Champions Day from Ascot is the celebration of the 2012 flat season and we have a terrific card to look forward to including the brilliant Guineas winner Frankel (3.35) looking to maintain his unbeaten record with a ninth straight win in one of the feature events the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes.
Frankel is likely to go off about 1/3 for the race but have betting without Frankel and also a market on how far will the Sir Henry Cecil-trained three-year-old win by?
Frankel winning distance:
Under 2.75 lengths 5/2
2.75-4.25L inc 10/3
Over 4.25L 2/1
I hope we witness something special; the colt has been working very well at Newmarket ahead of the race and suggestions are he is becoming more amenable to restraint; at least on the home gallops. Bullet Train Frankel’s half-brother is in the field to act as a pacemaker, and don’t be surprised if jockey Tom Queally doesn’t press the button on the favourite until the final couple of furlongs.
Nathaniel did us a big favour when landing the King George at the height of summer but he needs softer ground over the 10f trip of the Champion Stakes and has been done no favour with his poor draw. Indeed many of the fancied runners are drawn out wide including So You Think (4.10) reunited with Ryan Moore who is taken to reverse Arc form with the admirable filly Snow Fairy.
The selection is not the superstar some thought he would make up into since he came to Ballydoyle from the Southern hemisphere but he is a top class horse and should, arguably, have finished runner up in the Arc last time.
The card opens with the Long Distance Cup which many see as a match between the superpowers of Godolphin (Opinion Poll) and Ballydoyle (Gold Cup winner Fame And Glory) but I am sweet on the chances of John Dunlop’s progressive stayer Times Up (1.50) even though this is a big step up in grade.
The selection was most impressive stepped up to 2 miles for the first time at Newmarket last time and, with underfoot conditions ideal, he can maintain his progression through the staying ranks.
Fame And Glory was a huge disappointment in the Irish St Leger last time but that run is surely best ignored and he returns to the scene of his greatest triumph. Opinion Poll (runner up to Fame And Glory in the Gold Cup) couldn’t give 17lbs to Saddler’s Rock at Doncaster last time, but lost nothing in defeat and looks sure to give his running again in what is a terrific curtain-raiser.
The Fillies’ and Mares’ race is another cracker with Oaks winner Dancing Rain receiving 7lbs from her elders. She has the worst of the draw to overcome but could easily get a soft lead if Johnny Murtagh can get her to the front. She may have to do too much too soon, however, and preference is for Vita Nova (3.00) despite the fact that she has finished runner up in her last three starts including to two of today’s rivals (Ferdoos and Gertrude Bell) earlier in the season.
The selection only just lost out in the Yorkshire Oaks to dual classic winner Blue Bunting on the Knavesmire and she will have something to aim at in Dancing Rain. Crystal Capella usually makes hay at this time of the season and she will be looking for her third win in this corresponding event (previously Pride Stakes) although the other couple were at Newmarket. This looks a stronger field, however, and looks well up to Group 1 standard.
As well as Champions Day on the level it is the first day of the jumps season at Cheltenham and with Cue Card doing us a favour at Chepstow last weekend best stay loyal to the Tizzard’s and their Third Intention (3.15), so impressive first time out last season, can make a winning reappearance in the 2m hurdle.
Paul Nicholls’, rather surprisingly, only had the one winner at the Welsh track last week but I have long been an admirer of Rebel Rebellion (4.55) and the hope is that the ground is considered safe enough by connections for him to make his eagerly-awaited chase debut.
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