I think it’s absolutely nuts that the flat season is more or less over again already, but it’s that time again at Ascot. I’m a fan of both the flat and the jumps but deep down I know a lot of people are getting excited to see the likes of Faugheen, Thistlecrack and Don Cossack in action again over the winter but before that we’ve got some tasty affairs on the flat to get out of the way with the Breeders Cup, Racing Post Trophy and of course Champions Day at Ascot. So we start off proceedings this Saturday with the Group 2 Long Distance Cup where AP O’Brien’s Order of St George is heading up the market at prices as short as 11/10. The top class stayer finished 3rd in the Arc after being beaten at 1/7 at the Curragh just a few weeks before, however before that he was on a top class winning streak and collected the Gold Cup at Royal Ascot back in June where he flew home after being an unpromising position. So obviously, big chance here. Also in the same race can you can find last year’s St Leger and this year’s Park Hill Stakes winner Simple Verse who is currently the second favourite trading at around 9/2. The filly might of been a little disappointing at the top level this season but like Order of St George in the Gold Cup, flew home in the Park Hill in which was potentially my flat race of the year. Definite place claims, aren’t sure whether she’s quite good enough to challenge Order of St George though. Quest For More is also in this cracking spectacle who has had a top drawer campaign with a Group 1 win to his name after beating Varizabad in Chantilly and also winning the Group 2 Lonsdale Cup win at York of which I saw myself in person, a great front running ride that day by George Baker. Be interesting to see if hie deploys the same tactics on Saturday, trading at around 8/1 a great each way chance. He was also only beaten a nose in the Doncaster Cup by Sheikyazedroad who is also down to be running in this race. Other big prices in the race include obviously Sheikyazedroad at 12/1 and also Pallasator who I quite like the look of at 16/1, he is an absolute beast and won a Group 3 back at Sandown earlier in the year beating the Willie Mullins trained Max Dynamite in the process. Great each way value on him. The second race is the Group 1 Champion Sprint Stakes, and this race has really hotted up this week after Henry Candy has announced that if the ground is good, Limato will run, meaning he’s now the 11/4 market leader. This really is going to be like watching two of my kids take each other on in a race on Sports Day (I dont actually have kids so I dont really know what that would feel like but Im guessing this would be mightily close) as the second favourite in this race is Quiet Reflection, both of these horses have been horses of the year for me and are both two of my favourite flat horses around at the minute so it’s going to be extremely difficult to stifle between them. Its a going to be a cracking battle anyway. Also in the race is another one of my favourites in Shalaa, who returned after a long lay off due to injury the other week to win a Group 3 contest at Ascot itself. He was a multiple Group 1 winner as a 2 year old and could be a colossal price at 11/2 if he is as good as John Gosden believes he is. ANOTHER one of my favourites is currently down to race as well in this one, and that’s Brando. I tipped Brando up at around 12/1 I think it was to win the Ayr Gold Cup a few weeks back on here and it would be great to see him involved again in this too, a big price as well trading at around 14/1. What a race that is. The third race the 2.35 is another Group 1, the Fillies & Mares stakes and is a bit of an unknown at the minute as there are many runners that may not run. I believe it’s another AP O’Brien runner that heads the market though in Seventh Heaven, who beat Arc winner Found at York back in August. Journey is also down to go in this one, one of my favourite fillies, an extremely impressive John Gosden horse who smashed a field at Newmarket last month and was second in this last year. Looks a huge price at 8/1. I’ll certainly be backing her if she goes. The fourth is the Queen Elizabeth Stakes which was won by the outstanding Solow last season who unfortunately won’t be here to defend his crown this year. However this looks another cracker, with Ribchester heading the market at as short as 2/1 at the minute. The Godolphin colt won here back in June and bagged a Group 1 at Deauville the other month beating Vadamos by a half a length. Second favourite Galileo Gold also ran in that race in France and was off his game back in eighth. Barring that run,he again has been a revelation this season beating The Gurkha here in The St James’s Palace Stakes back in June. Hugo Palmer reckon’s he’s in peak condition, he’ll be there of thereabouts if that’s the case. Be interesting to see if Frankie front runs this time around though. Minding is down to go in this race for a crack against the lads and will certainly give a bold showing if she does go, the Oaks winner was 3rd in the Irish Champion Stakes and again has been outstanding all season with several Group 1 victories to her name. Next up is the Champion Stakes, which Minding is also down for at this moment in time, but a horse that looks more certain to go in this is the horse that beat her in the Irish Champion Stakes the outstanding French raider Almanzor. Heading the market at around 13/8 the colt’s main danger in the betting is the horse he also beat in Ireland that day this year’s Arc winner Found, who is currently around 7/2. I do think this may be a bridge too far for Found after a long, long season but she certainly won’t go down without a fight as we’ve seen so many times this campaign. Also in this is last year’s winner Fascinating Rock who is 5/1 to successfully defend his crown. Even further down the betting at 14/1 is Jack Hobbs, who was the odds on favourite for this last year. We haven’t seen him since he was pulled up back on his season return in May and is a very interesting contender. This year’s Eclipse winner Hawkbill is also down to go in this and can be found trading at around 20/1, another potential huge price. As flat racing goes it doesn’t get much better than this card and I am personally buzzing my breasts off.
image credit: telegraph