Alan Thomson, the former Racing Editor at the Daily Record, puts up five tips at Ascot on Saturday. View selections below.
NOBLE MISSION (4.05) can plough through the Ascot mud and thwart hotpot Cirrus Des Aigles’s bid to land his second Qipco-sponsored Champion Stakes. At the same time, Lady Cecil’s gelding can also puncture the high hopes of top Irish three-year-old Free Eagle, with Noble Mission’s aggressive front-running tactics likely to take his opponents out of their comfort zone. The five-year-old beat Magician in the Tattersalls Gold Cup at the Curragh with a typically bold catch-me-if-you-can performance and is a knocking each-way bet at around 9-2. Noble Mission hasn’t raced for 111 days but is a horse that goes well after a break – he twice thumped Telescope on testing ground in the spring when fresh. Cirrus Des Aigles boasts a tremendous record in this event, scoring in 2011 and chasing home Frankel and then Farhh in both subsequent renewals of the 1m 2f Group 1 contest. At the age of eight, however, the French star may not be quite as good these days, although it is hard to pick holes in his first-past-the-post effort in the Prix Dollar a fortnight ago when demoted for causing interference. He comfortably holds Noble Mission on last year’s Prix Dollar form but the British horse seems to have improved significantly this season.
Champions Day got off to a shock start 12 months ago when 20-1 shot Royal Diamond landed the Long Distance Cup and WHIPLASH WILLIE (1.45) could be another double-figure winner. A proven mudlark, Whiplash Willie has a little to find with Estimate on Doncaster Cup running, but the ground was nowhere as deep on Town Moor as the runners will encounter at Ascot. Andrew Balding’s six-year-old ran a fine race in third behind Brown Panther in the Henry II Stakes at Sandown and represents each-way value against classy types Leading Light, Forgotten Rules and Pallasator.
TOP NOTCH TONTO (3.30) is another genuine testing ground performer and looks sure to give his running at decent odds in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes. Good to firm was never going to suit him at Leopardstown last time but he didn’t let the side down in running fourth to Bow Creek. Brian Ellison’s northern raider chased home classy three-year-old Olympic Glory in this event in 2013 and he has his work cut out to cope with this year’s 2000 Guineas hero Night Of Thunder. Richard Hannon’s three-year-old is a worthy favourite and his class may well prevail, but if it comes down to a slog, Top Notch Tonto won’t be found wanting.
TASADAY (2.55) should go close in an open-looking Champion Fillies and Mares Stakes. Saeed Bin Suroor has his team in tremendous nick and Tasaday arrives here on the back of an excellent second to favourite Hillstar at Newbury four weeks ago, with Cubanita held in third. Tasaday had earlier hunted up Tapestry and Taghrooda in the Yorkshire Oaks, and she has winning form in France on very deep surfaces. Richard Hughes booked to ride is another plus.
To round off proceedings, 28 runners are declared for the Balmoral Handicap with a barrowload of milers holding sound claims. The each-way recommendation is LEVITATE (4.45) to step up on his fourth place in last year’s finale, which was run over a furlong shorter. John Quinn’s Lincoln winner is 3lb lower and warmed up for this massive £155,000 first prize with a never-nearer fifth to Homage at York last weekend. Apprentice Joe Doyle reduces his burden by 5lb and Levitate always hits peak form in the autumn once the rain arrives.
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