BILL ESDAILE PREVIEWS QIPCO BRITISH CHAMPIONS DAY
FRANKEL has lit up tomorrow’s QIPCO British Champions Day at Ascot for the last two years but his retirement has left the door open for a new name to make the headlines.
Many are expecting admirable French gelding Cirrus Des Aigles to do just that with a second win in the highlight, the QIPCO Champion Stakes (4.05pm).
Brilliant in 2011, the now seven-year-old ran Frankel to a gallant 1 3/4 lengths last year and, at 11/10 with Coral, Corine Barande-Barbe’s charge is well-fancied to regain his crown in the prestigious Group One contest.
He was disappointing in the King George here in July, but he arrives on the back of two easy wins, albeit in lower company, and the ground is perfect for this son of Even Top. However, he was 10/1 a few weeks ago and he could go off odds-on.
With a Derby winner in the shape of Ruler Of The World, a brilliant Lockinge winner in Farhh, who goes exceptionally well fresh, and two other fascinating French opponents, Triple Threat and Morandi, among others, the value has gone from Cirrus Des Aigles’ price and he may be vulnerable to younger hooves.
And it’s MORANDI who interests me. Jean Claude-Rouget’s colt was one of France’s best juveniles last year when easing to wide-margin wins in a Group Three and the Group One Criterium de Saint Cloud.
He’s found things more difficult this season but his best form is on really soft ground, something he has only encountered once this term when a creditable second on his reappearance.
Beaten under two lengths in the French Guineas, he then ran arguably Europe’s best three-year-old, Intello, twice close in the French Derby and the Prince d’Orange last time.
With the ground coming right for him and getting 5lb from the older horses, Morandi looks a decent each-way bet at 16/1 with Coral.
Maarek is the obvious place to start in the QIPCO British Champions Sprint Stakes (2.20pm). A really genuine animal, he won this last year and loves cut in the ground. He won the Group One Prix de l’Abbaye two weeks ago and comes here hunting a Group race hat-trick.
But he’s not been missed in the market at 5/2 with Coral and with 14 runners that’s short enough, especially considering he had a hard race last time.
Instead take JACK DEXTER to deliver the big prize he has always threatened at 5/1 with Coral. He ran a stormer off top-weight in the Ayr Gold Cup last month and that should have put him spot on for this assignment.
The QIPCO British Champions Fillies and Mares Stakes (2.55pm) is probably the hardest race to call on the card but I’m drawn to THE LARK.
Michael Bell’s filly has always looked useful and was unlucky not to finish closer to the favourite for this, Talent, in the Oaks when trapped against the rail.
She cruised to an easy win at Doncaster on her last outing and will relish the conditions at Ascot. A number of her opponents, notably Dalkala, Hot Snap, Igugu and Belle De Crecy, are not 12-furlong specialists and may be vulnerable over this trip on stamina sapping ground.
I think she can cause a minor surprise and the 9/1 available looks decent value.
JACK DEXTER 2.20pm Ascot
THE LARK e/w 2.55pm Ascot
MORANDI e/w 4.05pm Ascot