With next month’s Breeders Cup at Keeneland now in sight, one of the final acts of this year’s flat season takes place on Saturday, as the cream of this season’s winners assemble at Ascot for Qipco Champions Day.
Casting our punter’s eye across the day for what should be a fitting denouement to a classic season at home, we have picked a winner from each race, either at a short or longer price.
British Champions Long Distance Cup
First up is the furthest trip of Champions Day, the Long Distance Cup. Will Trueshan finally shine? Denied more races after one of the hottest summers on record, Alan King’s 6yo was forced to drop out of the Gold Cup at Royal Ascot, with an injury then also seeing Trueshan’s withdrawal from the Lonsdale Cup at the Ebor Festival. Having run just four times this year, a five-win streak was broken at Glorious Goodwood by the indomitable Kyprios with a second defeat as 4/7f to Coltrane following at Doncaster last month. The French gelding and Hollie Doyle will be desperate to end the term on a high here.
Pivotally for the duo, rain has arrived to soften the going and with the turf slowed considerably, this is surely the time for redemption to end the season. Eldar Eldarov might be the sternest test but it should finally be victory at Ascot for Trueshan at 15/8.
British Champions Sprint
In the Champions Sprint over 6f, the powerhouse duo of Will Buick and Charlie Appleby look set to go off favourites with defending champion Creative Force, however, we are plumping for Rohaan to continue his sterling form in Berkshire. A winner here a fortnight ago, Rohaan memorably stormed through the field at Royal Ascot to snatch the Wokingham at a lofty price of 18/1 back in June.
Going for a third-straight win on the same track this weekend, though the 4yo may have finished a lowly 18th in this very race last year, 12 months maturity has seen the gelding come on leaps and bounds. Hovering between 9/2 and 4/1, a horse who has had four different jockeys this season looks to have found a bond with Adam Kirby. It could be a winning one again.
British Champions Fillies and Mares Stakes
Having swerved the Godolphin colours in the sprint, we are however, backing Appleby and Buick to take the win in the Fillies and Mares Stakes, in the shape of Eternal Pearl.
Emily Upjohn may be the bookies’ choice, but the truth is, since her eye-opening win at Sandown and again at York in the spring, a runners-up finish behind Tuesday in the Oaks was then followed by flat last at the Jubilee meet in July – the 3yo’s last contest. Eternal Pearl, meanwhile, has won the last four races and is unbeaten since the end of June. A fresher option than Frankie Dettori on this particular filly, a 9/2 punt may be a shrewd call.
Queen Elizabeth II Stakes
As pre-cursor to the main event, this year’s Queen Elizabeth II Stakes will of course have a poignant feel. A race first held in 1955, this first edition since her majesty’s passing will echo throughout the racing world. So what of a winner over a mile? Inspiral is our pick.
Currently evens in the markets, with six wins from seven, the British filly’s only minor blip came at Newmarket in a shock defeat in July, only weeks after destroying the field to win the Coronation Stakes. A close winner at Deauville last time out by a neck, Inspiral might have not it all her own way, but surely Frankie will steer another winner here?
And so to the main event. One word. Baaeed.
The Queen Anne; The Sussex; The Juddmonte; all claimed by William Haggas’ magical and undefeated 4yo colt this year. Since debuting in June 2021, Baaeed has taken down all challengers and here looks to defend the crown from last year.
Could Adayar sustain a threat? With just one ride under the belt for 2022, a win at Doncaster last month would have been good prep and there will be hopes that a fresher horse might challenge the might of the 2/7 heavy favourite after a long campaign. But can we see anything other than a Baaeed win? Nope.
Closing out Champions Day is the Balmoral, perhaps by some considerable way the most open race of the card. Our gut feeling is for Escobar to once more take on allcomers.
Of the 20-strong field currently set to race, only David O’Meara’s relative veteran won their last contest. Having somewhat book-ended the season with victory back in May at York, the 8yo timed a perfect surge at Ascot only weeks ago to pip Mum’s Tipple to the Challenge Cup.
With just those two wins in 11 for the season, Escobar took the Balmoral three years ago and with three placings during the year, has enjoyed steady progress.
Showing the sort of ticker last time out that have won many punters over throughout the last six years, Escobar looked to have plenty in the tank after a long season. If needing another dash to the winning post, Escobar’s price of 11/1 is at the very least worthy of an e/w bet.