Least said soonest about last week’s article when the going went too quick for some at Chepstow - and too soft everywhere else I am sorry to say. It is that changeover time of year when the flat is drawing to a close and the jumps season is yet to get in to full swing which makes life a bit trickier - I have a little book of excuses ready to refer to as needed - and I have never really worked out how you can have Champions Day over six months in to the flat season when most of the runners have had a long tough year, and where the going invariably has the word soft in it somewhere – on a good day.
I know I am a bit late, but I can’t let an article out this week without at least a mention for the frankly remarkable Hollie Doyle, who broke her own record for the most winners in a year at Kempton on Wednesday evening, two months earlier and in a Covid restricted season as well. Still learning her trade at the tender age of 23 (remembering Frankie Dettori is 50 in December), and the world lies at her feet – she can go on to be as good as she wants to be and I would like to hope that the trainers will snap her up for her talent and give her all the opportunities she fully deserves over the years ahead.
On to the racing and a right mixed bag for you this week!
Long Distance Cup 1.20pm Ascot
Stradivarius is without a doubt the best stayer in the United Kingdom and possibly the world, but he had a tough enough race when seventh in the Arc less than two weeks ago and at Evens he doesn’t look remotely attractive as a betting proposition despite having six pounds or more in hand according to the official ratings. Unsurprisingly in this class there is a lack of credible form on soft or heavy going (as per the current forecast), with market danger Search For A Song a credible rival, but with all his wins on Good or good to Firm which has to set the alarm bells ringing.
If I bet at all it will be to very small stakes each way on Broome who looks overpriced at 16/1 though I am wary that Ryan Moore appears to be opting for Sovereign leaving Colin Keane on board my suggestion. Fourth to Ghaiyyath on his only run this season back in June, his fitness has to be taken for granted but he has won on soft (when he had Sovereign eight lengths behind him) and on yielding to soft so we may well see further improvement. His stamina is unknown having never raced beyond twelve furlongs before, though his sire (Australia) has a 29% success rate over distances of a mile and three-quarters plus which makes me hopeful, and if he does get home he could run in to a place at a decent price with any luck.
Sprint Stakes 1.55pm Ascot Saturday
A cracker of a race on paper, though be warned, this contest has seen more than its fair share of shocks over the years including last season when Donjuan Triumphant scored for Andrew Balding at odds of 33/1. Happy Power represents the same stable this season as he looks for his four timer after wins at Salisbury, Goodwood, and Newmarket, but it appears Silvestre De Sousa has abandoned him in favour of Art Power which may be a hint in itself. Three times a winner this season he is certainly a top class sprinter, but I can see no reason why he should reverse Haydock form with Dream Of Dreams on a pound worse terms. Sir Michael Stoute’s six-year-old is on top form of late and put in some sparking work on the Newmarket gallops this week by all accounts, making him very much the one to beat, though sadly he is priced accordingly. One Master is another to consider but may find things happen a bit too quickly over this trip after winning over seven at Longchamp on Arc day, while Starman beat last weekend’s winner Dakota Gold with ease at York last time out to maintain his unbeaten record and could be anything, though this is a huge leap of faith from Listed to Group One class, which I suspect may be a bit too much for him at this stage of his career.
Champion Fillies and Mares 2.30pm Ascot
There is always at least one race that makes my head spin and in this case the more I look at it, the more confused I get. Starting with the stats in a vague attempt at stripping the race down I note that three-year-old's have won five of the last six renewals so common sense suggests we start there.
With the last five winners priced at 5/1 or less that only leaves me with one selection that fits both “rules”, so Wonderful Tonight it is for the David Menusier stable. A well bought daughter of Le Havre who cost 40,000 Euros at the sales, she has won three of her seven starts and over £140,000 in win and place prize money, a large chunk of that coming last time out when she took the Prix de Royallieu at Longchamp two weeks ago. That was on heavy ground so the going here won’t be a problem, and as it was over even further, her stamina is not in doubt either.
Her stable remain on great form with a 29% strike rate at the time of writing, and with William Buick booked to ride, she looks like she has a rock solid chance. Of the others, the Gosden pair look interesting at 12/1 with the possibility of a decent pay day for Robert Havlin on board Frankly Darling IF she can recapture the best of her early season form, with Gold Wand the other to catch my eye at a price.
Queen Elizabeth II Stakes 3.05pm Ascot
A very lop-sided market here with the unbeaten Palace Pier an odds on shot for John Gosden and Frankie Dettori, but can we find one to beat him or even at a price to hit the places at least. The honest answer is I cannot see anything in this field that will get anywhere near him if he is at his peak and recent work suggests he is, though tipping the short priced jolly is never that much fun. The Revenant does at least arrive here fresh after just the one race this season when successful at Longchamp and could be the one for the forecast I suppose while Century Dream has been spotted sparkling on the Newmarket gallops, and could go well at a big price for the Crisfords.
Champion Stakes 3.40pm Ascot
Magical won this last year for Aidan O’Brien and heads the market for 2020 too after seeing off Ghaiyyath last time out in the Irish Champion Stakes and is a very worthy favourite on that form alone. A close to 50% win rate is impressive when you consider she regularly came up against the great Enable, and with over £4,000,000 in the bank I suspect this may be her last race before a new career as a broodmare, though they may have a crack at the Breeders Cup if she comes out of this in fine fettle.
