The flat season comes to an end at Ascot on Saturday 15th October as the best of the best battle on QIPCO British Champions Day. Four Group 1’s and a Group 2 – Five races over different distances will decide which horses are truly the best of their time. It’s the richest race day in the British calendar and the chance to see the World’s finest horses and jockeys battle it out for their slice of history.
First up is the Long Distance Cup over 2 miles and Order Of St George will be a warm order following his third place finish behind Found in the Arc. That was over a mile and a half and today’s distance will be much more to his liking. Simple Verse was back to form last time and receives a handy 3lbs from the colts but needs to improve hugely on her first try at the distance. Dermot Weld is represented by 2014 winner Forgotten Rules but he probably needs softer ground to show his best. Roger Charlton’s Prix Du Cadran winner Quest For More looks like the biggest danger to the favourite, particularly as he’s ridden by a jockey who rides this course so well.
The first of the Group 1’s comes in the shape of the Champions Sprint and this looks wide open following the defection of Limato. Quiet Reflection was a very impressive winner of the Sprint Cup at Haydock and has already won over course and distance, having won the Commonwealth Cup here at the Royal meeting. Brando won the Ayr Gold Cup recently but will find this another league completely. Meccas Angel was surprisingly beaten in the Prix De L’Abbaye and has a huge chance if lasting out over 6f. Michael Dods’s mare has never raced over more than 5f but has a clear form, and class, edge. She rates one of the best bets of the weekend.
The Fillies & Mares Stakes takes place over a mile and a half and there’s plenty of Irish interest here via Bocca Baciata, Zhukova, Even Song, Pretty Perfect and Seventh Heaven. Of the quintet Seventh Heaven looks to have the strongest chance having added the Yorkshire Oaks (where she beat none other than Found!!) to her victory in the Irish Oaks. Her only defeat this season was in the Oaks at Epsom where she was very badly hampered. Zhukova has won a couple of Group 3’s on her last few outings but will need to improve again, particularly having to concede 7lbs to the younger fillies.
The QE11 Stakes is the appetiser before the big one and the clash between Minding and Ribchester will really get the juices flowing! Ribchester has been the flag-bearer for the Richard Fahey stable this season having finished 3rd in the 2,000 Guineas before taking the Jersey Stakes here at the Royal meeting and, more recently, the Group 1 Jacques Le Marois at Deauville. He meets a whole different calibre of opponent here though in Minding. Aidan O’Brien’s exceptional filly has already picked up 4 Group 1’s this season (over three different distances) and drops back to a mile for the 1st time since just being touched off by Jet Setting in the Irish 1,000 Guineas. Her 3rd place behind Almanzor and Found in the Irish Champion Stakes is, by far, the best piece of recent form on offer. Awtaad is a big danger if the ground stays on the Good side.
The Champion Stakes takes place over 10f and last year’s winner Fascinating Rock returns to defend his title. His form has been a little in & out this season and he will have to improve hugely on his recent defeat behind Success Days at the Curragh. He was such a good winner last year though that he’s hard not to fancy. US Army Ranger and Found represent Aidan O’Brien and Found has, by far, the greater chance. This incredibly classy and consistent filly annihilated a brilliant field in the Arc at Chantilly just 2 weeks ago and comes into her own at this time of year. The only niggling doubt is that she’s run at Ascot 3 times (all in Group 1’s) and has been 2nd on each occasion. She was trying to concede 4lbs to Almanzor in the Irish Champion Stakes and if she manages to turn the tables here she’ll definitely go down as one of the best fillies we’ve ever seen. What a race in prospect!
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