Well what a card we are in for here, which is without the best Champions Day to date. And hopefully the recent bad run will come to an end too!
1.25 – Long Distance Cup (Group 2) – 2m
First up we have the Long Distance Cup, with Order Of St George a very warm 4/6 fav. He is without doubt the class act in the field, having won the Ascot Gold Cup, and finishing an excellent 3rd in the Arc 2 weeks ago. I agree with the market in that he is the most likely winner, but at the prices he can be opposed. 2nd in the betting is the popular St Leger heroine from last year, Simple Verse, who also won last year’s Fillies and Mares on this card. She looked like she was back when winning the Park Hill last month, but at I’d have been hoping for 8-9/1 so at 11/2 I think she’s a little short, to add to the fact she has never raced over this distance before. Dermot Weld sends over the 2014 winner of this in Forgotten Rules. However, that was a much weaker renewal, and despite a decent comeback run last month, I don’t think he’ll be good enough. Quest For More comes here on the back of winning the Prix du Cadran on Arc weekend, where he came with a perfectly timed run to collar Vazirabad on the line. He is a decent price if you fancy him at 12/1, but I feel he’ll still be feeling that effort at Chantilly. Instead, I’m going to go with the horse that just got the better of him in the Doncaster Cup, Sheikhzayedroad. He should be shorter in the betting than Quest For More in my opinion, having run him down at Doncaster when Quest For More had first run. The concern may be that this might not be quite far enough for Sheikhzayedroad, who was 3rd in the Gold Cup here, but at 18/1 this high class stayer is too big a price to go unbacked.
Selection: Sheikhzayedroad 18/1 (Betfair)
2.00 – Sprint Stakes (Group 1) – 6f
This has got to be the race of the day, with so many in with every chance. It’s only right to start off with bargain buy Quiet Reflection, who was bought for just £45,000 and has already earned £563,000 in her career, and I’d hate to think how much she’ll be worth when she goes to the sales. She has won 7 of her 9 starts, including the Commonwealth Cup and the Sprint Cup. She will go on the ground, with the forecast rain only enhancing her chances. She is rightly fav at 7/2 and I am in no mood to take her on. I expect Henry Candy’s Twilight Son to be her biggest challenge. He is a dual Group 1 winner including over C&D. The forecast rain is a massive plus for his chances, and he looks a fair bet at 13/2. John Gosden runs last year’s champion 2yo, Shalaa. He had a decent comeback run here 2 weeks ago, but he could bounce and I’m not willing to back him at 13/2. Despite his formbook looking pretty, he didn’t really beat much last year and I can’t see him winning this. The Tin Man has Haydock form to reverse with Quiet Reflection, and Mecca’s Angel won’t stay the trip. If allowed to go too far clear, Signs of Blessing could be a danger, and with a lack of pace in the race he looks decent value at 11/1. I’ll finish with the 2 I mentioned earlier in the week, Librisa Breeze and Brando. Librisa Breeze showed a mightily impressive turn of foot here 2 weeks ago, and has his first go at 6f here, but now looks too short to back at 10/1. Brando is the same price and the same reasoning applies to him. They are handicap winners stepping up to Group 1 level and to back either of them they’d have to have been 14/1+.
