BILL ESDAILE PREVIEWS TOMORROW’S QIPCO BRITISH CHAMPIONS DAY AT ASCOT
QIPCO British Champions Day has been a tremendous success and although the ground is set to be testing tomorrow, the action still promises to be enthralling.
The first place to start has to be the meeting’s highlight, the £1.3m QIPCO Champions Stakes (4.05pm), where Cirrus Des Aigles is certain to start a warm order with conditions to suit.
Corine Barande-Barbe’s extraordinary eight-year-old is part of the furniture at this meeting now, having won the inaugural edition of this race at Ascot in 2011 and then finishing runner-up to Frankel in 2012 and Farhh 12 months ago.
The gelding has had a brilliant campaign, winning three Group Ones and then being disqualified after finishing first past the post in the Prix Dollar a fortnight ago.
The son of Even Top is the one to beat, but I can’t bring myself to back an eight-year-old who has been beaten in this race for the past two seasons at 5/4.
Instead take him on with Frankel’s brother NOBLE MISSION at 9/2. Lady Cecil’s five-year-old has finally become a man this season, winning two Group Ones and finishing second in a third.
He will love the testing ground and front runners are hard to reel in at Ascot when the ground gets soft.
Free Eagle must be a doubtful runner on the ground, while it is a tough ask for Ruler Of The World to win this after a hard race in the Arc less than two weeks ago.
Richard Hannon looks like landing the Flat trainer’s championship in his debut season and if NIGHT OF THUNDER can win the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes Sponsored by QIPCO (3.30pm) the title will surely be in the bag.
This colt is underrated in my view and was never given the credit for beating Kingman and Australia in the Guineas. He then ran an excellent race when second to the former in the St James’s Palace Stakes and perhaps should have won in France last time.
The ground holds no fears for this son of Dubawi, as he was super impressive when winning a Listed race at Doncaster on bottomless ground a year ago.
Freddy Head’s Charm Spirit is undoubtedly the biggest danger and he beat my selection in the Prix du Moulin last month. However, that race wasn’t run to suit Night Of Thunder and on home soil he can turn the tables.
Integral has claims, while the ground is perfect for last year’s runner-up Top Notch Tonto. But they, and the likes of Custom Cut and Tullius, have plenty to find against the two leading Classic generation contenders.
The action gets underway with the QIPCO British Champions Long Distance Cup (1.45pm) and I’m happy to take on Leading Light and Estimate at the head of the market after long, hard seasons.
I’ve whittled it down to two: Whiplash Willie and PALLASATOR, with marginal preference for the latter, who bolted up at Ascot earlier in the season and goes well on soft ground.
There are a number of mudlarks entered in the QIPCO British Champions Sprint Stakes (2.20pm) and it’s not easy to decide which one to go with, although I’m happy to take on the favourite G Force on this surface.
JACK DEXTER has had a slightly disappointing season so far, but he hasn’t really had his conditions. He was just touched off in this last year, beaten a neck by Slade Power, and always excels at this time of year.
Viztoria won well at the Curragh last weekend and she loves to get her toe in, while Ireland have another strong chance in Maarek, who won this race two years ago. Plenty are in with a shout, but Jack Dexter is the one for me at a general 6/1.
The QIPCO British Champions Fillies & Mares Stakes (2.55pm) is wide open, but James Fanshawe has said that this race has been the target for last year’s winner SEAL OF APPROVAL all season.
That’s good enough for me, although she faces some talented opposition in the likes of Silk Sari, Albasharah and Cubanita.
The closing Balmoral Handicap (4.45pm) is an excellent addition to the day and I fancy LEVITATE to take the prize for John Quinn.
This six-year-old is very well-handicapped on his old form, relishes cut in the ground and has promising 5lb claimer Joe Doyle aboard. Try to get some 12/1.
There is loads going on at Ascot tomorrow so make sure you get down there. A whole host of sporting stars, including Joe Calzaghe, Adam Gemili and Amy Williams will be taking part in a parade of champions before racing.
And stay for the big after party with DJ sets from Radio 1 presenters Fearne Cotton, Sara Cox and Jo Wiley.
PALLASATOR e/w 1.45pm Ascot
JACK DEXTER e/w 2.20pm Ascot
SEAL OF APPROVAL e/w 2.55pm Ascot
NIGHT OF THUNDER 3.30pm Ascot
NOBLE MISSION e/w 4.05pm Ascot
LEVITATE e/w 4.45pm Ascot