British Champions Day is the annual finale to the Flat turf season here in the UK, and what a year we have had.
From Mostahdaf’s defiant performance in the Juddmonte International to Paddington’s string of Group 1s; Aidan O’Brien’s two British Classics and Tony Carroll’s Racing League winner, 2023 has experienced plenty of uplifting moments.
GALLANT LION! 🦁❤️
Four on the bounce.
Tony Carroll is king.
— Ash Symonds Journalism (@ASymondsJourno) August 17, 2023
Soft ground is on the menu for British Champions Day this year and with this in mind, three horses stand out as good plays for the season-crowing raceday, so let’s dive in.
2:25 Ascot – Bluestocking @ 8/1 with Boylesports – 1pt EW
Bluestocking is a horse that I have dodged all season, something that has produced good success most of the time, however, that will all change this weekend as she is the one I’m backing in the Group 1 British Champions Fillies & Mares Stakes.
Ralph Beckett’s Camelot filly has been a consistent horse for connections thanks to her five consecutive top four performances this season.
She began her year at Newbury when second by a head to Warm Heart, a subsequent two-time Group 1 winner, in the Listed Haras De Bouquetot Fillies’ Trial Stakes.
Two sharp fillies!
Bluestocking was a willing nemesis, but Warm Heart (Galileo) had just enough in the Haras de Bouquetot Fillies' Trial Stakes @NewburyRacing 👀
— Racing TV (@RacingTV) May 20, 2023
Following that, she finished third to Warm Heart again in the Group 2 Ribblesdale Stakes at Royal Ascot on ground that was probably too quick for her, something that can also be said for her fourth-place effort in the Group 1 Yorkshire Oaks in August.
Splitting both of these runs was her second to Savethelastdance in the Group 1 Irish Oaks on soft ground, a race that saw her beat Lumiere Rock and Warm Heart who admittedly didn’t have her ideal conditions.
Savethelastdance waltzes to victory in the Juddmonte Irish Oaks! 💃
— ITV Racing (@itvracing) July 22, 2023
Following a slightly disappointing second at Chester last time out, connections have applied first-time cheekpieces and the slower conditions should suit her better than a few others.
8/1 seems like a good price for a horse who has run into Group 1-level horses all season, many of which are not up against her on Saturday.
3:05 Ascot – Paddington @ 9/4 General – 2pt Win
Forgive me if I’ve missed something, but I can’t believe Paddington is as big as 9/4 for the Group 1 Queen Elizabeth II Stakes.
Admittedly, this is the second-toughest field that the Siyouni colt has taken on all year, but how much is there to worry about regarding his market rivals?
Tahiyra is a horse he has yet to face this season and in the current form she is in, you can understand her well-fancied nature.
👑 What a performance Tahiyra!!
She records her fourth G1 triumph with a dazzling performance in the @coolmoreamerica "Justify" Matron Stakes for Dermot Weld@chrishayes24 | @AgaKhanStuds | #ItAllComesDownToThis pic.twitter.com/ImX4hsbZ9D
— Leopardstown RC (@LeopardstownRC) September 9, 2023
However, her form with Meditate, Remarquee, and Rogue Millenium is below the level of horses Paddington has battled with this season and trainer Dermot Weld did state at the start of the month that he wanted the ground to be “suitable” and not “too heavy” if Tahiyra was to run, so this week’s deluge hasn’t helped her chances.
In my eyes, Nashwa is the biggest danger to Aidan O’Brien’s 125-rated three-year-old based on her third to Auguste Rodin in the Group 1 Irish Champion Stakes and her second in the Group 1 Juddmonte International.
Although she finished ahead of Paddington at York, I think those placings can be reversed as this was Paddington’s first start on good to firm ground and he was racing just 21 days after a gruelling effort in the Group 1 Sussex Stakes on soft ground.
Furthermore, Paddington kept close to Mostahdaf’s powerful gallop in second place for the majority of the contest whereas Nashwa bided her time in third and picked up the pieces late on, so she had an easier route through.
Paddington flies home to win the Tattersalls Irish 2,000 Guineas
— ITV Racing (@itvracing) May 27, 2023
With the benefit of nearly two months on the sidelines, Paddington will be a fresh horse and everything in his breeding suggests slow ground should be no problem, making the 9/4 about him an attractive price.
4:25 Ascot – Awaal @ 9/1 with Boylesports – 1pt EW
The Balmoral Handicap is always a tough race to decipher and this year’s soft going on Ascot’s straight course doesn’t help the puzzle at all.
Plenty in here hold interesting profiles and should handle the ground – The Gatekeeper, Baradar, and Bennetot as examples – but Awaal at 9/1 is the one who has turned my head.
Simon & Ed Crisford have experienced a season to remember in 2023 thanks to recent victories in the Group 2 Prix Daniel Wildenstein, Group 2 Rockfel Stakes, and Group 3 Prix Quincey as well as the Group 1 accolades picked up with Vandeek.
Awaal is unlucky not to have landed another big pot for the yard having placed in the Lincoln, Royal Hunt Cup, Bunbury Cup, and Guisborough Stakes.
— At The Races (@AtTheRaces) April 1, 2023
Despite his consistently good performances, the handicapper has looked leniently upon the Lope De Vega gelding as his official rating of 104 looks more than fair considering the horses he has run into.
The likes of Migration, Jimi Hendrix, Sonny Liston, and Biggles have all finished ahead of him this year, and although a few of these reappear on Saturday, Awaal should have the ability to win a race like this off his current mark whereas Migration and Sonny Lison have a few extra pounds in the handicap to carry.
With conditions set to suit, Awaal could be dangerous breaking out stall 22 and if he gets a clear route, he looks a fair each-way bet at 9/1.