Ascot stages Champions Day this afternoon and the action looks set to unfold on almost perfect, good ground.
British Champions Long Distance Cup
The meeting kicks off with the Long Distance Cup, which the bookies see as a match between Order Of St George and Simple Verse. Of the pair, we prefer the latter as she’ll be the fresher given Order Of St George’s big effort in the Arc a fortnight ago.
However, the best value may lie with the lightly raced LITIGANT. He will be making his seasonal debut here, but he has run very well following long lay-offs in the past and he looked a real stayer to follow when winning twice in another truncated campaign last season. He was unlucky in this race last year as he got trapped out wide early on and has good place claims at least.
Another lightly raced stayer, FORGOTTEN RULES, is the other one to back. He won this in 2014 and ran encouragingly on his re-appearance 3 weeks ago on very heavy ground. That effort should have put him spot on for this and although he likes plenty of give underfoot he has won on good ground.
Sky Bet are offering money back, if your horse finishes second or third in this race.
|Litigant (ew)||1.25 Ascot||14/1||Bet365, Sky Bet|
|Forgotten Rules (ew)||1.25 Ascot||9/1||Bet365, Sky Bet|
British Champions Sprint Stakes
Next up is the Champions Sprint, where Quiet Reflection looks another favourite to take on with her yard really struggling for winners at the moment. Instead, we are hoping THE TIN MAN can prove one of the bets of the day by taking this 6f contest.
This is just the sort of horse that James Fanshawe excels with and he ran really well behind Quiet Reflection last time out when he came from a long way back on unsuitably soft ground. He can overturn that form on this better ground.
The big danger could be the unexposed LIBRISA BREEZE who did us a nice favour when bolting up in a handicap over 7f here 2 weeks ago. He showed an amazing turn of foot that day to overcome a troubled passage and he’s clearly on good terms with himself at the moment. This is a step up in class, but he looks ready for it.
If there is to be shock, MR LUPTON could be the one to supply it as this trip and track look ideal for him, and he was flying home at the death behind Quiet Reflection and The Tin Man at Haydock last time out to prove he can be competitive at this level.
|The Tin Man (ew)||2.00 Ascot||8/1||Bet365|
|Librisa Breeze (ew)||2.00 Ascot||8/1||Bet365|
|Mr Lupton (ew)||2.00 Ascot||50/1||Paddy Power, Sky Bet|
British Champions Fillies & Mares Stakes
Aiden O’Brien has big chances in the next three contests as he chases the record for the most Group 1 wins in a season.
In the Fillies & Mares Stakes he saddles the favourite, Seventh Heaven. However, we like another Irish raider who is less exposed – ZHUKOVA. She has won five of her six starts to date, including all three this season. She beat US Army Ranger last time out and prior to that hammered O’Brien’s other runner, Pretty Secret, at Naas.
For the each way value it was a toss-up between Queen’s Trust and ARCHITECTURE.
In the end we have gone for the latter, who was second in the Oaks earlier in the season. We like the fact that she has been freshened up for this, as it has been a long hard season for many of these.
|Zhukova (ew)||2.35 Ascot||5/1||BetVictor|
|Architecture (ew)||2.35 Ascot||22/1||Bet365, BetVictor|
Queen Elizabeth II Stakes
We think O’Brien can take the QE II Stakes, but not with his fancied runner, Minding. Instead, we like the chances of HIT IT A BOMB, who seems to be coming to his peak after a quiet campaign so far. He ended last season by winning the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf and wasn’t beaten far by Awtaad last time out.
AWTAAD could actually be the main danger as that win at Leopardstown got his season back on track. Earlier in the year he readily accounted for Galileo Gold in the Irish 2,000 Guineas.
Best of the outsiders could be Stormy Atlantic. He was one of the favourites for the 2,000 Guineas earlier in the year and, although he disappointed there, he has run some good races since.
|Hit It A Bomb (ew)||3.10 Ascot||25/1||Bet365|
|Awtaad (ew)||3.10 Ascot||12/1||Bet365|
The Champion Stakes features another clash between Found and Almanzor but, as we’ve said, at this time of year shocks are possible as it is often a question of which horse is holding his form the best.
Two horses capable of causing that shock are My Dream Boat and US Army Ranger.
MY DREAM BOAT beat Found here in the Prince of Wales Stakes and ran well behind today’s favourites when fifth in the Irish Champion.
US ARMY RANGER was a fine second in the Derby when he just seemed to get outstayed by Harzand in the closing stages. He has taken time to get over those exertions, and has struggled to regain that level of form, but if anyone can get him back to his best it is O’Brien and this drop back in trip may just suit.
|My Dream Boat (ew)||3.45 Ascot||33/1||Bet365|
|US Army Ranger (ew)||3.45 Ascot||14/1||Bet365|
The finale is the card’s only handicap and there are plenty of old favourites in the line-up.
As you’d expect, it is hard to rule anything out with confidence, but the three we like most are Afjaan, Third Time Lucky and Donncha.
AFJAAN and DONNCHA finished seventh and eighth behind Firmament here two weeks ago in the race won by Librisa Breeze. The better ground and extra furlong will suit them both.
THIRD TIME LUCKY won the Cambridgeshire last season and looked to be coming back to his best when fourth in that race three weeks ago.
|Afjaan (ew)||4.10 Ascot||9/1||Bet365|
|Third Time Lucky (ew)||4.10 Ascot||8/1||Bet365|
|Donncha (ew)||4.10 Ascot||20/1||Bet365|