a horse destined to hold onto the throne for a while only for injury to strike. Then the weather gods finally allowed Alan King to have a shot at the former champion in Paris and Trueshan, with cut in the ground, was too strong for our old hero.
They meet again here on Saturday – and good to soft ground might be enough to help Stradivarius bridge the gap. It’s also likely to be his last race and what a story it would be if one he had one final hurrah in the locker.
But for the future a more significant pointer will come from the run of Manobo. An unbeaten son of Sea The Stars he claimed a Group Two contest on Arc weekend. He has more to offer stepping up to two miles here. As a sighter for 2022, it will be fascinating to see how he fares against the older horses.
Hamish is another completely unexposed at the trip and while five now, it’s his first try at such a staying test. If it suits he too will be adding fresh spice to the staying mix.
What a strange division the sprinting one has been this year. The retirement of Battaash presented a golden opportunity for someone to step forwards and claim the mantle of champion sprinter but the wait goes on.
There have been fleeting moments of brilliance, Starman in the Darley July Cup and Suesa in the Qatar King George Stakes at Goodwood two prime examples. But they were to be one hit wonders.
Oxted dropped back to five furlongs to win the King’s Stand before his season was curtailed, Winter Power was dominant in the Coolmore Nunthorpe but all at sea away from York in the Flying Five next time.
Dragon Symbol had a close-up view of all those winners during a campaign in which he hasn’t missed a dance. Maybe this is his day in the sun, and according to the Met Office, we might well get just that on Saturday.
But in all honesty the Champions Sprint is likely to provide further confirmation that the class of 2021 can beat each other on any given day. A muddling year for our speedballs.
All you needed at the turn of the year was Love but she heads to Ascot on Saturday on a retrieval mission.
It’s not that she’s had a bad year, a reappearance win in the Princess Of Wales’s Stakes saw to that, but she’s been beaten three times since, including a surprise reverse at the hooves of La Petite Coco when here sights were lowered in the Blandford Stakes.
Perhaps that thriving rival can show there’s no disgrace in that with a bold show of her own on Saturday or maybe the return of a mile-and-a-half will see the O’Brien filly back into the mid-130 Timeform performance figures and that should suffice here.
That’s even with stablemate Snowfall in the field. When she ran away, literally at Epsom, with three Oaks in the mid-summer she looked a filly of the ages. In two starts since in France she’s been below that level.
Both have an alternative entry on the card.
We’ve an improving daughter of Galileo to throw into the mix in this though. Free Wind hails from Clarehaven not Ballydoyle and has been building momentum all year. A seven lengths winner of the Park Hill last time, she’ll go forward on Saturday and expose any chinks in the supposed big guns.
She and La Petite Coco are the two right-now fillies in this race – and it’s a case of whichever horse O’Brien filly throws at it finding their best again if they are to be repelled. As the market suggests it’s no certainty they can.
A genuine title decider. It’s reigning champ Palace Pier v Baaeed and the winner takes all.
This is the sort of showdown QIPCO British Champions Day was designed for. On one hand we have the leading older miler, winner of the Lockinge, Queen Anne and Prix Jacques Le Marois.
And on the other the slow-burning three-year-old Baaeed. He only saw a racecourse for the first time a week before his rival’s defeat of Lope Y Fernandez and Sir Busker at this track in June, running out a taking winner of a Leicester maiden when sent off a 6/1 chance.
It’s been a case of up, up and away from there, his scintillating progress being capped by a first Group One in France in August. He beat Order Of Australia in the Moulin, showing his customary fine turn of foot and always looking in control inside the final furlong.
His weight-adjusted Timeform rating on Saturday is 134p. Palace Pier is 142. So is that p worth eight pounds? Very possibly – and there’s no finer way of finding out than eyeballing the current champ.
It’s not like the support cast is weak either. Last year’s winner The Revenant heads here off the back of a fine second in the Prix Daniel Wildenstein and Sussex Stakes heroine Alcohol Free has the same rating as Baaeed without the symbol to indicate there’s more to come.
This is a race to watch and savour. Let’s hope both the main protagonists turn up in top form and we have a clean fight. The mile division awaits the result.
A vintage renewal of this too.
Adayar had Mishriff a length-and-three-quarters back in second when winning the King George here in July. If he repeats the feat back at ten furlongs, and less than two weeks on from his Arc fourth, then we have a true champion to savour.
The Mishriff team will be confident of taking their revenge. This has been his target ever since, according to Timeform, he came on two pounds from Ascot to run away with the Juddmonte International at York.
A mile-and-a-quarter is his trip and Adayar will need to draw his sting before the final half furlong on Saturday if he is to confirm that glorious summer superiority.
There’s a pound between them on weight-adjusted ratings, Adayar coming out on top. But what’s a pound between friends? A brief moment of traffic, a tardy start, racing too keenly through the first quarter-of-a-mile. We’re down to very fine margins here.
(Video courtesy of QIPCO British Champions Series)
Either Love or Snowfall will run - although both have a much better chance in the Fillies And Mares race. William Haggas does have two significant players though in last year’s winner Addeybb and Dubai Honour.
The latter is arguably the more interesting, an improving three-year-old who has won Group Twos in France the last twice. He was good, very good, when proving too quick for Magny Cours in the final furlong of the Prix Dollar at ParisLongchamp.
He’s another William Buick will want off the bridle before that turn of foot becomes an issue for the Derby winner.
All in all we’re in for some day.
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