Champions Day 2016 (Ascot)

Photo by Alan Crowhurst.

Photo by Alan Crowhurst.

Champions Day 2016

QIPCO British Champions Day at Ascot is the finale of the European Flat racing season. It’s the richest raceday in the British racing calendar and some of the finest horses from the UK, Ireland and France battle it out on Saturday afternoon.

The fixture features the end-of-season championship races for Ten-furlong horses (The Champion Stakes), Milers (The Queen Elizabeth II Stakes), Sprinters (six furlongs), Long distance horses (two miles) and Fillies and Mares (one mile and four furlongs).

This really is a meeting for the connoisseurs of flat racing!

1.25pm Long Distance Cup (2m)

The race features the last two winners of the Ascot Gold Cup, most notably ORDER OF ST GEORGE, who will be sent off at prohibitive odds after his third place in the Arc. QUEST FOR MORE arrives in top form after wearing down Vazirabad in the Prix Du Cadran. FORGOTTEN RULES looks like a plot job for Dermot Weld and will bid to repeat his success two years ago. Ralph Beckett’s 2015 St Leger heroine, SIMPLE VERSE could upset all the boys if she takes to this two miles trip. LITIGANT has not been seen since winning last year’s November Handicap and it will be some achievement to have the lightly raced eight-year-old primed and ready to take this.

2.00pm Sprint (6f)

A mouth-watering race is in prospect as several of the season’s top sprinters do battle in this contest. MECCA’S ANGEL was third a fortnight ago in the Abbaye on ground that did not suit her, but she’ll certainly have her ground for this come Saturday. QUIET REFLECTION has been a revelation to her Ontoawinner owners winning six of her last seven races. She is another who will relish the ground. The pair of them may have the most to fear however from the Al Shaqab colt SHALAA, who will be bidding to clock up a seven-timer after just managing to win here on his last run. Not to be discounted are the Royal Ascot winner TWILIGHT SON and James Fanshawe’s THE TIN MAN. French raider, SIGNS OF A BLESSING, is a Deauville Group One winner this season.

2.35pm Fillies and Mares (1m 4f)

With an army of fillies and mares at his disposal, Aidan O’Brien has dispatched his troops throughout the entire racecard, but is still well represented in this field. SEVENTH HEAVEN has only had one blip this entire season when she was unplaced in the Epsom Oaks. She was an impressive winner of the Yorkshire Oaks last time out when she beat her stablemate, and subsequent Arc winner, Found. SPEEDY BOARDING won the Prix de L’Opera on Arc day but may find this trip a little too far. John Gosden’s JOURNEY was second in this contest twelve months ago and has also had a pleasing season. ZHUKOVA appears to be one of Dermot Weld’s top inmates and she would not be winning a race of this magnitude out of turn, adding to her already impressive C.V of wins. Sir Michael Stoute’s QUEEN’S TRUST has been knocking on the door all season long and in top company too.

3.10pm Queen Elizabeth II Stakes (1m)

MINDING will be a tough nut to crack over this mile with this race not being up to the strength and depth of Irish Champion Stakes were she ran third last time out. There was certainly no shame in going down to Almanzor and Found at the business end of that race. Guineas winners GALILEO GOLD and AWTAAD appear to be her greatest dangers on paper, but the ever improving RIBCHESTER is certainly one who could upset the applecart. A win for Richard Fahey’s runner would crown Godolphin the champion owners for the season so if ever there was a big incentive, this is it.

3.45pm Champion Stakes (1m 2f)

This is the race that flat racing fans have been salivating over for days. This is the feature race on the card and it will be reported upon globally a thousand times over. Amazingly Aidan O’Brien has never won this race but he must feel he has a live chance this year with his Arc winner FOUND. Nine times the bridesmaid in Group One races, Found finally put that monkey to bed a fortnight ago by winning the Arc at Chantilly. Whether this race is one too many for the season remains to be seen but a repetition of that Arc finish will certainly see her on the premises. Top French hope for the Arc, ALMANZOR, was unable to participate in the race due to a slight setback but comes to Ascot the one they probably have all got to beat. Almanzor looked superb in the Irish Champion Stakes and his three previous wins on home soil showed why he is the apple of Jean-Claude Rouget’s eye. The race is not a two runner contest however and FASCINATING ROCK, last year’s winner, and the beaten favourite JACK HOBBS, are entered up again for another tilt at this huge first prize. Fans of O’Brien second-strings will be loading up their each-way money on US ARMY RANGER.

4.25pm Balmoral Stakes (1m)

A twenty runner handicap is not the easiest of “getting out stakes” to finish with but people will be wanting to reinvest their Champion Stakes winnings somewhere. Roger Varian’s MORANDO is considered Group class and the three-year-old grey has done nothing wrong on his last three runs. FIRMAMENT has been ultra consistent this season but has just been suffering from seconditus of late. THIRD TIME LUCKY won last year’s Cambridgeshire and ran a solid enough fourth place in this year’s race. Top-weighted GM HOPKINS seems to have been around forever but is only aged five. He is a course and distance winner and should not be underestimated in a large handicap field. DONNCHA is a better horse than what he showed in the Challenge Cup at Ascot last time out and could easily bounce back to form. BRONZE ANGEL is a dual Cambridgeshire winner and appears to save his best runs for these big field handicaps. He will be also be a big price.

***

Today’s Ascot fancies:

1.25 Ascot- Forgotten Rules (10.5) e/w.

2.00 Ascot- Quiet Reflection (6.0) & Brando (13.0) e/w.

2.35 Ascot- Seventh Heaven (2.68) win.

3.10 Ascot- Ribchester (3.75) win.

3.45 Ascot- Found (3.85) win & US Army Ranger (15.0) e/w.

4.25 Ascot- Firmament (10.0), Third Time Lucky (9.2) & Bronze Angel (50.0) e/w.

Frankel – signing off.

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