Champions Day at Ascot is the weekend highlight with four Group 1’s on a six-race card that begins with the 2m Long Distance Cup. The ground was given as good to soft on Friday morning and I expect to see Stradivarius reverse recent Longchamp form with Trueshan from the two-and-a-half mile Prix du Cadran.
I thought Stradivarius travelled like the best horse in the race a fortnight ago and today’s slightly better ground and shorter trip ought to suit the Gosden horse more than Alan King’s stayer who won this corresponding race 12 months ago on soft ground. Both horses had a hard race in Paris, however, and have moderate draws to overcome.
Hamish (1.15) made a winning comeback at Kempton and that form has been franked by the subsequent fluent success of runner up Hukum. The selection is well drawn in stall one and will be fresher than most. The William Haggas trained gelding went down by just a neck to market leader Trueshan at Newbury two years ago and can reward each way support at 6/1 with 10Bet 3 places or 11/2 with William Hill 4 places.
I hope a low draw isn’t a disadvantage in the Sprint where I hope to see Minzaal (2.00) go one better than when second over 5f here on soft ground his belated seasonal reappearance. He is another who will be fresher than most and I remember his impressive Gimcrack success last August. I thought then he could make up into a champion sprinter and this is a very ordinary Group 1. Of those drawn high I expect Art Power to come out on top, but I hope the Owen Burrows colt can improve past his nineteen rivals. The ew selection is 11/1 with 10Bet 4 places.
The Champion Stakes is a quality renewal, but I would be disappointed if the winner did not come from the front of the betting and preference for Mishriff (3.50) over Adayar is marginal. The latter readily brushed the selection aside in the King George earlier in the season, but I believe the Gosden 4-y-old is better at today’s 10f trip, and the Godolphin horse appeared to have a hard race in the Arc less than a fortnight ago. That said the Derby winner was clear at this trip in Paris and looks sure to make it a true test of stamina.
Mishriff – 2swith William Hill – is 7lbs better off with Adayar for the 2L he was behind Charlie Appleby’s colt here in July and he ran away with the Juddmonte International when last seen back in August. There is unlikely to be much between them on the revised weight-for-age terms, but I just favour the older horse in, arguably, the best flat race seen in Britain this year.
The concluding Balmoral Handicap is a tricky puzzle to solve, and it is hard to see where the pace will come from. Antepost favourite Sunray Major sneaked into the race at the foot of the weights and was hugely impressive over 7f here at the beginning of the month. He looks sure to run a big race, but he is only 5/2 and the vote goes to another Gosden representative King Leonidas (4.30).
The selection finished third in a competitive Newbury handicap over 10f on his reappearance and this stiff mile should suit. James Doyle keeps the ride on the 4-y-old who has only had the four career starts and could still be a group horse in a handicap. The each way recommendation is 13/2 with Boylesports – six places.
I am looking forward to seeing Rafferty (3.55) have his first start for Laura Jane Mongan at Market Rasen. The selection has been raised 10lbs to 94 for finishing a 10L third in a Maiden Hunter Chase at Cartmel but the winner is now rated 127 and his new trainer has a habit of improving her new inmates. Sean Bowen is a positive booking on the 7-y-old who can be a bit fresh and wears a hood for a reason. A market move would certainly be worth noting and the selection is 11/2 with Boylesports having been 10/1 first thing.
The Welsh Champion Hurdle at Ffos Las is a cracker and my two against the field are Amarillo Sky and Calico (4.35) with preference for the latter who has had a wind operation since last seen in the Scottish Champion Hurdle back in the spring. The selection – 7/2 with MansionBet – had bits of form – runner up in a G2 at Kempton back in February – as a novice which suggest he could be well treated off his current mark and Harry Skelton gave him a positive mention in Paul Ferguson’s excellent Jumpers To Follow.
Marilyn Monroe (5.05) was weak in the market when racing wide at Worcester on her first start in four months at Worcester last time over 3m and I feel this drop back in trip will suit, even though she was a winning hurdler over three miles. The mare – 7/2 with 10Bet – is 2lbs wrong at the weights, but I feel she must go close under her talented conditional.