It’s rare that the Saturday ITV Racing action comes from just one track but that’s the case this week and for very good reason. It’s British Champions Day at Ascot, the last chance to see many of the biggest stars of flat racing until next season (at least on British soil). The going can be pretty challenging at this stage of the year at Ascot but as long as there aren’t any late downpours the horses will be running on good to soft, which is about as good as could be expected for British Champions Day.
The action opens with the Group 2 Long Distance Cup before four Group 1s and then a closing 20-runner handicap to bring the curtain down on the flat season at Ascot. Adding to the drama is the final round of fixtures for Oisin Murphy and William Buick to get ahead in the incredibly tight battle to be crowned the champion jockey. With so much going on, we’ve covered every angle with this week’s Saturday racing tips.
1:25 Qipco British Champions Long Distance Cup
Group 2, 2m
The rich vein of storylines on Champions Day begins with the very first race. The incredibly popular Stradivarius bids to add yet another Group win to his CV. This season has almost been a bonus for the old stager as we weren’t assured he would come back this time last year but his owner, Bjorn Nielsen, and his trainers, John and Thady Gosden, are as game as Stradivarius is and they are hopeful he can improve on his excellent course record which has seen him win six times and place twice from his 10 runs.
Standing in Stradivarius’s way is the horse who beat him in the Prix du Cadran last time out, Trueshan. The five year old has long been the favourite for the British Champions Long Distance Cup because he loves soft ground and won the race last year. The ground will be a little firmer this time around but Trueshan is the right favourite to win again. Stradivarius was unable to give his running at Ascot last year after feeling the effects of his run in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe and we may see something similar this time around after his run at Longchamp just a fortnight ago.
2:00 Qipco British Champions Sprint Stakes
Group 1, 6f
If Oisin Murphy is to win the jockeys’ championship he’ll have to make the most of rides like Dragon Symbol. The three year old is the favourite for the British Champions Sprint Stakes now that Starman has been retired after suffering a setback and the best price you’ll get on him is 4/1. Favourite backers must hope that he is in better shape than he was last time out at the Curragh where it looked as though the effects of a long season had robbed him of some of his sharpness.
Art Power has been seen more recently than Dragon Symbol but the quality of the King Power colt’s run when winning over six furlongs in a Group 3 at the Curragh last time suggests that he could be in better order than the favourite. Art Power has always enjoyed running with a bit of cut in the ground and the good to soft underfoot conditions at Ascot should be perfect so 9/2 looks a very good price about his chances.
2:35 Qipco British Champions Fillies’ & Mares’ Stakes
Group 1, 1m4f
Aidan O’Brien has achieved some remarkable feats as a trainer and he’s had another excellent season. It’s rare that everything is clicking on all fronts though and O’Brien is going through a tough spell with his three year olds at the moment. Heading into the weekend, O’Brien-trained three year olds have won just three of their last 46 outings but he should still be confident that Snowfall will chalk one up in the win column in the British Champions Fillies’ & Mares’ Stakes.
Although she could only finish sixth in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, Snowfall left Longchamp with plenty of credit. The ground was simply too soft for her to really show what she’s all about and the Epsom Oaks winner is well set to return to winning ways at Ascot. As is the case across the Champions Day card, there are some very good horses entered into this race but there’s no doubt that Snowfall is the best of the lot on her day and she’s worth supporting even at odds-on with 4/5 the best price available.
3:10 Queen Elizabeth II Stakes (Sponsored by Qipco)
Group 1, 1m
The Queen Elizabeth II Stakes is usually cast in the role of support act for the Champion Sakes but this year’s renewal is arguably as exciting and strong as the race that follows. That’s because we have the star miler three year old, Baeed, going up against the firmly established king of the division, Palace Pier.
Both the market principles are unbeaten this season and both are attracting heavy support in the betting. It’s also fair to say that neither horse has yet shown the limit of their capabilities. Racing fans are hopeful that they will bring the best out of each other at Ascot and if this does turn into a battle it’s the hardened Palace Pier who should prevail. There is no question that Palace Pier has the better level of form and he can make amends for missing out on this race last year in the only defeat of his career to date.
3:50 Qipco Champion Stakes
Group 1, 1m2f
We have another excellent one-two battle next up in the Champion Stakes. Adayar and Mishriff went up against one another in the King George in July. It was Adayar who came out on top that day as he became the first Derby winner to win the King George since Galileo. However, Mishriff is the favourite to reverse the form after his storming win in the Juddmonte International. Moreover, Adayar is another one of the horses running on Champions Day who ran at Longchamp two weeks ago and it would be no surprise were his exertions at Longchamp to leave a mark.
Punters who find they cannot separate the top two should consider an each way play on the ever-reliable Addeybb who should have little trouble battling his way to at least third place. However, we’re happy enough with Mishriff’s claim to recommend backing him to win at odds of 13/8.
4:30 Balmoral Handicap
Class 2, 1m
The final race of the day is the 20-runner Balmoral Handicap. This one-mile contest has been run seven times previously and produced just one winning favourite. There is a good chance that this year’s renewal could go against that trend as the progressive Sunray Major has snuck in at the bottom of the weights. The market has by no means missed Sunray Major’s claims as he is the 5/2 favourite but he does look the one to beat.
The value, however, could well lie with Symbolize who is a 28/1 shot to win having narrowly missed out on victory at Ascot last time out. That run came on heavy ground and while conditions will be different two weeks on, there should be enough give in the ground for him to win well. Down at 18th in the weights, Symbolize has a better chance than his odds suggest.