Free horse racing betting preview and tips for Ascot from commentator Simon Holt

Richard Hannon-trained The Grape Escape wins at Sandown

Racing commentator Simon Holt is backing The Grape Escape to win the final race on Champions Day, while he also has a confident selection for the QEII.

Powerful winds, soft ground and strong favourites are on the cards at Ascot for Qipco Champions Day when Order Of St George, Harry Angel and Ribchester could all justify favouritism in their respective races albeit at cramped odds.

Better priced winners may lurk elsewhere but, in the British Champions Long Distance Cup, Order Of St George is strongly fancied to reverse his Gold Cup defeat by Big Orange back in June on ground which should play to his strengths.

Aidan O'Brien's smart stayer ran well for the second consecutive year in the Arc at Chantilly last time finishing fourth behind Enable and, unlike 12 months ago when he was beaten in this race a fortnight later, he has had an extra week to recover this time.

It is hard to see anything stopping him provided he has recovered in time especially as the ground is likely to go against Big Orange and Goodwood Cup winner Stradivarius.

Money Back at Ascot

It could be a similar story in the Qipco British Champions Sprint if Harry Angel reproduces either of his last two stunning performances in the July Cup or Haydock Sprint Cup, on the latter occasion destroying his rivals on heavy ground.

The Clive Cox-trained colt seems to have improved enormously since being beaten by Caravaggio here in the Commonwealth Cup at the Royal meeting whereas the latter has not looked quite the same horse since.

RIBCHESTER is another likely short-priced market-leader (though perhaps less so than the aforementioned pair) in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes in which easing ground should be no problem for a horse who won the Prix du Moulin in the soft at Chantilly last time and also took Newbury's Lockinge Stakes in similar conditions earlier in the season.

Richard Fahey's colt should arguably have beaten Here Comes When in the Sussex Stakes in August but for which he would have won his last four starts and he is quite clearly the best older miler in the country.

The dangers come from the younger generation in the form of dual Guineas winner Churchill, the progressive Beat The Bank and narrow Prix Jacques le Marois winner Al Wukair.

Richard Fahey on Ribchester

At this level, Churchill has the most proven ability and has won with some cut in the ground. He looked potentially imperious earlier in the season but flopped at the Royal meeting here and, while he ran well to finish second to Ulysses in the Juddmonte International and when seventh in the Irish Champion Stakes (would probably have made the frame with a clear run) over a mile and quarter, he has become vulnerable.

However, the drop back to a mile may well suit this fine big, handsome colt.

The complication in the race is the draw with Churchill housed in stall one on the far side close to likely pacesetters Lancaster Bomber and Toscanini (for Godolphin) whereas Ribchester is drawn (along with Al Wukair and Beat The Bank) far away towards the stands' side.

The Qipco Champion Stakes looks intriguing with the likely favourite Cracksman dropping in distance after missing the Arc.

Trainer John Gosden insists this lovely Frankel colt would definitely have run a place behind stable companion Enable at Chantilly, and he has undoubtedly improved since finishing third and second in the Epsom and Irish Derbys respectively earlier in the summer.

The big question is whether Cracksman can prove as effective over a mile and a quarter as he looks like a horse who gallops relentlessly rather than one who quickens instantly.

Should he prove short of pace over this trip, POET'S WORD could be the one to take advantage following a career-best effort behind Decorated Knight in the Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardstown last time.

Reported to have worked brilliantly earlier this week, Sir Michael Stoute's colt was a soft ground winner at Goodwood in early August and could be ready to take another step forward.

On form, St James's Palace Stakes winner Barney Roy has solid claims but he is such a good-moving colt that it must be doubtful that soft ground suits him ideally, and he will need to switch off better than in the past in order to stay this distance under the likely conditions.

Poet's Word is fancied to go close

French challenger Brametot is another possible after his fifth in the Arc and for him both the distance and going should be ideal.

Some of the colt's Classic-winning form earlier in the season doesn't look quite so good now, however, and he must again avoid his occasional tendency to jump out slowly from the stalls given the short run down to Swinley Bottom.

At his best, Highland Reel would almost certainly be the one to beat, but he seemed to struggle a little on good to soft going behind Enable in the King George in late July and with conditions likely to be similar or deeper, one suspects connections are running him to advance his fitness ahead of some international targets during the months to come.

Last year's winner Journey is likely to head the market for the Qipco British Champions Fillies & Mares Stakes but has over two lengths to find with the French-trained Bateel on their recent clash at Chantilly.

John Gosden's quirky but talented five-year-old, who was also second in this race (beaten three-quarters of a length by the smart Simple Verse) in 2015, has had a light campaign and may well be spot-on now as that latest run was her first since July.

However, while able to handle some cut in the ground, all her winning form has come under faster conditions whereas the thriving Bateel is a confirmed mudlark.

Journey's stable-companion Coronet is likely to finish strongly if in the same form as when landing the Ribblesdale over this course and distance in June (and has run well enough since) but this trip is a step into the unknown for Matron Stakes winner Hydrangea though aspects of her pedigree suggest she will stay. It looks a tricky contest.

In the closing Balmoral Handicap, THE GRAPE ESCAPE is taken to follow-up his impressive weight-carrying performance at Pontefract 12 days ago.

Richard Hannon's imposing colt is 2lb well-in under a penalty for that success in soft ground (from a well fancied rival in Me Too Nagasaki) and looks highly progressive.

The Grape Escape clearly handles testing ground well and probably found conditions too quick when down the field in the Britannia Handicap here in June.

Accidental Agent and Lord Glitters, first and second over seven furlongs here recently, and last week's York winner Zabeel Prince are obvious dangers in a fiercely competitive race to end what is a spectacular card.

Recommended bets: Simon Holt

2pts win Ribchester 3.15 Ascot at best morning price - class act who will be fine under the expected conditions

2pts win Poet's Word 3.50 Ascot at best morning price - progressive colt can take another step up the ladder

1pt win The Grape Escape 4.30 Ascot at best morning price - won well last time, proving these conditions suit

Posted at 1145 BST on 20/10/17.

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