Champions Day declarations have got punters salivating of Ascot with an outstanding field of 10 declared for the feature Champion Stakes and John Gosden’s Frankel colt Cracksman the 3/1 favourite with BetVictor. He would need further rain to be seen to his optimum effect however, and I’m a big fan of Prince of Wales’s Stakes and King George winner Highland Reel (13/2 with BetVictor) on his preferred sounder surface.
QIPCO Champion Stakes prices from BetVictor
Barney Roy 7/2
Poet’s Word 6/1
Highland Reel 13/2
A field of 15 go to post for the QE2 Stakes with Ribchester v Churchill, the clash of generations that we were denied at Glorious Goodwood, back on with Richard Fahey’s Queen Anne Stakes winner taking on Ballydoyle’s dual-classic scorer. The 3yo disappointed in the Irish Champion Stakes last month at Leopardstown but was badly hampered in the closing stages and should improve by returning to Ascot’s straight mile; he is too big at 7/2 with BetVictor.
The best of the action on the level comes from Haydock where I expect to see Tim Easterby’s filly Bow Belles (1.50) go close in the opener. The selection looked a potentially promising juvenile when shedding the maiden tag earlier in the season at Ripon and has run with credit in sprint handicaps over the minimum trip at Beverley, Catterick and Nottingham. She was hampered when staying on strongly to finish second last time out and can go one better if handling Redcar’s forecast heavy ground.
Richard Fahey saddles two in the 6f Handicap with Paul Hanagan opting to partner Gin In the Inn (3.00) over stablemate George Bowen. He made eye-catching late headway to finish sixth when finding traffic problems in the early salvos and looks well-treated to reward each-way support at 8/1 with BetVictor.
Brian Meehan’s Fastar (3.35) showed he handled soft ground when scoring impressively over course and distance three weeks ago and should defy a 7lb rise at the weights in the mile handicap. The son of Fast Company is clearly thriving with racing and should complete the hat-trick under regular partner Charles Bishop.
I expect William Haggas’ colt Nicklaus (1.30) to improve for the drop back to six furlongs after failing to stay an extra 200 yards last time out at Kempton. The son of Exceed and Excel has shown promise on both career starts and wouldn’t need to improve much to land the Redcar opener under Danny Tudhope.
So Celebre (2.35) was tipped up when a non-runner at Musselburgh on Monday and connections’ patience should reap dividends with the 4yo a confident selection to land the feature handicap over a mile and three quarters. The selection won handicaps at Huntingdon and Ascot over hurdles last season, before transferring that form on the level since his belated reappearance in August. He was narrowly denied last time out at Kempton, finishing second when nabbed late on, and can now go one better under George Downing.
There will be plenty of juice in the ground at Wincanton with showers forecast and the ground already soft. Paul Nicholls’ Gibbes Bay (1.40) was unfortunate to bump into some of the season’ leading novices’ last term but makes his debut handicapping and looks well-treated from an opening mark of 114. The selection made a winning debut for connections at Ayr’s Grand National meeting 18 months ago, on soft ground, and looks a long-term project for Team Ditcheat.
Nicholls saddles Orbasa in the feature Novices’ Handicap Chase with conditional jockey Henry Morshead’s 7lb utilised in connections’ quest to unlock the key to the quirky 6yo. He is best watched this afternoon however, with Fingerontheswitch (2.15) another horse expensive to follow last term but chanced to come good under regular partner Tom Scudamore.
Scu partnered the winning pointer to his sole chase success when scoring impressively at Wetherby last season and despite disappointing upped in grade thereafter remains well-treated from just a 6lb higher mark.