Former Talksport man Charlie McCann marks your card with seven tips from Ascot and Cheltenham on Saturday. View selections below.
Although Prince Khalid Abdullah’s racing manger Lord Grimthorpe refused to rule out the possibility that his equine superstar Frankel will race again as a 5-y-old the likelihood is that Saturday’s Qipco Champion Stakes will be the unbeaten Sir Henry Cecil-trained colt’s last racecourse appearance.
For any number of months racing anoraks and statisticians have debated and will continue to debate his legacy and how he should be ranked and remembered in the pantheon of the sports greats; in my opinion it matters little whether he should be rated inferior or superior to Dancing Brace or Ribot or indeed Secretariat if we broaden the argument further.
I know he was the greatest horse I ever saw in the flesh; it is my opinion that he would have won the Group 1 July Cup as a 3-y-old over 6f and had the Breeders Cup been run on pro-ride instead of dirt at Santa Anita next month then the horse named after the legendary American trainer of the same name would have finished his career winning the Breeders’ Cup Classic.
His mother (Kind) never picked a leg up on soft or heavy ground but Frankel (4.05) is just a freak and I think he will win and win well whatever the going on Saturday; we bet 11/2 that he races again as a 5-y-old (1/10 he doesn’t) in 2013 and it would be great if his stud career were put on hold for another 12 months.
The 8-y-old Irish raider Rite Of Passage (1.45) 8/1 at BetVictor has only his second start since winning the Ascot Gold Cup in June 2010, but he will love the ground and is taken to beat the 2011 & 12 Gold Cup winners in the Long Distance Cup; Fame And Glory won the corresponding race last year but is overlooked on account of the ground and Frankie rides the 2012 Gold Cup winner Colour Vision (half the age of the selection).
Sirrius Prospect lost his race at the start at York last time but it was an eye-catching effort in the circumstances, but this represents a step up in grade; Society Rock (2.20) has also given away ground from the stalls in the past but loves Ascot, handles soft ground and looked back to his best when landing the Betfred Sprint Cup at Haydock last time.
The French filly Wizz Kid who won the Prix L’Abbeye at Longchamp on Arc Day is the obvious threat but she finished second in the corresponding race last year and may have to give best again twelve months on.
Great Heavens (2.55) would have been something to bet on in the Fillies’ and Mares’ had connections not supplemented her for the Arc following the late withdrawal of her older brother Nathaniel who takes on Frankel in the Champion Stakes. The John Gosden-trained Irish Oaks winner ran a cracker to finish sixth in Paris and she is entitled to come on for the run given she was being prepared for this race before her brother scoped badly in the build up to the Arc.
It is another high-quality race with the last two Oaks winners (Dancing Rain and Was) in opposition as well as the progressive Sapphire but Great Heavens looked a most progressive filly before the Arc and, as long as the race doesn’t come too soon after her Longchamp exertions, she must go close.
Excelebration (3.30) must have been fed up seeing the backside of Frankel in the fading distance having finished behind the Cecil ace five times prior to his impressive win in the Prix Jacques Le Marois at Deauville back in August; he must take the beating in the QEII but Her Majesty the Queen will be in attendance to see her Carlton House look to put behind a wretched run over C&D last time.
There is a terrific jumps card from Cheltenham where the feature is the BetVictor.com Handicap Chase; Havingotascoobydo is the 6/1 favourite and if he settles and jumps with fluency he must go close for local trainer Martin Keighley.
That said preference is for Bobowen 2.30 who ran a cracker at Market Rasen last time and is still improving over the larger obstacles; Champion trainer Paul Nicholls saddles two and both can be given chances with Ruby Walsh riding That’Illdoboy who looks potentially well treated but is another who must iron out the jumping errors that blighted his first season over fences.
I am looking forward to the Chase debut of Third Intention (4.55) over the minimum trip in another cracking race; the Tizzard yard are in cracking form and the selection always suggested he might make up into a top class chaser in time.