ASCOT stages the inaugural QIPCO British Champions Day tomorrow and it’s going to be some spectacle. The Champions Series has been fantastic and it is all set to culminate in a feast of horseracing at the Berkshire track.
One of the biggest betting races of the day is the Group Two Sprint Stakes (2.25pm) and James Fanshawe’s Deacon Blues is the 9/4 favourite with Ladbrokes. He has won his last four races and could easily be better than the rest of the field, but his trainer has already expressed fears about quick ground and the forecast doesn’t look good for his supporters.
Fanshawe went into Royal Ascot with two sprinters: a handicapper going for the Wokingham and a proven Group One performer attempting to land the Golden Jubilee. SOCIETY ROCK did exactly that and in so doing, made it two wins from three visits to Ascot, the one defeat coming at the hands of Starspangledbanner in the same race in 2010 when he finished second. He clearly relishes this course, goes on any ground and at 6/1 with Ladbrokes he has to be the each-way selection.
The biggest danger for me is Moonlight Cloud who beat Society Rock by four lengths in the Prix Maurice De Gheest in August. The three-year-old would have been a strong fancy for this race had the rain arrived, but her best form is with plenty of cut. She has never run over six furlongs, but it has always looked as though it would suit and if she handles the ground she will go very close. Wizz Kid is another three-year-old French filly who would have a big chance, but her best runs have also come on a softer surface.
I wouldn’t rule out Medicean Man and Royal Rock at big prices, as they both have winning form over course and distance and could easily sneak into the places.
The Long Distance Cup (1.50pm) opens up proceedings and if Fame And Glory turns up in the same mood as he did in the Ascot Gold Cup he will win this easily. However, he has regressed since that impressive performance and it would take a massive leap of faith to back him at 9/4.
Frankie Dettori’s mount Opinion Poll is rock solid and deserves to be favourite, but he’s been on the go a long time and I just worry that his long season (he raced three times at Meydan over the winter) could be about to catch up with him.
The one truly progressive horse in the field is John Dunlop’s TIMES UP and he is fancied to give his in-form trainer a third win in this race in the past eight years. The Olden Times gelding hammered Theology in a Listed contest at York back in May before going on to run stormers in two Group races.
Perhaps his most impressive performance was at Newmarket last month, though, when stepped up to two miles for the first time, easily dismissing Chiberta King, Nehaam and Fictional Account. Dunlop has always loved this five-year-old and he is certain to appreciate the quicker ground.
The Fillies and Mares Stakes (3.00pm) looks the most open Group race on the card and any one of eight could feasibly win it. Sir Henry Cecil’s Vita Nova must have a big chance on her second to Blue Bunting in the Yorkshire Oaks, but her trainer has said that she had a setback a couple of weeks ago and that’s enough to put me off.
Ferdoos beat Vita Nova earlier in the season and she has only been defeated once in her four race career. She undoubtedly has the potential to take this, but she has looked quirky in the past and I just worry that she may not have the fight required at the business end.
Crystal Capella and Meeznah are both respected, but I prefer the chances of the three-year-olds Dancing Rain and BANIMPIRE. The former is a Classic winner and should appreciate the conditions, although I’m slightly concerned that she may get taken on for the lead.
Jim Bolger’s Banimpire is as gutsy as they come and is unbeaten on good-to-firm ground. She won the Ribblesdale at Royal Ascot and is incredibly difficult to pass. She’s had a long hard season, but is worth an each-way interest at 10/1 with Ladbrokes.