Former Talksport presenter Charlie McCann marks your card at Champions day at Newmarket and picks a likely winner at Kempton Park on Sunday
Champions’ Day is one of the highlights of the flat racing calendar with seven top quality races including the most eagerly awaited 2-y-o race for decades. The Dewhurst Stakes sees the first three in the betting for next year’s 2000 Guineas meet head on in a race were at least two of them will lose their unbeaten records.
Having backed Dream Ahead and Saamidd in their last starts I am loath to desert either, never mind both, especially as one could argue that both have superior credentials to Henry Cecil’s Frankel (2.25) despite the selections 10l rout of a poor field in the Royal Lodge at Ascot last month.
The time at Ascot was nothing sensational but Frankel produced a piece of work on the Newmarket gallops last weekend that had everyone, even the most hard-nosed and cynical work-watchers, eulogising over the Henry Cecil colt. When you consider the filly that finished 13 lengths behind Frankel at Doncaster on his second start finished third in Group 1 company next time you get some understanding of how good this horse could be.
Agreed it is only could be and Dream Ahead has won a Group 1 by no less than 9l but my slight concern with David Simcock’s son of Diktat is that all his wins have been on good or softer ground and with no rain forecast I wonder whether the underfoot conditions will suit. Connections ought to be applauded for taking on Frankel and Saamidd given they already have 2 Group 1 victories to their name. They could easily have put the horse away for the winter and prayed for a damp spring, but they have taken the sporting option and what sport it will be.
In an ordinary year Saamidd would be a confident selection and I know Frankie Dettori is convinced he will win the race for the first time. This is no ordinary year, however, and when you throw in the weight of money we have seen at Stan James for
Aidan O’Brien’s Roderic O’Connor (Ireland have taken the prize home in each of the last 4 years) you get some feel for the strength of the race despite the fact that only six are due to post.
The other feature race on the card is the Champions Stakes the final time this great race will be staged at the home of flat racing. Twice Over is bidding to follow up Brigadier Gerard in the 70s, Triptych in the 80s and Alborada in the 90s by winning the race in successive years. It was hardly a vintage renewal, however, last year and he is readily overlooked.
Await The Dawn and Gitano Hernanado are fascinating runners but I have backed Vision D’Etat and the hope is that there is one last allez on the Rowley Mile to cap an outstanding year for French raiders at Newmarket. The five year-old is in my opinion an outstanding horse over 10f and the form of his recent Deauville success has been well and truly franked by the placed horses.
The Cesarewitch is the big betting race of the day and my two against the field are La Vecchia Scuola (3.40) and Deauville Flyer with marginal preference for the former. A high stall is a distinct advantage and although the recommendation could have been more fortunate (16) with the draw jockey William Buick remains in top form and can weave his way through the opposition which doesn’t look as competitive as some renewals.
If anywhere near his best Patkai (5.25) ought to be too good for his rivals in the finale. He is returning from a 485-day lay off and is entitled to come on for the run but he could easily outclass his challengers. Crystal Capella has finished 2nd and 1st in the last two runnings of the Pride Stakes and there has been plenty of money for her this week. Preference is for the lightly-raced Rumoush (4.50) who patently failed to stay over 2m last time and will appreciate the drop back in trip.
Cheltenham stage the second day of their Showcase Meeting and few bumper horses have impressed me as much as Sybarite (5.25) did at Uttoxeter when backed as if defeat was out of the question. He faces much stiffer opposition today but the hope is that the Henderson and Nicholls runners’ make the market for the selection.
Pocket Aces will be a big price in the 2.40 and he doesn’t look the most attractively weighted individual, but first time out could be the time to catch him as he left an indelible mark on me last season at Fontwell when coming down at the last with the race at his mercy.
Kempton stage a cracking card on Sunday and I am convinced Karasenir (3.25) can reverse last weekend’s Chepstow form with William Hogarth. His hurdling lacked fluency at the Welsh track but he was superb at Market Rasen previously. Hatton Flight is a fascinating runner first time out for Andrew Balding who doesn’t have many runners over jumps. He is certainly worth more than a passing glance at the market.