By Samantha Martin (@sam_angelina22)
Qipco British Champions Day is going to look a bit different this year with no crowds, but I guess this is just the world we’re living in at the moment. It is a shame as this is the best individual day of flat racing in the season and we’ve got a lot of superstars to see on the card!
STRADIVARIUS is the big name of the day. It was recently announced that the Champion Stayer will be kept in training in 2021, instead of going to stud. Connections obviously believe he has more left to offer as a racehorse and it isn’t his time to go to stud yet, which is interesting. He races in the first contest of the day, the Qipco British Champions Long Distance Cup (Group Two). Long distance races are where Stradivarius shines – not so much over the Arc trip. His three defeats this season were all over one mile four and he’s versatile in the ground so has a good chance. He won this in 2018 before being nosed out by Kew Gardens in 2019.
Aidan O’Brien, Kew Garden’s trainer, has had a turbulent few weeks but has plenty of runners on Champions Day, like Broome, Sovereign and Dawn Patrol in this contest. The former hasn’t been seen for 134 days, when finishing fourth to Ghaiyyath in the Coronation Cup. Last year, he finished fourth in the Derby and sixth in the Irish Derby but steps up in trip. Sovereign won the 2018 Irish Derby from the front in emphatic style, beating Broome. He was next seen coming third in a Curragh group three, before he finished second to Enable in the King George. Last time, he under-performed in the Irish St Leger, finishing sixth behind Search For A Song and Fujaira Prince. Dawn Patrol is only three but is a group three winner against older horses. He’s a half brother to Pour Moi and is interesting with an allowance.
Search For A Song is a filly and probably Stradivarius’ biggest threat. The dual Irish St Leger winner took a while to warm to the task this year but won she’s related to two mile winner Falcon Eight. Fujaira Prince is a lightly-raced, ultra-consistent six-year-old, who won the Ebor and was only beaten by Search For A Song. He’s definitely not reached his ceiling yet. Monica Sheriff finished fourth to Fujaira Prince in the Ebor. Trueshan finished eighth in the Ebor and he is a solid, listed-level horse. He has the jockey of the moment Hollie Doyle on board. Spanish Mission has each-way claims as he won the Doncaster Cup over two miles one in September and that race is a tried and tested route into this. The son of Noble Mission was behind Stradivarius in sixth at Glorious Goodwood so there is some ground to make up.
From stayers to sprinters: the next race is the Qipco British Champions Sprint (Group One). I really like these kinds of races as the horses are really likeable and hardy. It looks a very competitive race. The recent Prix de la Foret winner One Master takes her chance dropped a furlong in trip. She was second in this race last year on heavy going, behind Donjuan Triumphant, and mud-lovers often win this race. She’s a classy filly and Pierre-Charles Boudot rides, who gets on with her so well. DREAM OF DREAMS is the likely favourite after two classy performances in the Hungerford Stakes and Sprint Cup, which I was really taken with. He goes on softish ground and has some very good form to his name. He’s my idea of the winner but I’d love for Oxted to run well. He was last seen winning the July Cup and has had a wind-op since However, I fear the ground may have gone against him.
Glen Shiel was a really good second to Dream Of Dreams in the Sprint Cup and I believe he’s Hollie Doyle’s best chance of a coveted, first group one win on this card. For a six-year-old, he is really lightly raced and he won a group three at the Curragh in, beating Sonaiyla, who won two good races before that. Another interesting horse is Art Power. He was thought by many as a horse who could beat Battaash in the Nunthorpe but put in a really disappointing effort. He’s a three-year-old and likes the mud but was fourth to Dream Of Dreams and Glen Shiel last time. He gets just 1lbs from those two horses. Starman is also three and has just three runs, which he won, to his name. He beat Dakota Gold last time in a listed race and that horse has won since.
Onassis and Happy Power were very good winners last weekend. The former won on heavy on Sunday and, as a three-year-old, she gets a handy allowance. She’s yet to win over six furlongs and there isn’t much speed in her family. Happy Power has won his last three races, rising up from class two, to group three to group two level. He has done most of his winning over seven furlongs but his stamina will probably come in handy on this ground! It is also good to note that it is The Tin Man’s sixth appearance at the meeting and it would be great if he could run well!
Next up, the fillies take centre stage in the Qipco British Champions Fillies And Mares (Group One). A really nice group of fillies take their chances here, like the two Oppenheimer horses, Dame Malliot and Frankly Darling. The former is a tough filly and she won at Newmarket in a group two, which was the trainer Ed Vaughan’s biggest winner. Vaughan has since announced he will stop training at the end of the season. She was third in her next two starts in Germany and France. Frankly Darling is a very hot filly and she was well beaten by Love on two occasions. Frankie Dettori has picked Mehdaayih instead. We haven’t seen this filly since Royal Ascot, when she was sixth of seven, but she’s classy on her day.
