With only Champions Day at Ascot really in focus this weekend, we’d have been forgiven for thinking that we would have to keep bets to a minimum.
However, with all six races providing very viable betting opportunities despite the heavy going, we can attempt to go right through the card at the Berkshire track.
1.35 Ascot (British Champions Sprint Stakes – Group 1) – HELLO YOUMZAIN
A frightfully competitive renewal of this Group 1 sprint, it’s one in which a number of horses on the forecast going are potentially within a pound or two of each other allowing for improvement or regression.
The likes of Make A Challenge, Frankie Dettori’s popular mount Advertise, One Master and the hugely overpriced each-way option Forever In Dreams are possibly all in with a shout of landing this £330,000 prize but the one who stands out a little for me is Kevin Ryan’s Hello Youmzain.
Only a three-year-old with just seven runs under his belt, naturally he has more to give and boasts a record of two Group 2 wins and a Group 1 success. He’s done it on very soft ground, finished a close third over the course and distance at this level and will be staying on when others have given up making him the value call under James Doyle.
2.10 Ascot (British Champions Long Distance Cup – Group 2) – ROYAL LINE (w/o favourite)
This race, indeed the whole day for the organisers, has been about Stradivarius and the brilliant dual Stayers’ Million winner keeping his scoring run going.
On ratings, all things considered, I only get him marginally above his improving stablemate Royal Line though and so at 4/7 and 11/2 respectively at the time of writing, super little Strad is not a betting proposition.
Backing Royal Line in the without the favourite market could be the call, as he may win anyway or could just be good enough to follow his more illustrious pal home. Should John Gosden walk the course and find that it’s too soft for Frankie’s intended mount also, then he knows he has a very able deputy to take his place and at that point I’d have Royal Line a couple of pounds clear of Mekong.
2.45 Ascot (British Champions Fillies & Mares Stakes – Group 1) – STAR CATCHER
A high quality event and one in which we could see big performances from Tawnawa and Fleeting plus an expected improved showing from outsider Sun Maiden.
Seeking a four-timer and a third Group 1 win is John Gosden’s Star Catcher and she is the selection. Having done it round here on the outer course in the Ribblesdale Stakes before winning the Irish Oaks in some style, she is a filly of great promise for next year and could get the better of stablemate and dual Group 1 winner Anapurna who I get very close on paper.
The final piece of the puzzle is that, despite this being the thoroughly capable Anapurna’s last racecourse appearance, Frankie Dettori has once again plumped for Star Catcher over the Oaks winner and he rarely gets it wrong so while she’s not a huge price, she remains the percentage call.
3.20 Ascot (Queen Elizabeth II Stakes – Group 1) – BENBATL
There has been strong money all week for French raider The Revenant on account of the heavy ground on the straight course, this being because the son of Dubawi has won his last six and seems to excel on rain-softened surfaces.
While he is a Group 2 winner and his form is improving, he is no superstar and he may yet be vulnerable in this sort of company, albeit there have been stronger QEII renewals.
Guineas winner Magna Grecia clearly has another big performance in him but it would have been interesting to see where Mohaather would have finished in the classic had he not been injured, his trainer reporting him in fine form now.
King Of Comedy is still of interest at Group 1 level although it remains to be seen whether or not he can truly handle this ground, which brings us to the horse who slammed him at Newmarket and that is Benbatl.
A Derby and King George fifth, a Royal Ascot winner, runner-up to Winx and a three-time Group 1 winner in his own right, the Godolphin horse ran probably his all-time best when taking the Joel Stakes by five lengths last time out and regardless of the ground he may just outclass this field under champion jockey Oisin Murphy.
4.00 Ascot (Champion Stakes – Group 1) – ADDEYBB
This is not the strongest Champion Stakes and trainer of second-favourite Addeybb, William Haggas, has even admitted that his charge is not really proper Group 1 class.
There are doubts about whether the ground will even be soft enough for him on the round course too but this being the third race to be run on the day around it, I’d say it’ll churn up plenty and he’ll be seen to his very best effect.
Crack filly Magical has put in some excellent performances but it’s been a long season and she has hit her highest ratings when chasing proper types like Enable and Crystal Ocean home, something she won’t be doing here.
Mehdaayih is overpriced for place money I feel, but Addeybb has so much in his favour that it’s hard to ignore his chances and he may yet be a thoroughly backable price.
4.40 Ascot (Balmoral Handicap) – LORD NORTH
If our bets are to be successful then this won’t be the Frankie Dettori whitewash many are expecting, though he may yet finish on a high.
Lord North took the Cambridgeshire in good style at Newmarket and with the ground perhaps not holding too many fears, he is still well enough handicapped to wrap up another big event before the season is out from his high draw.
Course form could be important and so the likes of Kynren and Clon Coulis enter calculations, however our boy remains a Group horse in a handicap and can win again.