Champions Day - Ascot Saturday 20th October 2012
The QIPCO-sponsored British Champions Day at Ascot is the feature meeting this weekend as we gear up for the richest day in British horse racing.
Yes, with over £3million on offer in prize money then the meeting always attracts the cream of the crop from around the world – while this year’s event will have even more focus surrounding it as Sir Henry Cecil’s wonder horse FRANKEL races for the last time on the track.
Andy Newton takes you through the main races and gives you his best bets.......
1.45 - Qipco British Champions Long Distance Cup (Group 3) (CLASS 1) (3yo+) BBC1 2m: Fame and Glory took this contest 12 months ago, and although respected back at a track he often goes well at he’s flopped in his two recent races and will need to bounce back to form in a big way to follow-up last season’s win. Godolphin should be double-handed with Colour Vision and Opinion Poll – with Frankie riding the former and Mickael Barzalona set to get the leg-up on the last-named. Both are regulars in these top cup races and it really is hard to split the pair with just ½ a length separating the two of them when Colour Vision landed the Ascot Gold Cup back in June. However, with Opinion Poll yet to finish out of the first two in his last nine starts then he rates the more reliable, while if he’s anything around 5/1 on the day then the more cautious players might want to save on the each-way.
Best Bet: OPINION POLL (e/w)
2.20 - Qipco British Champions Sprint Stakes (Group 2) (CLASS 1) (3yo+) BBC1 6f: No Deacon Blues, who took this race in impressive fashion 12 months ago, but his trainer James Fanshawe looks to have a decent alternative in Society Rock. This talented sprinter took the Betfred Sprint Cup at Haydock last month and with the runner-up, Gordon Lord Byron, going onto frank that form in France since then he rates the one to beat. Add in that he loves it here at Ascot (won twice) and that he seems to act on any ground then under Kieren Fallon he looks sure to be in the mix. Looking at the others the French pin their hopes on recent Abbaye winner Wizz Kid, who will love any give underfoot, and based on her fast-finishing victory last time should love this extra furlong – she does, however, have over 4 lengths to find with Society Rock after coming sixth in the race the Fanshawe horse won at Haydock last month. Finally, at a bigger price then the consistent Maarek could also run a big race. He’s hit the frame in 9 of his last 10 races and is another that won’t mind any ease in the ground – Jamie Spencer takes the ride.
Best Bet: SOCIETY ROCK
2.55 - Qipco British Champions Fillies´ And Mares´ Stakes (Group 2) (CLASS 1) (3yo+) BBC1 1m4f: The ladies take centre stage here and all eyes will be on last year’s winner, Dancing Rain. William Haggas’ 4 year-old has been off the track now for almost a year and will need to be right at the top of her game if she’s to follow-up, but her shrewd trainer is an expert at getting ones ready for the big day and she’s respected. The Haggas yard also runs Vow, who was well touted up for this season’s Epsom Oaks, but could only manage fourth behind another of the runners here – Was. For me, both can take this on their best form, but they come here off the back of a few slightly disappointing efforts and, therefore, a lot has to be taken on trust. Great Heavens, looks set to go off favourite after running sixth in the Arc a few weeks ago and back against her own sex looks the one to beat. She won’t mind the ground getting any softer, but although I think she’ll be involved I would just be worried this race is coming a bit too soon after that hard Longchamp effort. That leaves us with Sapphire, from the Dermot Weld team. This Irish yard are always to be respected when they raid these shores and also have a great record at Ascot. This improving 4 year-old in unbeaten over today’s 1m4f trip (3-from-3) and after dotting up in very soft ground last time at Cork, and that she’s had a nice 2 month break since, then she comes into the race a lot fresher than most.
Best Bet: SAPPHIRE
3.30 - Queen Elizabeth II Stakes Sponsored By Qipco (British Champions Mile) (Group 1) (CLASS 1) (3yo+) BBC1 1m: I think Side Glance could go well at a fair each-way price – he’s finished in the first three in all his last six starts, but will surely be up against it to lower the colours of Excelebration. Probably most famous as Frankel’s whipping boy after finishing second to the Cecil wonder horse on numerous occasions, but without the wonder horse in the line-up last time he gained a much deserved win over another of the intended runners here – Cityscape. It’s hard seeing Roger Charlton’s runner-up turning the tables, especially as Excelebration has looked even better with some degree of give underfoot. The Queen’s Carlton House looks just shy of top class in my book and I’m really not sure about running him over this 1m trip again – after all he was a running on third in the Epsom Derby over 1m4f just last season – but I’m sure his trainer Sir Michael Stoute knows more than I do! The final one worth a mention is John Gosden’s Elusive Kate. She was an excellent second at Newmarket in the Sun Chariot last time out, but was third behind Excelebration two runs back at Deauville – beaten 1 ½ lengths – and based on that might just have to settle for a place once again.
Best Bet – EXCELEBRATION
4.05 - Qipco Champion Stakes (British Champions Middle Distance) (Group 1) (CLASS 1) (3yo+) BBC1 1m2f: It’s ‘Frankel Fever’ time now as the world’s highest-rated horse looks to bow out in style and make it 14 straight wins. The course will be covered in a sea of pink and green (his colours) as the Ascot crowd cheer on what really has been a horse in a lifetime. Yes, it’s a shame we’ll never get to see him over 1m4f, or even at the Breeders’ Cup next month, but he’s an extremely valuable asset and that could be taking it a bit too far. The racing world will be excited to see his offspring in a few years – even if they are half as good as him then there will be plenty of Group races to mop-up. He tried 1m2f for the first time in his last race and he looked his most impressive yet – winning by an easy 7 lengths. True, if the ground gets any softer than that would be a worry, but he did win on his debut back in 2010 on soft ground. However, the horse that came second to him that day was Nathaniel and now that he’s a Coral-Eclipse winner himself then he’ll be looking for his revenge. That said, he could only beat Farhh by ½ a length that day at Sandown and with Frankel slamming that same horse 7 lengths last time then it’s easy to see why he’s around 1/7 in the betting. The only other one with any feasible chance is the French raider – Cirrus Des Aigles. He was an impressive 9 length winner last time at Longchamp and will certainly not mind any give underfoot. Let’s also not forget he took this race 12 months ago – beating Snow Fairy and So You Think. Everything still points to Frankel ending his career in style, but with Nathaniel and Cirrus he may just know he’s been in a race this time!
Best Bet – FRANKEL to beat CIRRUS DES AIGLES
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