Champions Day at Ascot is less than a fortnight away and we take a look at the main protagonists.
The last major meeting of the British Flat calendar takes place at Ascot on October 15 with four Group One contests lighting up a brilliant six-race card.
The Group Two Long Distance Cup kicks-off proceedings and the ante-post market for the two-mile contest is dominated by Ascot Gold Cup winner Order Of St George (best odds 5-2) who ran a mighty race behind stablemates Found and Highland Reel in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe. 2015 St Leger winner Simple Verse (best odds 4-1) looks set to be a major player in whichever race she turns up in having returned to form in Doncaster’s Park Hill Stakes last month (also entered in Fillies and Mares race, which she won last year), and Roger Charlton is now reportedly considering supplementing his Prix du Cadran winner Quest For More (best odds 14-1), with the dry weather forecast in that horse’s favour. There has been support in recent days for Forgotten Rules (best odds 6-1) who has been put up as an ante-post selection by Oddschecker tipster Andy Holding.
Karl Burke’s dual Group One-winning filly Quiet Reflection (best odds 7-2) heads the market for race two, the Champions Sprint Stakes. The daughter of Showcasing posted a career best effort when landing the Betfred Sprint Cup at Haydock in September and she is the one they all have to beat in the six-furlong event. She may have most to fear from another female, Meccas Angel (best odds 7-1) who wasn’t able to justify favouritism in the Prix de l’Abbaye at Chantilly but still ran a cracker in defeat. In what looks an open heat, top sprinters like Twilight Son and The Tin Man look likely to have a say, while it will be interesting to see if Shalaa (best odds 10-1) makes the gig after making a winning return from a year off the track in a Group Three at Ascot at the weekend.
Irish and Yorkshire Oaks winner Seventh Heaven (best odds 9-2) looks a very backable price in the Fillies & Mares event, where he main rival could turn out to be fellow Irish raider and current market leader Zhukova (best price 3-1) who is uneaten in three starts this season, including a half-length defeat of US Army Ranger in a Group Three at Leopardstown last month. Journey (best odds 8-1) looked in great shape when bolting up in a Listed race on her return at Newmarket and she was only beaten a length-and-a-half by Simple Verse in this contest 12 months ago. The latter would be an obvious danger to all if turning up here rather than the Long Distance Cup.
Two three-year-old’s top the market for the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes with Godolphin’s Jacques Le Marois winner Ribchester (best price 2-1) leading the way ahead of 9-2 chance Galileo Gold, who won the St James’s Palace Stakes over this course and distance at the Royal meeting. Belardo, another Godolphin representative, has only been seen twice this season but he won the Lockinge Stakes on seasonal debut and got within half-a-length of the mighty Tepin in the Queen Anne Stakes at the Royal meeting. Any rain would aid his cause but it will be no easy task conceding weight to the three-year-olds.
The feature event on the card, the Group One Qipco Champion Stakes (3.45pm) promises to be a crackerjack of a ten-furlong contest. A mouthwatering rematch between Irish Champion Stakes one-two Almanzor and Found remains a possibility, with Aidan O'Brien indicating his Arc heroine could still turn up at Ascot before heading to America for the Breeders' Cup. Jean Claude Rouget’s charge is a red hot 7-4 market leader but the shape of this market will change should Found be confirmed a runner. The likes of Minding, Fascinating Rock and Jack Hobbs, who was beaten at short odds in this race 12 months ago, are also all likely to line up for the £1m race.
Full Qipco Champions Day running order:
1:25pm - The QIPCO British Champions Long Distance Cup (Group 2)
2:00pm - The QIPCO British Champions Sprint Stakes (Group 1)
2:35pm - The QIPCO British Champions Fillies & Mares Stakes (Group 1)
3:10pm - The Queen Elizabeth II Stakes Sponsored by QIPCO (Group 1)
3:45pm - The QIPCO Champion Stakes (Group 1)
4:25pm - The Balmoral Handicap (sponsored by QIPCO)K