Attention turns to Ascot for the showpiece finale of the Flat season where we’ll see the crowning of Champions.
Silvestre De Sousa is set to be Champion Jockey, who is about 30 plus wins clear of Paul Hanagan and William Buick. Whilst the Apprentice Jockeys Championship is much tighter.
Tom Marquand looks to have the better book of rides and is one win clear of Jack Garritty, who rode a double at Haydock yesterday afternoon, but that could go down to the wire.
12:45 Long Distance Cup
Dermot Weld won this race last year with Forgotten Rules and his charge comes here on the back of finishing fifth in the Irish St Leger. However this year he comes into this race having accumulated more miles having had more races this campaign than he did last. Earlier in the year he was third here at Ascot in the Gold Cup race showing he like for the track, so could go well again with ground, which should suit.
Agent Murphy is a smart colt, who has progressed well this year and goes well around here; three starts and never outside the frame. He cruised to victory in the Group 3 Geoffrey Freer Stakes at Newbury in August suggesting that the step up to this two-mile trip should benefit him. In the Irish St Leger on his last start he was staying on to finish second, having no chance with winner Order Of St George. He’s an exciting stayer and despite being favourite looks the one to get us to a winning start.
Clever Cookie has been a good servant to Peter Niven and this seven-year-old will be suited by cut in the ground. He has had one start over this distance, which came when fourth in the Lonsdale Cup last time and was making steady progress towards the finish however for me may find one or two of these too good. Pallasator won the Group 2 Doncaster Cup (2m2f) when last seen, beating Clondaw Warrior and Suegioo. He’s a quirky character and sometimes look to blow his race before it has begun. Sir Mark Prescott’s charge may need a strong pace set to suit his stamina but needs to have improved to reverse form with Agent Murphy.
Litigant won the Ebor and that race fell apart up front, however he is a horse that has problems in the past & wouldn’t want the ground too soft. An each-way angle into this race may prove to be with County Hurdle winner Wicklow Brave. Willie Mullins has booked Ryan Moore to take the ride and this three-time bumper winner should be suited by conditions and has finished in the frame the last two runs, in the Ebor and Irish St Leger. He raced here when fourth in the Queen Alexandra and is one that may lack the turn of foot if required to quicken but will plug on close home. At around 14/1 looks a fair each-way selection.
Advice: Agent Murphy (5/1 each-way)
Wicklow Brave (14/1 each-way)
13:20 Sprint Stakes
Commonwealth Cup and July Cup winner Muhaarar has been excellent for Charles Hills this season but disappointed when running on good to soft ground at Longchamp. He won his maiden on soft ground at Doncaster, which should ease the worry about the ground but there are some lively opponents coming up against him. His draw in 12 looks ideal, as looking through the history of this race would suggests that a middle to high draw would be beneficial on ground with cut in it. Drawn near to Lancelot Du Lac, who is likely to be ridden close to the pace could give Muhaarar a good tow into this race.
The Tin Man is untested on this sort of ground but should be suited based on pedigree and relations. He is a half-brother to Deacon Blues, who won this race back in 2011. James Fanshawe took him out of this contest but has had to supplement this three-year-old into this race for £40,000 after comfortably winning over course and distance 15 days ago when travelling powerfully before showing a classy turn of foot. This is a big step up in class but looks capable of springing a surprise.
On the high side of the draw is the unbeaten Twilight Son. He should handle the ground after winning the Group 1 Sprint Cup at Haydock when beating Strath Burn on a similar surface. He has made good strides this season and is one that should run his race from a prominent position. Ryan Moore takes over from Fergus Sweeney, which has caused some debate but Cheveley Park Stud now have shares in this three-year-old.
One at an even bigger price would be Lightning Moon. This four-year-old was three from three last season including the Group 3 Benbough Stakes over course and distance. He stayed on well under George Baker to hold off Danzeno that day and with only having two starts this year should now be fully prepared to out run his current odds. He’s a big son of Shamardal and can make his presence felt back here at Ascot.
Tactically, there does look to be a lack of obvious pace with Lancelot Du Lac one that will likely to go forward. Coulsty led for a way before battling back to win at Leicester over 7f, so Sean Levey could try and use that little bit more stamina from the front. Away from that angle Gordon Lord Byron won this race last year he has the high draw but may struggle on the evidence of his last two. One more worth mentioning is Jack Dexter, who has placed twice in this race – second (2013) and third (2014). Despite this six-year-old not having won since November 2013 he has conditions in his favour and may be the one to fill a place at a big price.
