Mike Cattermole thinks Japanese challenger Deirdre has been overlooked in the betting for the Champion Stakes - he has a race-by-race guide to Ascot on Saturday.
1.35 - Qipco British Champions Sprint Stakes
Frankie Dettori has a fabulous book of rides and will have the bookies running for cover if he can get his day off to the best start by winning this with Advertise.
Winner of the Commonwealth Cup over the course and distance in June – on ground curiously described as good to soft but it was much quicker than that - with Forever In Dreams second and Hello Youmzain back in third, he was last seen adding the Prix Maurice De Gheest over six and a half furlongs at Deauville, narrowly from Brando, who returns for a fourth go at this (third, sixth and fourth).
Advertise has never tackled a testing surface before, although some encouragement might be gained from his sprawling action, and neither his sire nor grandsire raced on anything other than a sound surface.
The ground will be no issue to HELLO YOUMZAIN who won the Haydock Sprint Cup on soft from the closing The Tin Man. Kevin Ryan’s sprinter made much of the running that day and kept on strongly and is surely a major player.
The Tin Man may have been a touch unlucky, having left the stalls awkwardly and there will be some that will rely on his course form here as evidence that he could reverse the form. But Hello Youmzain held him resolutely at Haydock.
The Tin Man is one of three previous winners of the race to return, the others being Librisa Breeze (up and down since) and Sands Of Mali who made all in soft here a year ago to beat Harry Angel. However, he has struggled to recapture that form, although it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him do much better again here on ground he will like.
Perhaps the most interesting runner is the massively improved Make A Challenge. In under five months he has improved by over three stone and was sensational in his last two easy wins at the Curragh. He has to be respected.
One Master, the dual Foret winner, and Cape Byron are two others who should not be far away.
SELECTION: HELLO YOUMZAIN
2.10 - Qipco British Champions Long Distance Cup
This is all about Stradivarius who has not been defeated since finishing third in this race two years ago. There doesn’t seem to be anything around that can stretch him to breaking point – he is always there to deliver that killing turn of foot and the only thing that could stop him from winning again is being below his best. He has had a tough season but tough is his middle name!
This is a good line-up and it will be fascinating to see how Kew Gardens gets on now that he is upped to two miles. But has slightly underwhelmed me this season and was a well held second in the Irish St Leger last time.
Goodness knows what has happened to Capri, winner of a vintage St Leger in 2017, when Stradivarius was third. He is a shadow of that horse, sadly.
Bin Battuta, Royal Line and Withhold have all triumphed in handicaps off marks well in excess of 100. Bin Battuta is yet to tackle soft ground but that’s no issue for the other two.
Royal Line won the November Handicap last year from the highest draw (23/23) and that takes some doing. He scored in the Group 3 September Stakes at Kempton last time and is an excellent stable back-up to Stradivarius.
However, WITHHOLD, a powerful front-runner, is the recommended each-way bet for the in-form Roger Charlton team.
Winner of the Marsh Cup at Newbury (good to soft officially but probably soft) off 107 on his reappearance in July, he found the drop back in trip against him in the Ebor but was back to his best at Newmarket over two miles in Listed company last time.
When he is in a rhythm, he is hard to get past and just keeps on galloping. It will be a good test for the favourite to reel him in.
SELCTION: WITHHOLD (EW)
2.45 - Qipco British Champions Fillies & Mares Stakes
STAR CATCHER has developed into a high-class filly and will be hard to beat. She has beaten Fleeting three times, in the Ribblesdale Stakes over this course and distance, the Irish Oaks and the Prix Vermeille.
The fourth and fifth from the Vermeille, Villa Marina and Fleeting, finished first and second in the Prix de l’Opera next time.
Oaks winner Anapurna was only seventh in the Vermeille but she too has franked that form by landing the Group One Prix de Royallieu over a mile and six at Longchamp last time on very soft ground. She is a great spare for William Buick and could easily make it a Gosden 1-2.
Dermot Weld won this with Sapphire in 2012 and Tarnawa lines up here on the back of Group wins at Cork and the Curragh (from Goddess) and with no worries about the ground. She is respected.
Antonia De Vega is a likeable filly that should have more to give but she has not been out since winning nicely at Newbury in June although Ralph Beckett’s team is flying right now.