This is a Group One so it will be no shock to see she will not get things all her own way here with French Derby winner Mishriff, impressive Royal Ascot scorer Lord North, and others all ready to give her a fight. Temping as it can be to look for an each way alternative just for the sake of it I will stick with the O’Brien mare this time around with perhaps a little each way saver on St Leger third Piledriver who we are yet to see the best of, and Derby winner Serpentine who get the chance here to add to his season winnings after being forced to miss the Arc thank to the contaminated feed debacle.
Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle 2.11 Market Rasen
Good going but just the five runners here though all of them finished in the first three last time out which suggests it could throw up a few future winners. The Dan Skelton/Harry Skelton combo won this in 2017 with Cabaret Queen and we all know how good she has become over fences, though whether Aggy With It will prove to be up to that standard only time will tell. Still a maiden over hurdles she steps up in trip here after a second over shorter, but there is plenty of stamina in her breeding and she should go well regardless.
Dame De Ruban has her first start for Philip Kirby after arriving from Ireland and intrigues though the form of her second at Gowran Park has been let down since, while short priced favourite Alpha Carinae arrives unbeaten but has to give weight away to three of these and her stable is struggling for winners despite plenty of placed runners. With question marks against the majority it might be worth taking a chance on Bourbon Beauty for the in form Alex Hales yard, though her fitness does have to be taken on trust. Three places in four bumpers suggest she has plenty of ability and with the step up in trip and hurdles to jump expected to see plenty more from the daughter of Great Pretender, the forecast 6/1 looks a little too tempting to resist to small stakes.
Novices’ Chase 3.56pm Market Rasen
Another disappointing field in my eyes and one where any slow early pace seems more likely to bring about jumping mistakes which may yet decide who comes home in front. With their jumping skills open to question based on their exploits over hurdles we could be in for a bumpy ride, but Pic D’Orhy was bought as a future chaser and may have the most scope of all of these. He did fall at Auteuil which has to be a worry when deciding any bet size, but he also has the build for this game, and with the Paul Nicholls yard on fire already with a ludicrous 43% success rate in the last two weeks, he looks one of the likeliest winners of the whole weekend. Forecast backers could do a lot worse than Le Patriote who may even tow them along in this field and with Sam Twiston-Davies riding for Dr Richard Newland a successful formula, he may well be the main danger today.
Oriental Watch 9.10am Sha Tin (Hong Kong)
Not a race most of you will have an interest in, but I love my international racing and cannot let is pass without at least a mention. Once again (on paper) we have a two horse race lined up with ageing Champion Beauty Generation up against young upstart Golden Sixty. The pair met last month here over seven furlongs where the five year old came out on top by a length and three-quarters but the weights have changed in the old boy’s favour by seven pounds which makes life interesting. I do not have any early betting to work with sadly but the winner should come from those two (with Champion’s Way an interesting alternative at a price?), but I will be watching while eating my Coco Pops without bothering to have a bet in a race that sees two of the best horses around happily taking each other on, once again.
Novices’ Hurdle 2.22pm Kempton
Six runners here but it appears (famous last words) that you can put a line though eighteen race maiden Gorham’s Cave (surely even Gary Moore can’t get a win out of this one), and Cherry Cola who seems to lack the required stamina when unseating at Plumpton. The rest are pretty decent considering we are only in October, with For Pleasure on the hunt for a four timer while the ground remains on the quicker side. His all the way win last time from Shantou Express at Stratford was very impressive to everyone including the handicappers who have put him up twenty pounds, but he will need to improve considerably to add to past successes here in this class and I feel the assessment may be an overreaction. Sangha River may well try to lay up with For Pleasure here which surely won’t help his cause today and could bring out any jumping errors, a remark that also seems to apply to Mrs Hyde who looks outclassed despite her decent form figures and she may struggle today. All that waffle leads me to Fidelio Vallis, yet another potential front runner but hopefully one who can sit off the pace if needed. Paul Nicholls’ charge is a course and distance winner who appears to be very much on the upgrade for his powerful connections and he may just have that touch of class about him needed to lead these home where it counts.
Racing TV Hurdle 3.32 Kempton
One last race to round off the weekend and what an intriguing one to end with. Nicky Henderson seems to hold two of the aces with top wight Brain Power and bottom weight Verdana Blue and I would even be so bold to suggest they will come home first and second – though not in that order. Verdana Blue is class throughout when she gets her ground and is a multiple course and distance winner including this race in 2018. She has had the benefit of a pipe opener on the flat when a good third at York in August and gets her mares’ allowance here which may be all she needs to claim first prize. Brain Power seems hard done by to be rated just 150 these days and has been (and IMO still is) a good few pounds better than that and should run a big race, though who knows if this a prep to go back over fences or a legitimate target. Silver Streak won this last season and is another to throw in to the mix, as is Diego Du Charmil – though again his future may well be back over fences despite the mentioned hot form of the Paul Nicholls string.
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Pic D’Orhy 3.56pm Market Rasen Saturday