Ben Linfoot seeks out the value on QIPCO British Champions Day at Ascot and he has three bets, including in the Champion Stakes where he takes on Cracksman.
Recommended Bets: Value Bet, Champions Day, Saturday October 20
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This year’s QIPCO British Champions Day at Ascot could be dominated by John Gosden, who has played an absolute blinder in keeping two of his star horses, Cracksman and Roaring Lion, apart.
A year ago we saw that he was at pains to keep two thriving big guns away from each other when Cracksman and Enable didn’t bang heads in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe and this year’s QIPCO Champion Stakes has suffered the same fate.
A blinkered Cracksman lines up again in the race he won by seven lengths 12 months ago, while Roaring Lion drops in trip to a mile for the first time since he was beaten in the Guineas in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes.
The Champion Stakes is a fascinating race and a good one to have a bet in, as there are question marks over the front three in the betting who all have something to prove.
Cracksman needs to show he’s as good at four as he was in the latter stages of his three-year-old career, something that isn’t a given on this season’s evidence and especially so now connections have reached for the blinkers on his last start before he becomes a stallion.
His awesome power propelled him to victory in this race last year, but, while conditions have turned in his favour, there is always the chance that he will simply be done for pace over this trip.
And that’s the problem for Crystal Ocean and Capri, too.
The former only just beat Fabricate over the trip at Sandown, admittedly his seasonal reappearance, but has thrived over a mile and a half this season and looks very much a specialist at that trip.
Second to Capri in the St Leger just over a year ago, the 2017 Doncaster winner also thrives over further and, while he got away with winning over 10 furlongs at Naas in April, that was a Group 3 and he may well not do so in the Champion Stakes.
All this makes the 18/1 (Betfair Sportsbook, Paddy Power, 16/1 General) about Gosden’s second string, MONARCHS GLEN, appealing.
Another four-year-old son of Frankel, he doesn’t have the form in the book of those above him in the market, but he is a proper 10-furlong horse, he is improving and he comes into this a little under the radar thanks to the shadow cast by his prodigious stablemate.
But his win in the Wolferton Stakes at Royal Ascot marks him out as a real contender on Saturday.
Run as a Listed race for the first time, Monarchs Glen won easily in a first-time hood, the headgear really helping him settle as in the past he’s often taken a keen hold.
Frankie Dettori managed to switch him off in the early stages and that allowed him to produce his best, which was a markedly easy win against a good field.
Indeed, the form has worked out well. Monarchs Glen gave 5lb and a one-length beating to the second, Euginio, who has won twice since, 5lb and a two-length beating to subsequent Sky Bet Ebor winner, Muntahaa, who was third, while the fifth, Mirage Dancer, the ninth, Laraaib, the 10th, Chain Of Daisies, the 12th, Big Country, the 13th, Fabricate, and the last home (Yucatan, Melbourne Cup favourite) have all won since.
It looks really good form and is strong proof that Monarchs Glen acts well at Ascot, while it also shows that he goes well fresh as that effort came off the back of 80 days off the track.
His absence since then looks a positive, with Gosden saying he’s not had a setback, just that they were waiting for the right race.
This looks perfect for him, as he’s won his sole start on soft ground as well, and at 18s he looks overpriced to upset his stablemate and more famous son of Frankel that heads the market.
Earlier on Gosden could kick off the meeting with yet another win for Stradivarius in the QIPCO British Champions Long Distance Cup, although Aidan O’Brien’s Flag Of Honour, getting 8lb, could well prevent the four-year-old from completing a perfect five from five season.
It looks between those two and the following QIPCO British Champions Sprint could well be dominated by those at the top of the market as well.
The Tin Man is thriving, loves soft ground and Ascot, so he’s a deserved market leader following his Haydock Sprint Cup success, while course specialist Librisa Breeze has not been missed by the market despite an average season.
Harry Angel is on the cusp of tempting as 6/1 third favourite, as he’s the best horse in the race and has had a long list of excuses in his defeats at this track. If he drifts a little bigger, he could be the bet as he has the talent to blow this field apart if everything goes right for him.
I’d rather leave the race alone for now, though, and back MAGICAL at 15/2 (Sky Bet, bet365) in the QIPCO British Champion Fillies & Mares Stakes at 2.40.
O’Brien’s filly has another Gosden hotpot to overcome in Lah Ti Dar, but she looks vulnerable to me after a hard race in the St Leger and plenty of potential is factored into her short odds as she’s yet to prove she’s better than a handful of her opposition on Saturday.
Magical is really interesting, as she was a top-class juvenile on soft ground and has shown glimpses of what she’s capable of this year despite a stop-start season.
Her sole victory as a three-year-old came when she hosed up at the Curragh in Group 2 company in July, and since then she ran well for a long way in the Matron Stakes behind Laurens, while she was only beaten five lengths in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe last time despite a wide trip.
That was a good run and her profile isn’t too dissimilar to last year’s winner, Hydrangea, who had a near identical two-year-old career, struggled a little bit from May to August at three before thriving in the autumn.
It’s a fairly quick turnaround from Longchamp for Magical, but she has the look of a filly that could take off very soon and I can’t resist taking on Lah Ti Dar with the daughter of Galileo.
The Queen Elizabeth II Stakes looks at the mercy of Roaring Lion, the star of the season who looks to have the pace to deal with this drop in trip.
Soft ground is a slight concern, but he could run below form and have the class to win this under Oisin Murphy and these two could be the pair that light up Champions Day.
Which brings me to the last race, the Balmoral Handicap, where SOUTH SEAS gets one last chance to prove he’s well treated off 102 under that man Murphy at 14/1 (General).
I’ve sided with him on a few occasions this campaign, including when he was a massive eyecatcher at Sandown, but I’m not about to desert him now as he has plenty in his favour.
Firstly, the ground has come for him for the first time this season. A high-class juvenile on soft ground, he’s perfectly capable on faster turf, as a consistent good level of form has shown this year, but Saturday’s ground could well see him produce a season’s best.
Secondly, he runs in the biggest field he’s race in all season, on a straight track for the first time, and those factors could well help him, too, while Andrew Balding reaches for the cheekpieces as well.
They could well help judging by his most recent efforts, particularly at Goodwood on his latest start, where he travelled really well before going down to Enigmatic, whom he was giving a mammoth 20lb.
Plenty have good chances, including the handful of horses trading at single figures, but at 14s South Seas is the one for me in the Champions Day finale.
Ben Linfoot's Value Bet aim: The Value Bet is designed to generate long-term profit by searching for overpriced horses in the feature weekend races and at the big Festivals in the UK. Running total: +342.99pts to advised stakes/prices (from inception of Value Bet column in January 2010 to current).
Posted at 1700 BST on 19/10/18.