Advice: The Tin Man (8/1 each-way)
Lightning Moon (25/1 each-way – William Hill)
13:55 Fillies and Mares Stakes
Covert Love has been one of the success stories of the season and Hugo Palmer is a trainer in form. She was a cheap purchase and started on the all-weather in maidens. She has gone from Chelmsford to Group 1 success in the Irish Oaks and Prix De L’Opera where she pretty much made all but showed her fighting qualities. For me that was a hard race for her and she may be vulnerable despite setting a high standard.
The late maturing Sea Calisi was staying on well late in the Yorkshire Oaks finishing third behind Pleascach and Covert Love. She wasn’t beaten far that day and if ridden a bit more prominently by Mikael Barzalona then she is one that could trouble the judge. St Leger winner Simple Verse is now four wins from her last five and stays well. She is one of the more obvious threats in this race and you think she would be one to get herself involved but that will depend on how much her Classic success has taken out of her.
John Gosden’s three-year-old Journey may be worth chancing. After winning the Listed Upavon Stakes at Salisbury over 1m2f she was stepped up to this trip when comprehensively beating her rivals in the Listed Nayef Stakes. She looks like a strong staying type, so this middle distance is one that should play to her strengths. Despite stepping into this company she looks one full of potential and gets the vote.
The other French filly is Candarliya, who should be up to this task after winning as an odds-on poke in the Group 2 Prix De Royallieu at Longchamp. She is likely to be ridden patiently before sweeping late down the straight under Christophe Soumillon. Arabian Queen looks unfancied in the market despite her exploits when sending Golden Horn to his only career defeat in the Juddmonte International at York; she does have to prove herself at this trip. Madame Chiang won this last year but hasn’t shown much form since and David Simcock’s filly may struggle to repeat last year’s feat.
Advice: Journey (8/1 each-way)
14:30 Queen Elizabeth II Stakes (Champions Mile)
You’ve heard this before this season but Gleneagles participation hangs in the balance. The decision will be made later in the afternoon once connections have seen how the track is riding. They’ll be hoping it dries out a little more and with no more rain forecast, there is hope he’ll run.
I’ll be honest at this juncture. I’ve already backed Solow at 11/8 when he drifted earlier in the week with the doubts over Aidan O’Brien’s runner. If Gleneagles does run then the French charge could go off at a bigger price than that. Freddy Head’s runner won the Queen Anne Stakes here in June running in a good speed figure. He then added to the Sussex Stakes to his role honour when holding off Arod. This grey is versatile on ground and stays further than this, so there are ticks in the right boxes. Even though he’s giving weight to his main rivals he gets the vote.
For me I’d rather be backing Territories to follow him home over Kodi Bear – this if Gleneagles doesn’t run. Andre Fabre’s runner was second to stablemate Esoterique at Deauville when last seen and we saw that winner win the Group 1 Sun Chariot earlier this month. Kodi Bear was a decisive winner at Salisbury in the Group 3 Sovereign Stakes and has since won the Group 2 Celebration Mile at Goodwood and we saw that form franked when the fourth Cable Bay won a Group 2 at Newmarket last weekend.
Advice: Solow (5/4 Win)
Territories (Top 3 Finish)
15:05 Champion Stakes
Jack Hobbs was being aimed at the Arc but John Gosden kept him away from Golden Horn and brings him here fully prepared after winning the Group 3 September Stakes on the all-weather at Kempton winning, as he should. He’s gone from a Sandown handicap off 85 to this Group 1 off a mark of 123. Versatile in terms of ground, trip and more importantly tactics, so if required William Buick could try to dictate from the front. The wide draw is one of the concerns but with his class he can overcome that.
Andre Fabre has been bullish about the chances of Vadamos, who has been well supported during the week. Two starts ago he won a conditions race in Chantilly but that form doesn’t look as strong compared to what some of his British and Irish rivals have in the book. He was a comprehensive winner of the Group 2 Darley Oettingen-Rennen at Baden-Baden where he beat Andrew Balding’s Merry Me; that was over a mile but has previous form over this trip and is still a bit of an unknown quantity.
Aidan O’Brien’s Found has been a bridesmaid in the big Group 1 races this season. She has finished second behind the likes Pleascach, Ervedya and Golden Horn but did win a three-runner renewal of the Group 3 Royal Whip Stakes at the Curragh. The form is there for her to run a nice race and despite finishing ninth in the Arc wasn’t beaten by too far. At her current price she would be an each-way bet to nothing considering she is currently 4/1 best price.
