Champions Day at Ascot and the feature race is the final racecourse appearance of Cracksman (3.50) who has his optimum underfoot conditions (soft ground) as he bids to follow up his win in the corresponding race 12 months ago.
Trainer John Gosden has been carrying all before him of late and fits his four-year-old with blinkers for the first time this afternoon. The Frankel colt has won two of his three starts so far this season, but was not at his best on fast ground when last seen back in midsummer over today’s C&D in the Prince Of Wales’s Stakes. This is not a vintage renewal of this Gp 1 contest, however, and if back to anything like the form of 12 months ago – won by 7L – he will win.
Cracksman is 5/6 with BetVictor and he comes here fresher than most. If the headgear works the oracle, he can bring the curtain down on a career that would read eight wins from 11 starts if successful. it would be churlish to knock a horse with such a record.
Cracksman is drawn poorly (eight of eight) and Lah Ti Dar (2.40) is drawn ten of eleven in the Fillies’ & Mares a race in which Aidan O’Brien throws six darts at the board with Ryan Moore riding Magical who looks the stable first choice.
No outright favourite has won the race in the last decade but Lah Ti Dar lost little in defeat when runner up in the St Leger last time although she wasn’t quite as impressive as when landing the Yorkshire Oaks at York in August. This will be the slowest ground the filly has encountered, but at 5/4 with BetVictor she gets the vote back against her own sex.
I hate the idea of deserting Roaring Lion in the QEII, but I wonder if a straight mile on soft ground will play to the strengths of John Gosden’s brilliant col. The each way recommendation is the French four-year-old Recoletos (3.15) who is 6/1 with BetVictor who are paying 1/5th odds first 4 home.
The selection won the Prix du Moulin on fast ground last month but is equally adept on a soft surface. The colt travelled supremely well but failed to get home in the Champion Stakes behind Cracksman 12 months ago and has been campaigned at or around a mile all season. I would be disappointed if he were out of the four.
South Seas (3.50) hinted at a return to his best form when second – giving the winner 20lbs – at Goodwood (good to soft last time and the hope is that the first-time cheek-pieces can eke out a bit of improvement in the Balmoral Handicap which closes the card.
The selection is 14/1 with BetVictor (from 16s) who are betting each way 5 places. Trainer Andrew Balding did us a favour when our each way Cesarewitch selection (Cleonte) finished third at 25/1 and I hope to see South Seas run a big race back on soft ground.
It could be a tremendous day for John Gosden and Argentello (9/1 with BetVictor) won at Kempton earlier in the week. His 6lb penalty is enough to get him into the race and he has been very well backed. Gosden has Stradivarius, Cracksman, Roaring Lion and Lah Ti Dar and there have been worse 25/1 shots for the handler to have four or more winners on the day with BetVictor.
The first Champion Hurdle of the new season is at Ffos Las and I hope to see a local success in the Welsh Champion courtesy of the Evan Williams-trained Silver Streak (4.25) who has a good record fresh and ran away with the Swinton Hurdle when last seen back in the spring.
Alan King has his yard in good form and William Hunter (2.15) looked a sure-fire future winner over hurdles when finishing second at Plumpton on good ground back in November. He failed to cope with soft ground at Fakenham when last seen back in December and he must go close coming back from a break.
Connor Brace takes off a valuable 10lbs from the back of Master Dee (4.00) and he gets the vote in a terrific and valuable handicap chase at Market Rasen. The Paul Nicholls-runner Roman De Senam has had a wind operation since his last start and looks the main danger.
At Stratford I am convinced One Forty Seven (4.10) is well handicapped at present and in the week when Ronnie O’Sullivan made his 14th maximum break – at the BetVictor English Open – he can break his maiden tag. The selection won a point in his native Ireland and his jumping is entitled to improve with experience.