The Boys in Blue will be getting out the Bunting The Boys in Blue to get out the Bunting

WE ARE now halfway through the inaugural QIPCO British Champions Series and what an event it has been so far. Frankel has been the star of the show, but with other outstanding performances from the likes of Pour Moi, Canford Cliffs, Rewilding, So You Think and Dream Ahead, British flat racing really is enjoying a purple patch.

The QIPCO British Champions Series launched in April at Newmarket with the QIPCO 2,000 Guineas and will climax on Saturday 15 October 2011 at Ascot with the £3 million QIPCO British Champions Day. The series comprises five championship categories: sprint, mile, middle distance, long distance and fillies & mares, and four races from the Series will be run at York next week.

Wednesday sees the Juddmonte International and sponsor Prince Khalid Abdullah is desperate to win the race for the first time. He is set to run two of his star horses in Twice Over and MIDDAY and I think the mare might be able to beat the boys and land the prize for her owner. Twice Over was a decent winner of a Group Two here last month, but he may struggle to give the weight away to his stablemate.

Await The Dawn was very impressive when landing the Hardwicke at Royal Ascot, but this is his first start in Group One company and he will need to improve. Snow Fairy is very talented on her day, but it’s difficult to see her turning the Goodwood form around with Midday.

Thursday’s highlight is the Darley Yorkshire Oaks, won last year by Midday, and Frankie Dettori must have a huge chance aboard BLUE BUNTING. The stable perhaps didn’t expect her to win the QIPCO 1,000 Guineas, yet she landed that in style and although things didn’t go to plan at Epsom, she bounced back with an impressive victory in the Irish Oaks.

There are plenty of dangers, including Misty For Me, Vita Nova and Crystal Capella, but Blue Bunting looks solid and should be suited by the course.

It’s very much the calm before the storm this weekend, but I’ve had a strong word for a couple of two-year-olds making their debuts at Newbury this afternoon. Roger Varian has made a flying start to his training career and he runs FIRDAWS in the opener (1.30pm). She is reportedly extremely well-regarded at home and although she won’t be a huge price, she should land this before moving on to bigger things. Roger Charlton is another bang in-form trainer and we will hopefully get a better price about his TOP OFFER in the 2.00pm.

Richard Hannon is always to be feared at his local track and he runs WHIMSICAL in the maiden tomorrow at 4.15pm. I hear she has been working brilliantly on the gallops and the yard are confident that she can beat Marcus Tregoning’s Lulla.

The big betting race tomorrow is the William Hill Great St Wilfrid at Ripon (3.30pm) and it is very hard to look past the likely favourite TAJNEED. Dandy Nicholls’ runner won this contest in 2009 and finished second last year, the only time he’s ever suffered defeat at this track in five outings. He is seemingly well drawn in stall three and looks an each-way bet to nothing at 6/1 with Star Sports. If the rain comes, Fathsta would be a big danger, while Bryan Smart’s Enderby Spirit shouldn’t be discounted.

The Punter will be back next Friday to look at the remaining QIPCO British Champions Series races from York. You can follow me on Twitter @BillEsdaile.


FIRDAWS 1.30pm Newbury (today)
TOP OFFER 2.00pm Newbury (today)
TAJNEED e/w 3.30pm Ripon (tomorrow)
WHIMSICAL 4.15pm Newmarket (tomorrow)
MIDDAY Juddmonte International (Wed)
BLUE BUNTING Yorkshire Oaks (Thur)