The Corsican should have won the Group 3 Glorious Stakes but didn’t get the best of rides from Jim Crowley. Jamie Spencer came in for the ride at Newbury and won the Legacy Cup staying on well to see off Sky Hunter. David Simcock has previously said he’s a fast ground horse but he has solid enough form with cut in the turf and is one that should figure. The each-way selection would be another Godolphin runner Racing History. This three-year-old receives the weight for age allowance and looks to be progressing well. He has won all three starts this term and looks to be still learning in his races. Last time at Windsor he saw off Sir Michael Stoute’s 113-rated Cannock Chase in the Group 3 Winter Hill Stakes where he stayed on nicely. James Doyle comes in to take the ride in place of Buick. He looks a big price for a progressive type and this brother to Farhh can hit the frame.
Lightning Spear is one at a massive price that I could give a positive mention for. Olly Stevens retires from training and this week it was announced that Oisin Murphy will be the only retained rider for Qatar Racing, so a big run would be welcomed all-round.
Advice: Jack Hobbs (11/8 Win)
Racing History (14/1 each-way)
15:45 Balmoral Handicap
Bronze Angel won this race last year but will be running off a 4lb higher mark after scoring at Doncaster last month. Despite having won the Cambridgeshire twice he disappointed in that race when last seen three weeks ago and Marcus Tregoning has reached for the blinkers to replace the visor. He’s not one I could fully trust but has the right sort of draw and ground in his favour.
Brian Ellison’s Balty Boys would be a fitting winner with the set to be crowned champion jockey Silvestre De Sousa taking the ride. That isn’t why he’s the selection either by the way. He won the Group 3 Superior Mile at Haydock last time and drops back into this class off the same mark. Three starts ago he was second by a head over 7f here at Ascot and was running on closing the gap on Heaven’s Guest but just failed. Again he is drawn well in stall 17 and if De Sousa can get him in a good prominent position then it will be hard to see him out of the frame.
Chil The Kite was third behind GM Hopkins in the Royal Hunt Cup here in June but may be too high in the weights here and will require a career best after his win at York two starts ago when just holding off Alfred Hutchinson. He ran with credit over 1m2f in a Listed race when last seen when fourth to Scottish at Ayr but will as ever need luck in running with his style. GM Hopkins can’t be too easily discounted having won the Royal Hunt Cup. He ran well in the Cambridgeshire when not getting the clearest of runs. The hood was on that day but has been removed for this run. He is 6lb higher since his win here in June and may require a bit more.
Buckstay is prominent in the market and got up to deny Gabriel’s Lad here two weeks ago. Peter Chapple-Hyam’s runners are still in reasonable form and despite this five-year-old going up 6lb for that success he may have won with a bit more in hand and can’t be totally discounted. This trip has been the making of him this season and could once again see him score. Gabriel’s Lad has only had three starts this campaign, so is relatively fresh compared to most of these. He’s been kept for this sort of ground by Denis Coakley but the 5lb rise and being untested at this trip are slight concerns for this former Victoria Cup winner.
The three-year-old Sacrificial represents the Ger Lyons yard and was third in a Listed event at Killarney last time; the second has since gone onto win a race in the same grade franking that form. He is one that will be staying on late and is off the same mark as the day in Killarney. A progressive type who was third in the Britannia over course and distance under Andrea Atzeni before defying top weight to win at Galway. He comes here having had a 59-day break but may need to find a bit more improvement. Merry Me is another dropping in class after finishing a distant second to Vadamos over in a Group 2 contest in Germany last time. If Vadamos upsets the Champion Stakes field then expect this Andrew Balding runner to shorten in the market. He’s up 5lb for his second in a listed race at Pontefract and is fairly consistent, so is one to consider but this mark could prove tricky.
The Godolphin runner Musaddas has the claim of Edward Greatrex, which sees him on a mark of 91, just 3lb higher than his win at Newmarket in May where he ran on well to beat Jacob Black. Saeed Bin Suroor has been trialling all types of headgear for this son of Exceed And Excel and has gone for the cheekpieces here. He ran well in the Cambridgeshire to finish seventh, so the drop back to a mile should be beneficial. If showing the ability then he could go close having recorded some consistently high-speed figures.
Professor for Michael Attwater looks fairly interesting having won two Listed races in the past for Richard Hannon. He’s dropped down the handicap since winning at Haydock last July and despite being mainly campaigned over 7f could be one that would relish this trip. At Haydock, three starts ago, and Ayr, latest, he’s shaped in the final furlong that this trip could be one that sees him get involved. Three starts at Ascot, which have seen him, win and finish second, so likes it here too.
Advice: Balty Boys (18/1 each-way)
Professor (25/1 each-way)