A big welcome to my Champions Day Preview a stellar card of action at Ascot as the flat season draws to a close. It kicks off at 1:35 with the BritishChampions Sprint Stakes which is a Group 1 affair that’s contested over a distance of six furlongs. The race is headed by Advertise for Martyn Meade and Frankie Dettori who’s a three-time Group 1 winner all of which have come under Dettori, and he’s very much the one to beat here. I am going to try and take him on though and I’m doing that with the William Haggas trained ONE MASTER who’s set to be ridden by Arc winning jockey Pierre-Charles Boudot. She was last seen when winning the Group 1 Prix de la Foret on Arc Day at Longchamp and she’s a mare with a very impressive record on soft ground. Back down to six furlongs here in what will be very testing conditions she should come into her own.
The second race of the day at 2:10 on Champions Day is the Long Distance Cup which is a Group 2 event over a mile and seven furlongs. It’s hard to envisage anything other than a second consecutive win in the race for the champion stayer here which is, of course, STRADIVARIUS who arrives here off the back of another perfect unbeaten season. Who are the main rivals? Last year’s St Leger winner Kew Gardens looks the chief threat which is reflected in the betting, the ground looks to be a major concern for him though. John Gosden also has Royal Line in the line up who won on reappearance last month in the September Stakes and another to note is Withold who looks well worth his place within Group company having mostly plied his trade in top-level handicaps.
Next up is the 2:45 which is the Fillies & Mares Stakes a Group 1 contest that’s ridden over a distance of just over a mile and three furlongs. This is another race that I think can go to the all-conquering duo of John Gosden and Frankie Dettori with the impressive filly that is STAR CATCHER. Winner of her last three races, the last two coming within Group 1 company in the Irish Oaks and the Prix Vermeille. Before that, she won the Ribblesdale Stakes here at the Royal Meeting which also came on soft ground. If turning up in the same form as of late she’ll be very tough to beat. Anapurna also trained by John Gosden looks a massive player here also, winner of the English Oaks back in May she bounced back to top form the last day when a Group 1 in France. She’s set to be ridden by William Buick.
Moving onto the 3:20 which is the QEII Stakes another Group 1 this time over a mile and there are some top-level performers taking their place here as you’d expect. The 2,000 Guineas winner Magna Grecia returns to the track having not been seen since May and also, we have Saeed bin Suroor’s Benbatl who returned from a sizeable lay off last time at Newmarket when bolting up in the Group 2 Joel Stakes. He’s reunited once more with champion jockey Oisin Murphy. The one I’ve sided with here though is the French raider THE REVENANT who’s the mount of Pierre Charles-Boudot. He arrives here on a prolific winning streak which culminated with a win in the Group 2 Prix Daniel Wildenstein earlier this month at Longchamp. The ground will also be very much to his liking as he has seriously impressive form on softened going, the limit to his ability remains to be seen.
The 4:00 is the Champion Stakes which is another Group 1 contest with this one being ridden over a mile and two furlongs. The race has an illustrious back catalogue of winners such as Cracksman, Almanzor and Frankel. Joining that list I think will be Aidan O’Brien’s MAGICAL who’s the mount of Donnacha O’Brien and she comes into the race on the back of a fine season with the highlight being a win in the Irish Champion Stakes on her penultimate outing. She was last seen when running another fine race when fifth in the Arc and despite spending a lot of time this season behind Enable she’s very much the one they have to beat here. Her main rivals look to come in the form of firstly Coronet who’s a Group 1 winner herself and will be ridden by Frankie Dettori and also the William Haggas trained Addeybb who’s a soft ground specialist and the mount of James Doyle.
The concluding race of the afternoon is the Balmoral Handicap which takes place at 4:40 and the heavily backed Amedeo Modigliani sits at the top of the market for Aidan O’Brien having been the focus of a lot of money in the past few days. Cesarewitch winner Lord North is up there also and will be a popular selection with punters for Dettori and Gosden. I’m taking them both on though and going with CLON COULIS who represents David Barron and is set to be ridden by Jamie Spencer. She doesn’t mind soft ground having registered a couple of wins on such going and her rider is a specialist in these kind of races at this track. She also won over a mile here last year off this mark and has also won off a couple of pounds higher, if things go right in the run she has every chance of playing a part.