SELECTION: STAR CATCHER
3.20 - Queen Elizabeth II Stakes
Benbatl is officially the best horse on this card and was brilliant on his return to action in the Group Two Joel Stakes at Newmarket when he outclassed King Of Comedy (now wears cheekpieces) by five lengths.
That was his first race since last October when beaten two lengths by Winx, no less. However, this ground is a huge concern having been well held the only other time has tackled heavy.
THE REVENANT, a proper mud lover, was brilliant in the Prix Daniel Wildenstein at Longchamp last time, showing a superb turn of foot on the very soft ground to soundly beat the smart milers Olmedo and Shaman and he comes here in the form of his life.
He has made giant strides this year but can he reproduce that form on a straight track? If he can, then he is the one to beat.
Magna Grecia’s 2,000 Guineas win split opinion and he then suffered a hamstring injury in the Irish 2,000. It is good to see him return but this is asking a lot, as indeed it is of Mohaather, off since landing the Greenham in April.
Guineas runner-up King Of Change has at least run since, winning in Listed company at Sandown but he has never raced on anything softer than good. There is more to come from him and his sire, Farrh, produced one of his best performances on soft ground on this card.
Phoenix Of Spain looked to have a bright season ahead of him when he won the Irish 2,000 Guineas on his reappearance but he has not built on that at all and I see that connections believe that changing the jockey might help as James Doyle now replaces Jamie Spencer.
Lord Glitters is sure to be on the premises as he has won twice and been placed three times from six starts here (form figures 212261). He has a fine turn of foot and should be in the money again.
SELECTION: THE REVENANT
4.00 - Qipco Champion Stakes
The most disappointing line-up of the day. Still, Magical is here and this most admirable of fillies runs in her 14th Group One!
However, she looked legless when fifth in the Arc last time so you wonder whether she has had time to recover from that, less than two weeks ago. Prior to that she won a good renewal of Irish Champion Stakes when DEIRDRE suffered a desperate run in fourth place.
Had she got out sooner, the Japanese mare would surely have gone close and indeed had passed Magical a few strides after the post. That seems to be the way she is ridden and she got the gaps when winning the Nassau Stakes from Mehdaayih the time before.
It makes no sense to me that Magical is 7/4 and Deirdre is available at 9/1 so trust Oisin to find the way through this time (although it won’t be easy) and assuming that the ground won’t stop her.
At least the round course won’t be as bad and she has won at the top level on yielding ground back home.
Coronet was second to Magical in the Fillies and Mares here 12 months ago but really should have won as it was not Olivier Peslier’s finest hour. The grey mare looks sure to go well on her final racecourse appearance.
Everybody knows that Addeybb will love the conditions but he needs to step up as he has been well beaten on both his starts at the highest level.
4.40 - Balmoral Handicap
Frankie is on board Lord North who was as easy a winner of a top handicap as you will ever see in the Cambridgeshire last time. It was ridiculous! No wonder he has been raised 12lb. He has won on soft and if his rider has had a good day up to this point, watch his price!
In last year’s race, Escobar was second and returns off a 3lb higher mark this time. Third to Kynren here last time, he is 6lb better for just under four lengths. Kynren is always on a short list for these races but is on a career high mark now.
Amedeo Modigliani caught the eye at Cork last time, travelling very smoothly into the race and not getting the best of runs. But he is priced accordingly.
Coolagh Forest is in great form and won well at York on soft over the extended mile and a quarter for which he is up 6lb as he drops back in trip. Having lost the ride on Sands Of Mali, he is Paul Hanagan’s only mount of the day.
Likewise, Jamie Spencer (jocked off Phoenix Of Spain) has a long wait for the one opportunity to make his mark and, on a track that he rides so well, he could well do so on CLON COULIS.
David Barron’s mare needs things to fall just right to deploy her turn of foot and she is drawn right over on the far side, so luck will play a part. However, off this same mark, she failed by a pixel to land the Royal Hunt Cup on soft ground here in June when Kynren was fifth and now 6lb worse.
Clon Coulis suffered a poor run at Newmarket last time and was eased down but there is no question she is handicapped to go very close. Now it’s up to Jamie and more than a bit of good fortune.
SELECTION: CLON COULIS