Selection: Quiet Reflection 7/2 (Betfair)
2.35 – Fillies & Mares Stakes (Group 1) – 1m 4f
Deespite Minding and Found both racing in another race on the card, there is still no shortage of talent in this race, and they are headed by Seventh Heaven for Aidan O’Brien. She was poor at Epsom, but bounced back when somewhat a surprise winner of the Irish Oaks, but confirmed that was no fluke when landing the Yorkshire edition, where she was very impressive in beating Found by 2 and 3/4 lengths. Yes, Found was using that run as prep for the Irish Champion Stakes, but that earned her an OR of 119, which is just 1lb below Minding. If Minding was in this race at 15/8, we’d be all over that so I see no reason not to back her extremely capable stablemate at that price. Dermot Weld looks to have the main challenger in Zhukova, who is 2nd in the betting at 10/3. She has won each of her last 4 starts, including when beating US Army Ranger by half a length after a layoff at Leopardstown last month. However, she is value for much more than he bare result suggests, as she idled when out in front. Despite that, US Army Ranger is not a colt I rate in the slightest, and she will have to improve a fair bit to challenge an on-form Seventh Heaven. Journey was 2nd in this last year, and like Zhukova will need a fair bit of improvement to pose a serious threat, and whilst either of those 2 improving enough wouldn’t be a surprise, Seventh Heaven is the most likely winner and I can see her taking Aidan 1 closer to Bobby Frankel’s record of Group 1 wins in a calendar year. Otherss to mention are Queen’s Trust at 10/1, but I don’t see her reversing York form with Seventh Heaven, and Speedy Boarding, who has won 2 Group 1s in France, but she has something to prove over this distance.
Selection: Seventh Heaven 15/8 (SkyBet)
3.10 – Queen Elizabeth II Stakes (Group 1) – 1m
Another cracker of a race, with 6-time Group 1 winner Minding, Prix Jacques Le Marois winner Ribchester, 2000 Guineas and St James’Palace hero Galileo Gold, Irish 2000 Guineas victor Awtaad and Irish 1000 Guineas champion Jet Setting all involved, with Lightning Spear also in the lineup. Minding has been backed into 7/4 fav over the last few days, and I was in no rush to back her at 5/2, so am certainly not going to be getting involved at 7/4. Of course she is the outstanding filly of her generation, but I don’t think she is quite good enough to beat the colts, especially over a distance short of her optimum. Instead, I am firmly with Ribchester here. He was behind Galileo Gold in both the Guineas and the Sussex Stakes, but despite finishing 3rd in that race at Goodwood, he was arguably the best horse in the race. He confirmed that promise next time out in France, with Galileo Gold well beaten in 8th, and I don’t see Hugo Palmer’s charge reversing the Deauville form. The Irish Guineas winners Awtaad and Jet Setting need the ground a bit softer, but cannot be ruled out, as if the rain comes in time they’d have every chance. Lightning Spear won the Celebration Mile last time out, but that was against lesser opposition and you’d think he’d find at least a couple of the 3yos too good.
Selection: Ribchester 11/4 (Betfred)
3.45 – Champion Stakes (Group 1) – 1m 2f
This is the final Group action of the day, and it’s the big one! Almanzor v Found: The Rematch. I mentioned earlier in the week I think Found wins this, and with The Racing Blogger on Almanzor, Found’s claims look to have been given a massive boost with Almanzor receiving the kiss of death to rival only Alex Hammond’s. In all seriousness though, Almanzor is drawn in 1, which is far from ideal for his hold-up style. Found has the 11 box, and despite that being the widest berth, that shouldn’t be too much of an issue as she is versatile in terms of tactics. Of course, Almanzor was so impressive when beating Found in the Irish renewal last month, but the main aim for Found was always the Arc, and she proved that when winning Europe’s best flat race 2 weeks ago. If that hasn’t taken too much out of her, I think the 2lb pull at the weights may be enough to see her reverse the Leopardstown form and I will be firmly in the Found camp here. Last year’s winner Fascinating Rock also lines up, and whilst he has to be respected I don’t see him producing a repeat of 12 months ago. Last year’s Irish Derby winner Jack Hobbs is back with his first run since being pulled up in the Jockey Club in May, and ideally he’d have had a run before tackling this. The rest look to be seriously up against it.
Selection: Found 5/2 (Bet365)
The last race on the card is the Balmoral Handicap, and whilst I’m not going to do a full preview, I will be having a bet on Firmament at 8/1 with Bet365. He is a very progressive 4yo, and comes here having been 2nd on his last 2 starts, both of which were here at Ascot. He can go one better in this.
I will be having singles on the 6 mentioned above, and will also be having a 10p EW Lucky 63 (total stake £12.60) on the same selections with BetVictor, with potential returns of £8907.78.