Even So was a taking winner of the Irish Oaks, beating three subsequent winners. Her sixth at Longchamp behind Dame Malliot, Laburnum and Wonderful Tonight was a bit of a disappointing performance. However, her Classic victory and official rating puts her in contention. Thundering Nights goes for the St Leger winning combination of Tom Marquand and Joseph O’Brien. She won on soft to heavy ground in the backend of last year and then in August on good ground, so she seems versatile. She won a group three on soft ground, beating the well-regarded Albigna in convincing style and was third to Cayenne Pepper and ahead of Gold Wand in the Blandsford Stakes last time.
I’m siding with the Arc Meeting winner WONDERFUL TONIGHT. This filly relishes soft going, which is really important for this meeting. She had Passion and Manuela De Vega in behind that day. Her last run in England was two places behind Cabaletta but Wonderful Tonight has improved past her I think. I’m hoping the in-form William Buick and steer her to victory for a deserving team in the David Menuisier Stable.
The Queen Elizabeth II Stakes (Sponsored By Qipco) (Group One) acts as an appetiser for the big race of the day which comes next. Palace Pier will be about odds-on for this but, to be honest, I’m not a big fan of this horse. Don’t get me wrong, he’s done absolutely nothing wrong. He’s won at Royal Ascot and in the Prix Jaques Le Marois. I’m not sure how strong both those races were though. His last start was on heavy ground and he handled it well though. Circus Maximus was third that day and he is such a good horse at this level. He always tries so hard, which was shown in the Queen Anne when he gamely won. He was second to Mohaather at Glorious Goodwood next time. Lancasster House also represents Aidan O’Brien too but he’s gone downhill since a good win over seven furlongs at the Curragh. Royal Dornoch completes the Ballydoyle trio at 66/1.
I’m with THE REVENANT. He only made his seasonal debut at the beginning of the month and I get the impression he’s quite delicate as he has only raced six times since March 2019. His reappearance was in a group two that he won well and he was second in this race last year to King Of Change. As well, Nazeef looks a huge price at about 11/1. She’s been brilliant in fillies’ races lately. She won the Falmouth Stakes on soft ground before struggling when trying to give weight away and then on bottomless ground. Last time out, she was a brilliant winner of the Sun Chariot Stakes by over a length and I don’t think she should be underestimated.
The feature race on the card is the Qipco British Champion Stakes (Group One). Eleven runners go to post and I’m really interested by SERPENTINE. I love this horse! He obviously won the Derby in June over one mile four so it makes him interesting dropped to one mile two. I don’t know what they were trying to achieve last time in all honesty so, I think that William Buick should ride him like he’s Ghaiyyath. His stablemate and last year’s winner Magical is one of the leading players. She has done nothing wrong in 2020 with three group one victories in the Pretty Polly, Tattersalls Gold Cup and Champion Stakes. Another Aidan O’Brien runner, Japan, has not shown his true colours this year sadly and I don’t think he handles this kind of ground.
Mishriff is likely to be the second favourite after a trio of victories, including the group one Prix du Jockey Club. He likes soft ground but I think it is a bit unfair that David Egan, retained rider for the owners, doesn’t get the ride but that’s a reality of racing, I guess. It was a bit of a surprise when Sottsass was beaten at the beginning of the year and he obviously went on to win the Arc. The horse that beat him was Skalleti. That was on heavy going and next time he won a group two at Longchamp by over a length to Patrick Sarsfield, who is a solid horse. He is having his first try in group one company but there’s no reason why he can’t feature at this level.
Lord North was a surprising winner of the Prince Of Wales’ Stakes and he made easy work of Addeybb in that race. He was last seen coming third to Ghaiyyath, who was later beaten by Magical, and if he returns to previous form he can run well. Addeybb was in great form in Australia and he is a classy horse when he’s at peak and goes on rain-softened ground. Pyledriver had a huge reputation before the St Leger and he ran really green for some reason. He drops in trip which may be better. Desert Encounter, Extra Elusive and San Donato are probably not up to this level.
The final race is a very competitive looking Balmoral Handicap (Sponsored by Qipco). I’ve whittled down my short list to three. Obviously, I’d like to see Raising Sand win for Nick Bradley Racing. He loves it here at Ascot and the soft ground will do him no harm. Top weight may make things a bit difficult for him. I like the chances of Tempus too. This horse is about third favourite and he was pushed along from a long way out in the Cambridgeshire. He’s ridiculously well-bred. David O’Meara has won two of the last three renewals and ORBAAN is his sole representative. He’s 3lbs higher than his last winning mark but ran well to be fourth last time out staying on at the end behind Tempus. He’s worth keeping an eye on at about 14/1 as David O’Meara knows how to get a horse ready for a big day.
Race One – Stradivarius
Race Two – Dream Of Dreams
Race Three – Wonderful Tonight
Race Four – The Revenant / Nazeef (EW)
Race Five – Serpentine
Race Six – Orbaan