The Duke’s Weekend Review

Champions Day is the climax of the British Flat racing season. There are six races and they are packed full of quality, with some of the stars of the season battling it out for the final big prizes of the UK season. Of course, the great Enable won’t be lining up as she is being prepared for the Breeders’ Cup Turf which takes place the first weekend in November.

The first race at 1.25pm is the Long Distance Cup. The John Gosden-trained Stradivarius definitely deserves to be favourite, as he returns to the scene of his excellent Gold Cup win.

The one thing that is worth bearing in mind is that he’s a better horse on quicker ground. It’s not to say that soft ground will scupper him because he was only a length behind Order of St George in this race last year on soft ground, but it’s just not his preferred surface. Thomas Hobson actually started his career with John Gosden, before he switched to Willie Mullins in 2014. Since then he has been a little disappointing but he claimed a career best victory in the Doncaster Cup last time and soft ground will hold no concerns for him. The biggest danger to Stradivarius will be Flag Of Honour. He has won three races in a row, including the Group 1 Irish St Leger last time. Stradivarius though is the one to beat.

Next up is the Champions Sprint. This is tough and could ruin quite a few accas if one of the outsiders causes an upset. As it stands, the market appears to have it about right with The Tin Man favourite and Librisa Breeze and Harry Angel next in the pecking order. The Tin Man ticks all the boxes, he is in form after winning the Haydock Sprint Cup, he seems to go on any ground, he’s got a good record at Ascot and most importantly he has the class. In fact, I only have four horses who have the sheer class to win this race. Librisa Breeze is definitely one having won this race last year. The thing that puts me off him is that he hasn’t won in four races since then, so his current form is not good. Harry Angel is a headcase. He is either brilliant or ruins his chances with unruly behaviour. He definitely has the ability but his temperament and the fact he hasn’t won in five attempts at Ascot might be off putting. Brando has legitimate claims after a good run behind The Tin Man at Haydock, while the dark horse is Son Of Rest, who won the Ayr Gold Cup and seems to be in peak form. The logical choice is The Tin Man, although I do think Harry Angel is the best horse in the race on his day.

Third on the card is the Fillies & Mares Stakes. Lah Ti Dar is a short price after finishing second in the St Leger. I’m willing to take her on due to her pedigree. Virtually all her closest relatives have been best on quick ground. If the ground rides soft then she may be opposable. Kitesurf is the one for me. She’s in great form after winning the Group 1 Prix Vermeille last time out and at five times the odds she has a really good chance.

Race 4 is the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes. Roaring Lion heads the market and again, it looks like the bookies may be putting too much focus on his performances this season. It’s undeniable he is the form horse but the ground is against him and so is the trip. For me he is the biggest lay of the day. There are three horses who I think could well be good enough to upset the favourite. Laurens is a five time Group 1 winner and she is also in stellar form after winning the Sun Chariot Stakes at Newmarket. However she also has a few ground concerns. Far more of interest at 12/1 is Happily, who was only a head behind Laurens at Newmarket but she is proven on soft ground (including two Group 1 victories) and represents a really good each-way bet. Recoletos is also proven on soft and won the Group 1 Prix Du Moulin last time. I’ll dutch Happily and Recoletos as we take on the favourite.

The Champion Stakes should be Cracksman’s for the taking. He wears blinkers for the first time and has been rested since he was runner-up in the Prince of Wales’s Stakes. He won this race last year on soft ground and could well double up. Capri was fifth in the Arc and has some class but she probably needs a bit further in trip. Rhododendron is fascinating at 33/1. She has been awful since winning the Lockinge in May, but she’s a huge price if she can recapture her best form.

The final race is a lottery big field handicap. There are only two course and distance winners in the race. One is favourite Raising Sand who has an excellent record over 7f and a mile at Ascot. Zwayyan has also notched Ascot glory before, although he’d need to perform much better than in the Cambridgeshire. Argentello could leave Dettori backers happy if he pops in. He’s very progressive and has won four races this season including just this Tuesday gone.

Champions Day Picks
1.25 – Stradivarius
2.00 – The Tin Man
2.40 – Kitesurf
3.15 – Happily / Recoletos
3.50 – Cracksman
4.30 – Raising Sand

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