Conditions were described as good to soft at Ascot on Friday morning for Champions Day with a dry forecast ahead of their six-race card which features four Group 1’s and a Group 2 which is a Group 1 in all but name.
The form of ELDAR ELDAROV’s classic success in the St Leger last month was dealt a blow when the fourth past the post – promoted to third – Giavelletto could only manage second here in a listed contest at the end of last month. Roger Varian’s colt was a facile winner of the classic, however, and can take advantage of the 9lbs weight-for-age he receives from his elders.
The last 3-y-old to take the Long-Distance Cup was Akmal back in 2009 but Eldar Eldarov has only tasted defeat once in five career starts, comes here fresher than most and will have something to aim at with Quickthorn – who had such a hard race in Paris just a fortnight ago – likely to go hard from the front.
Alan King’s Trueshan heads the market, and the ratings, and is chasing a hat-trick in the race but he was beaten fair and square by Coltrane at Doncaster last time and he has not quite been the same horse since his tremendous weight carrying performance in the Northumberland Plate midsummer.
A bigger danger may come from Aidan O’Brien’s Waterville who overcame a slow beginning to land the Irish Cesarewitch at the Curragh last time. This is a big step up in class, but Aidan O’Brien has saddled the winner of the corresponding race twice in the last five years and has always held the 3-y-old in high regard.
Recommendation: Eldar Eldarov at 5/2 with Paddy Power
Inspiral heads the marketfor the QEII, and she has the beating of The Revenant on a line through Erevann who was behind the favourite in the Jacques le Marois before beating the French trained six-year-old at Longchamp last time.
The Revenant won this corresponding race in 2020 before finishing fourth 12 months ago and this looks to have been the plan again this year for Francis-Henri Graffard who has booked Ryan Moore for the first time in the enforced absence of Christophe Soumillon.
All week I have been with the French 7-y-old, but I just wonder if the ground will be soft enough for the French raider? If the rain arrives – Met Office says no – I would be with the former winner.
I presumed MODERN GAMES would be kept for the Breeders’ Cup Mile by Godolphin and I wonder if he has been rerouted to Ascot because the race for the Trainer’s title is on a knife-edge between Charlie Appleby and William Haggas.
Modern Games came into the season as the third best 3-y-old miler in the Appleby yard behind Native Trail and the ill-fated Coroebus, but he landed the French Guineas, before finishing third from a desperate draw in the French Derby behind Vadeni. He is drawn out wide – next to Inspiral – but the drying ground is a positive and he gets the each way vote.
Recommendation: Modern Games EW at 4/1 with BetVictor
Baeed looks a good thing to maintain his unbeaten record in the Champions’ Stakesfor William Haggas and connections have probably only just stopped patting each other on the back for not being tempted by a trip to Paris earlier in the month. His win in the Juddmonte at York upped to today’s 10f trip was, arguably, a career best and I expect him to retire to stud with an unblemished record.
That said I thought ADAYAR looked and performed magnificently at Doncaster on his comeback run last month, and the Evens about Charlie Appleby’s Derby/King George winner in the market without Baeed looked too big on Thursday afternoon. Yes, he disappointed in the corresponding race 12 months ago, but he had had a gruelling race in the Arc less than two weeks earlier and comes here a fresh horse.
My Prospero and Stone Age have led in the past, but they don’t have the class to take advantage of what might become a tactical affair and I don’t envisage a shock with not one but two champions in the field.
Recommendation: Adayar in the market WITHOUT Baeed at 5/6 with Bet365
There is only 7lbs between the field in the concluding Balmoral Handicap and my two against the field are Migration and SWEET BELIEVER with the latter getting the vote for William Haggaswho saddles three of the 20-runner field.
The each way recommendation was no match for Bayside Boy – runs in the QEII – on her belated seasonal debut last month but is ridden by talented 5lbs claimer Adam Faragher who has won two of four previous starts on the filly. She gets further than a mile which should suit the recommendation who is drawn in stall twenty.
A low draw has been an advantage in recent renewals of this valuable race, which is a concern, but I do think the winner will come from a high number
Tyrrhenian Sea travelled well but I was disappointed with his finishing effort last time at Doncaster, but the weight of money suggested many consider him very well treated off his current mark. It will be interesting to see if he is as well backed this afternoon.
3.30 Newton Abbot
Paul Nicholls has twelve runners across the three jumps cards this afternoon including SABRINA in the 2m 5f handicap hurdle. The selection finished third in the valuable Mares’ handicap at Newbury from a 3lbs lower mark and she will be ridden today by talented conditional Freddie Gingell who can claim 10lbs this afternoon.
The mare improved for the application of a tongue tie in her last couple of starts and any showers that hit the track would not be an inconvenience for a mare who is only now fulfilling the promise she showed when winning an Ascot Bumper, a couple of years ago.
Recommendation: Sabrina EW at
3.37 Market Rasen
There is plenty of pace in the valuable 2m 5f+ handicap chase which will suit top-weight Killer Clown and GUY from the foot of the weights, and it is the latter who gets the each way vote despite being 4lbs higher in the weights than when runner up in the corresponding race 12 months ago.
The selection finished runner up in five of his six starts last season, but he goes well first time out and receives weight from his five rivals. The yard won the corresponding race back in 2017 and this is likely to have been the plan for much of the summer.
Tamaroc Du Mathan has never fulfilled the potential of a G2 chase success at Kempton a couple of years ago, but a flat right-hand track on good ground clearly suits and he did win at Plumpton when last seen back in the spring.
Recommendation: Guy EW at 6/1 with William Hill