Four Group 1s and a Group 2 that is a Group 1 in all but name, plus the possibility that the Jockeys’ Title will go down to the wire (assuming neither Oisin Murphy or William Buick is booked to ride eight at Catterick instead) – a feast of racing is in store for Champions Day at Ascot on Saturday.
Possible Mishriff rematch with Adayar a race to savour
The Champion Stakes is the race that forms the climax of proceedings, due off at 15.50. The retirement of St Mark’s Basilica looked to have eased the way for Mishriff to add still further to his massive earnings. However, Adayar has been left in at the five-day stage, for a race taking place under two weeks after the Arc, but his presence would make it far less plain sailing for the favourite.
Presumably Adayar, dropping back in trip, would have plenty of use made of him in a race in which there isn’t sure to be a strong gallop. And Adayar beat Mishriff here in the summer, albeit over a mile and a half, with stamina looking his strong suit. It’ll be a fascinating race to watch, but at this stage doesn’t look one to bet on.
Palace Pier: vulnerable to Master of The Seas in tactical race?
The Gosden team, responsible for Mishriff, also have the short-priced favourite for the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes (15.10) in the shape of Palace Pier. He has won nine of his ten starts, but his sole defeat came when odds on for this race in 2020. That’s by a fair way the least of his performances at Group 1 level, with a rapid move into contention against two prominently-ridden rivals perhaps offering the best explanation of the defeat.
With just ten declared, the QEII will have its smallest field since at least 2015, and there’s a good chance the race could be tactical. The Revenant was one of the pair ridden handily last year, winning the race, though he tends to be more patiently ridden. That was the case when he was runner-up in 2019, and he got going too late under a change of rider when second at Longchamp early this month.
If the favourite is beaten again, it could be by a three year old, even though Poetic Flare, who gave Palace Pier a race in France last time, isn’t among the runners. Baaeed is unbeaten in five starts, could still be anything, though this will be his toughest assignment and he looks short on bare form.
Alcohol Free comes here fresher than most, having missed the Sun Chariot, and will be well served by the drop back to a mile. She beat Poetic Flare in the Sussex more convincingly than Palace Pier did in France, though the form of the two races overall suggests the runner-up performed a fair bit better on the latter occasion. The main concern would be not Alcohol Free’s form, but that of her stable, Andrew Balding having plenty running below expectations over the last couple of weeks.
The bet in the QEII could be Master of The Seas, available at 11.010/1. He looked set for a good season when runner-up to Poetic Flare in the Guineas, but he then went missing until late last month. Sent off favourite despite being edgy and sweating beforehand, Master of The Seas wasn’t seen to best advantage, short of room, in a strong Group 2 event at Newmarket won by Benbatl. He left the firm impression he’d come on a fair bit for that and ought to be spot on on Saturday.
Strong pace in Champions Sprint ideal for Vadream
One race where there ought to be no doubt about the pace is the Champions Sprint (14.00) , which looks almost guaranteed to set up for a closer, with Art Power, Glen Shiel, Dragon Symbol and Gustavus Watson all likely to be at the head of affairs. Rohaan is the most obvious beneficiary, though priced accordingly. Creative Force will be better suited by this six furlongs than he was at Haydock last time and makes some appeal.
However, Vadream looked as if she might beat him in the Jersey Stakes until she found seven furlongs stretching her and she ran a career best when winning a Group 3 over six here earlier in the month. This is a better race, but it will be run ideally for her and hopefully David Egan, who timed her run perfectly then, will be on board again. Vadream is twice the price of Creative Force and rates a bet at 13.012/1.
Long Distance Cup: No bet after losing Mojo
The Fillies & Mares at 14.35 features several who are doubly entered and one or two with doubts about them, which makes this an unappealing medium for a wager.
The Long Distance Cup, which opens the card at 13.25, has already featured in this column. Sadly, Mojo Star, put up as a bet, hasn’t been declared. One of the frustrations of ante-post punting is finding a perfectly suitable race for a horse, only for connections to aim him or her at something much less suitable (in this case outclassed in the Arc; see also Ebro River in the Lagadere).
Although both Trueshan and Stradivarius ran in the Cadran just two weeks ago, both may take their chance, with the ground unlikely to rule either of them out. Trueshan is just a better horse than Stradivarius and deserves to be favourite. Berkshire Rocco is overpriced, but needs to improve and the stable form, as mentioned earlier, is a concern.