Champions Day at Ascot is a spectacular way to showcase some of the best equine talent the United Kingdom and Ireland have to offer.
Stars on show on Saturday 20 October include Stradivarius, The Tin Man, Lah Ti Dar, Roaring lion, and Cracksman, on a six-race card comprising the Group 2 Qipco British Champions Long Distance Cup, the Group 1 Qipco British Champions Sprint Stakes, the Group 1 Qipco British Champions Fillies & Mares Stakes, the Group 1 Queen Elizabeth II Stakes, the Group 1 Qipco Champion Stakes, and the Balmoral Handicap.
Qipco British Champions Long Distance Cup (13:25)
The case for backing likely favourite Stradivarius is an easy one to make. He’s the top-rated horse in the field and has already won the Stayers Bonus this year. He’s also three wins from four at the distance and two from three at Ascot. However, his one defeat at Ascot came in this race last year on soft ground and he’s 0 from 4 on ground with the word soft in it. His class may see him prevail, but it could be worth taking a chance on the potential of Sir Erec.
Aidan O’Brien’s unexposed three-year-old looked to relish these conditions when coming with an amazing late rattle to beat a well-backed favourite in a Listed Race last time, in the style of a horse that could mature into a cup horse.
Qipco British Champions Long Distance Cup Free Tip: Sir Erec (1pt Win) @ 10.00 Bet365, William Hill, 888Sport
Qipco British Champions Sprint (14:00)
Five of the first six horses from the 2017 renewal are all back to battle it out once more, though their odds are very different this year. Harry Angel was sent-off the 5/4 favourite last year but, after a chequered season, and his continued inability to win at Ascot, he’s only the third favourite. 2016 winner The Tin Man was 9/1 when fifth last year but is the likely favourite this year after his win in similar ground at Haydock last time. Meanwhile, Tasleet flopped at Haydock behind The Tin Man but was second here last year, whilst Brando was 20/1 when sixth last year and is now around 8/1 fourth favourite.
Whichever way you look at the form of those four horses, they all finished behind Librisa Breeze last year, and there’s no reason that Harry Angel won’t make this a true test from the front once more. That would suit Librisa Breeze ideally, as he loves to come from off a fast-pace and he stays further. He’s not been at his best so far this season but, as it was a similar case last year, he deserves to be backed with conditions ideal.
Qipco British Champions Sprint Free Tip: Librisa Breeze (1pt Each-Way) @ 7.00 Betfair, Paddy Power
Qipco British Champions Fillies & Mares Stakes (14:40)
Lah Ti Dar could easily justify favouritism after her second in the St Leger, and it’s worth remembering that Simple Verse ran in the St Leger before triumphing in this in 2015. However, Aidan O’Brien seems determined to take this prize back to Ireland for the second year running as he’s got six entries. Ryan Moore clouds the issue by opting to ride Magical over last year’s winner Hygdrangea but, having watched last year’s race several times, Hydrangea must have a fantastic each-way chance. She had to race three or four horses wide throughout last year but, having gone to the front on the final bend, she found loads of reserves to pull away from the soft-ground loving Bateel, with useful yardstick Coronet back in third.
Qipco British Champions Fillies & Mares Stakes Free Tip: Hydrangea (1pt Each-Way) @ 11.00 Bet365, Skybet, Ladbrokes, William Hill, Coral
Queen Elizabeth II Stakes (15:15)
The 2016 winner Minding showed that it’s possible to run in the Irish Champion Stakes and win this Group 1 mile-race, but there has to be a doubt as to whether Roaring Lion will be at his best dropped in trip on ground softer than connections would like it to be. There are some decent rivals to consider taking him on with too, including French challenger Recoletos, multiple Group 1 winning filly Laurens, and the soft-ground loving Addeyb.
However, in the hope that plenty of the leading protagonists start racing too early, it could be worth siding with the soft ground loving Lord Glitters. Jamie Spencer brought him with a well-timed run to win the handicap on this card 12 months ago and, if the pace does collapse up front, no jockey is better at producing a horse late at Ascot than Jamie Spencer.
Queen Elizabeth II Stakes Free Tip: Lord Glitters (1pt Each-Way) @ 8.00 Skybet, Betvictor, Unibet
Qipco Champion Stakes (15:50)
A race that revolves solely around Cracksman. His form figures this season read 1/1/2, but he hasn’t run to anywhere near the same form as when winning this race last year by seven-lengths from Poet’s Word, who he finished behind at Royal Ascot when last seen some 17 weeks ago. However, John Gosden has had time to freshen him up for his defence of his crown and even his B-game may still be good enough to see him win back-to-back renewals.
Qipco Champion Stakes Free Tip: Cracksman (1pt Win) @ 1.83 Widely Available
Balmoral Handicap (16:30)
Raising Sand may not be the most original pick for this one-mile handicap but his profile makes him look a fantastic fit for the race. The four previous winners have all been rated between 101 and 105 and carried between 9-1 and 9-5, so the stats look good with him being rated 102 and having to carry 9-2. He’s also drawn in stall 20, with the previous winners drawn 19, 20, 20, and 27. Add in his love of Ascot, where he’s won three and placed twice from 8 starts (two from three over course and distance) and a rock-solid case is there for all to see. The previous winners had also all raced 14-21 days earlier, and it was just two weeks ago when he won over seven furlongs here, when also ridden by jockey Nicola Currie.
Balmoral Handicap Free Tip: Raising Sand (1pt Each-Way) @ 6.50 Bet365, Ladbrokes, Betfred
Odds Correct at Time of Publication