Alan Thomson, the former Racing Editor at the Daily Record, puts up five tips at Ascot on Saturday. View selections below.
CLEVER COOKIE (12.45) can get punters off to a Qipco Champions’ Day flier by lifting the Long Distance Cup.
Peter Niven has painstakingly plotted a route to this two-mile Group 2 contest, wisely avoiding unsuitably fast ground through most of the summer. Conditions came right at Ascot when Clever Cookie was let off the leash for an over-ambitious tilt at the King George, and he was doing his best work at the finish after being taken off his feet over 1m 4f.
This was followed by a slightly disappointing fourth to impressive Max Dynamite in the Lonsdale Cup at York, but there should be no excuses today with some juice underfoot. Clever Cookie travelled strongly and knuckled down to the task when beating mudlark Tac De Boistron in the Ormonde Stakes at Chester in May and he can take the measure of last year’s winner Forgotten Rules and in-form Agent Murphy. Unluckily, Clever Cookie has drawn stall 13 but Graham Lee will be taking a pull anyway on his hold-up mount so it shouldn’t be a huge handicap.
SOLOW (2.30) wins a narrow vote over Gleneagles in a potentially mouth-watering Queen Elizabeth II Stakes over the straight mile. The French raider has won 11 of his last 12 starts, including the Queen Anne Stakes at Royal Ascot and Sussex Stakes at Glorious Goodwood. You can pick holes in some of Solow’s victories, but he remains the one to be shot at here. Aidan O’Brien has allowed Gleneagles to stand his ground but will walk the course before finally committing his British and Irish 2000 Guineas winner. The track was riding on the easy side at the Curragh when Gleneagles beat Endless Drama and Ivawood, so I expect he’ll take his chance. The top two are drawn alongside each other on the far flank, so a fascinating tactical battle could unfold. Course winner Kodi Bear has conditions to suit and should run a big race for Clive Cox.
JACK HOBBS (3.05) is an automatic pick in the Champion Stakes. Twice runner-up to stablemate Golden Horn in Dante and Derby, Jack Hobbs duly mopped up the Irish Derby at the Curragh before completing his Champion Stakes preparation with a lung-clearing spin around Kempton. John Gosden is a tad concerned about the wide draw (stall 12), but the ground is ideal and class should rise to the top. Aidan O’Brien hasn’t run scared and saddles Found with solid claims.
SIMPLE VERSE (1.55), such a controversial reinstated winner of the Ladbrokes St Leger, also has a wicked draw (12) to overcome in the Champion Fillies and Mares Stakes. She is dropping back to 12 furlongs but has improved leaps and bounds since winning a Salisbury handicap in June. Simple Verse should get a great tow into the race from the likes of Covert Love, so game when winning the Prix de L’Opera at Longchamp under ever-reliable Pat Smullen, and sure to give another big account of herself.
At tastier odds, BALTY BOYS (3.45) should go well in the concluding Balmoral Handicap. Word of warning: the track has been narrowed so there’s potential for a rough race. All the usual suspects turn up, including last year’s winner Bronze Angel, but Balty Boys runs the track so well he is a must for the shortlist. He was drawn on the wrong side in the Hunt Cup when rattling home in fourth behind winner Gm Hopkins, who reopposes along with third-home Chill The Kite. Balty Boys just failed to catch Heaven’s Guest in the International over course and distance, then beat so-consistent Sovereign Debt fair and square at Haydock. He never looked comfortable at Chelmsford last time and is taken to bounce back at a rewarding each-way price if not undone by his high draw – again!
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