It’s Champions Day at Ascot this weekend and just like last year the rain has arrived, much to the delight of certain trainers as we will find out.
John Gosden rather fittingly has a very strong hand but there’s plenty of competition for him. I’ve taken a view on all six of the races starting with one of this season’s hero’s Stradivarius in the Long Distance Cup.Embed from Getty Images
1.25 Ascot (British Champions Long Distance Cup – Group 2) – STRADIVARIUS
Unfortunately the staying star of the last two years is a short price for this one, as expected, however there has been too much talk of a long season which could prove to be nothing more than smoke and mirrors.
Stradivarius has run four times this term; easing to a classy-looking victory in the Yorkshire Cup at the start of the year before reaching new heights with his 2m4f battling win the Gold Cup at Ascot.
A repeat win in the Goodwood Cup when not receiving all the weight-for-age advantage he had last year was impressive and then he gave away weight again successfully in the Lonsdale Cup to take the £1 million bonus on offer for the first time in the stayers championship.
He comes here apparently fresh and full of himself and despite the softer ground should make his superiority count in this division, though Flag Of Honour, Thomas Hobson and Sir Eric can all hope for place money.
2.00 Ascot (British Champions Sprint Stakes – Group 1) – HARRY ANGEL
Easily the best sprinter in this line-up at his best, the risk involved is in deciding whether or not he’s the same horse since cutting himself at Royal Ascot this year.
The angle I’m taking here though is that challengers The Tin Man, Limato, Librisa Breeze, Brando, Tasleet and arguably even Bacchus are all of a very similar level whereas our boy is the one with real star quality.
If he’s back to his best on ground we know he likes as well then he should be capable of pulling clear of this field and adding a cool £358,000 to his already impressive career earnings.
2.40 Ascot (British Champions Fillies & Mares Stakes – Group 1) – LAH TI DAR
The second of four John Gosden hotpots and the second I think will score too. Lord Lloyd-Webber’s filly was favourite for the Oaks before injury but came back in the Galtres at York to devastating effect when slamming her opposition by 10 lengths.
She was a leading fancy for the St Leger but appeared not to stay and should be back to her best here over this mile-and-a-half trip.
Almost all of the best Dubawi progeny have produced their best runs on a variety of ground so underfoot conditions are not expected to be an issue and if she’s refreshed after her Doncaster exertions she rates as a very confident bet ahead of Kitesurf and Coronet.
3.15 Ascot (Queen Elizabeth II Stakes – Group 1) – ADDEYBB
William Haggas must have been licking his lips as the rain fell over Ascot this week and we may now eventually see Addeybb graduate to Group 1 success on the ground he loves.
Having progressed well from three to four, Addeybb was as easy a winner of the Lincoln Handicap as you’ll see back in the spring before claiming a most impressive Group 2 success.
He didn’t fire in the Lockinge with the fast ground definitely a factor but is expected to have improved again since his last win in April and that would make him very hard to beat.
Roaring Lion has been fantastic this season but mostly on the quicker ground and definitely for the step up to ten furlongs, though he’s be rerouted to this from the Champion Stakes apparently because of the going.
I think we all know the real reason is the presence of Gosden’s other star Cracksman in that race and I can’t help thinking this race won’t suit him. French star Recoletos is a genuine Group 1 type for my money and may be the other to perhaps fill a place.
3.50 Ascot (Champion Stakes – Group 1) – CRACKSMAN
I really don’t want this to read like a rant, but this chap always has doubters and I simply don’t know why. This week I’ve heard professionals talking about the level he has run to this season in terms of ratings, then tip Capri to win this who on ratings is way, way behind.
This horse, not that he should have to, will prove his value to the sport in a few years’ time when his progeny are racing but he has one last shot to show how good he is on the track, especially in these conditions.
The level of his form when bumping his head at Epsom and when tackling ground he didn’t like and pulling away from a top quality field with Poet’s Word at Ascot was higher than anything else in this field and with the ground now to his liking we may see another 130+ run here, truly outstanding stuff.
Crystal Ocean is in the next bracket and should give him most to do while the aforementioned Capri can run on for a place.
4.30 Ascot (Balmoral Handicap) – ARGENTELLO
It really could be a memorable day for John Gosden who saddles this Argentello, a recent winner at Kempton where he completed his fourth victory in 5 runs.
The 6lb penalty he received for that win essentially got him a run in this race, but his usually careful trainer suggested he may not run again so quickly unless he was absolutely right within himself – something the horse must be telling the trainer now having been declared.
This son of Intello is a rapid improver and will love underfoot conditions on the straight mile here and so can score at reasonable odds ahead of the likes of Kynren - for which William Buick has been booked - Sharja Bridge and Mitchum Swagger.