Custom Cut gets our nod for the big one on Champions’ Day at Ascot.
Just six horses on the card for Saturday’s racing at Ascot; the highlight being the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes at 15.50.
We’ve studied the form and taken the predicted ground into account to bring you the BetBright verdict on each of tomorrow’s QIPCO Champions’ Day races at Ascot.
1.45 Qipco British Champions Long Distance Cup (2m)
A rematch between the first two past the post in the Gold Cup, and Leading Light appeals as the more versatile of the pair regarding trip, so ought to confirm form with Estimate. Aidan O’Brien’s star was beaten in the Irish St Leger, but that run is easy to forgive after the majority ignored Brown Panther, and allowed that one to steal the race under an enterprising ride.
It’s very unlikely that a similar strategy will play out here, and, with his ability to handle the mud proven, Leading Light is hard to oppose. One who makes minimal appeal is Pallasator, who has shown increasing signs of temperament in recent starts, and is flattered by his latest win, when only one of his rivals fired at all, and that victory will ensure that he is overbet again.
He appeared to prove his stamina at Newmarket, but it would be dangerous to take that at face value, and he’s not one to back at short odds.
Selection: Leading Light @ 11/5
2.20 Qipco British Champions Sprint Stakes (6f)
Irish stalwarts Maarek and Gordon Lord Byron have plenty of soft-ground form to their name, and are respected accordingly, but the going is a definite concern for G Force, who handles some ease, as he showed when winning the Sprint Cup at Haydock, but is neither proven in the mud, nor bred to appreciate such a surface.
Maarek appears to be out of form as he attempts to regain the crown he won in 2012, but he had valid excuses in the Abbaye at Longchamp, when losing his race in the stalls. He didn’t shape at all badly in the race itself, coming from last to finish in the ruck after rearing as the stalls opened, and he wouldn’t have been the first to have been upset by the heavy handedness of French stalls handlers.
With a few duck eggs next to his name, the odds on offer may be generous, and Evanna McCutcheon’s warrior has another big payday in him for sure. Gordon Lord Byron’s claims are more obvious, and he’s afforded maximum respect, with last year’s runner-up Jack Dexter another for whom holding ground is not a concern.
Selection: Maarek @ 6/1
2.55 Qipco British Champions Fillies & Mares Stakes (1½m)
Seal of Approval hasn’t fired fully since landing this contest a year ago, but she looked to retain all that ability when running under a penalty at York in May, and hasn’t had the testing ground she needs in a trio of outings since, looking rather short of pace despite hitting the frame at Newbury and Doncaster.
She’s proving rather expensive to follow as a result, but may be worth one more chance with everything firmly in her favour.
Selection: Seal of Approval @ 11/2
3.30 Queen Elizabeth II Stakes (1m)
Night of Thunder hasn’t really had the credit he deserves for beating Kingman in the 2000 Guineas, and while that win came on fast ground, he showed as a juvenile that he was fully effective on deeper ground, and he’s taken to prove a cut above his rivals in a sub-par renewal of this Group 1 contest.
A non-stayer in the Eclipse in the summer, he’s seemingly held by Charm Spirit on Prix du Moulin running, but again shaped as if better than he showed there, and is confidently expected to turn the tables over Ascot’s straight mile. Freddy Head’s charge deserves a second look, but is far from certain to relish underfoot conditions, despite the lazy acceptance that all French raiders love the mud.
A bigger danger is the remarkable Custom Cut, who has improved with every outing for David O’Meara, and has won on heavy ground when trained in Ireland. He slammed Captain Cat at Newmarket last time, and the runner-up has no great chance of revenge given the best of his form has come on a quicker surface.
Selection: Custom Cut @ 8/1
4.05 Qipco Champion Stakes (1¼m)
Unlucky to be demoted at Longchamp, the remarkable Cirrus des Aigles shouldn’t be hard pressed to repeat his 2011 victory in this contest. The 8-y-o could be expected to show signs of age given several conspicuously busy campaigns, but his enthusiasm is undimmed, and the gelding is a tremendous credit to Corinne Barande-Barbe.
Free Eagle has quickly developed into a high-class performer, and was visually impressive on Irish Champions weekend, but that win came on the back of an injury-enforced absence, and while he’s undoubtedly a horse of enormous potential, he is facing a hugely different task here.
Noble Mission is next in the ratings, and has deservedly shed his reputation as a shirker, but Lady Cecil will do well to bring him here at his peak after a season whch started at Newbury in April.
Selection: Cirrus des Aigles @ 6/4
4.45 Balmoral Handicap (1m)
A richly-endowed handicap in which plenty have questions to answer, but it should pay to concentrate on those with solid form in the mud, of whom Chatez and Russian Realm make most appeal. The first-named won in the slop at Haydock earlier in the campaign, and seems to need such conditions to fire fully.
Lightly raced since, he’s been below par, but threatens to bounce back now, and hasn’t endured a punishing campaign. Russian Realm was notably unlucky in the run at Chester on his latest start, and with Ryan Moore back on board now, is worth a saver at least.
Selection: Chatez @ 7/1 or Russian Realm @ 9/1
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