Cracksman to crack under Champions Day pressure6 min read
John Gosden’s rain-dance has apparently worked with the ground now officially soft at Ascot and further showers forecast this afternoon. That should aid the chances of Cracksman who is the 7/4 favourite for this afternoon’s feature, the £1.3million QIPCO Champion Stakes over a mile and a quarter.
The well-bred son of Frankel has excelled over a mile and a half however, placing in Derbies at Epsom and the Curragh before winning Group 2 contests in the Great Voltigeur Stakes at York and the Prix Niel at Chantilly. He must go close under regular partner Frankie Dettori but may lack that telling turn of foot that mile and a quarter horses possess, however, and preference lies instead with Richard Hannon’s Barney Roy (3.50) under James Doyle.
QIPCO Champion Stakes prices:
The selection failed to handle the dip at Newmarket in the Guineas but bounced back at Royal Ascot, breaking the track record in his St James’s Palace Stakes success back in June. He showed he stayed a mile and a quarter when beaten a nose by Ulysses in the Eclipse and was well-backed to reverse the form in the International at York. That was far from The Doyler’s finest hour but he can make amends on Britain’s richest day of racing.
Connections can claim both feature Gp 1 contests with Ribchester (3.15) expected to gain a fourth Gp 1 of the season in the QE2 Stakes over the straight mile. Richard Fahey’s stable star likewise broke the track record at Royal Ascot when bolting-up under William Buick in the Queen Anne and, after a blip at Glorious Goodwood, bounced back with success in last month’s Prix Moulin in France. He will relish the forecasted soft ground and can give weight and a beating to Aidan O’Brien’s dual-classic winner Churchill.
Stradivarius (1.25) is one of just three horses from the classic generation in the Long Distance Cup and is chanced to cause something of an upset in the opener. All eyes are likely to be on the rematch between Ascot Gold Cup 1-2 Big Orange and Order of St George but Stradivarius beat the Gold Cup winner fair and square at Glorious Goodwood and was far from disgraced when third last time out in the St Leger.
Another Royal Ascot rematch pits Commonwealth Cup 1-2 Caravaggio and Harry Angel together in the Champion Sprint with the latter 5/4 to win a third consecutive Gp 1 under regular partner Adam Kirby.
The selection warrants maximum respect after his scintillating performances in the July Cup and Sprint Cup but I’m willing to take a chance on Librisa Breeze (2.00) rewarding each way support at 12/1. The selection was beaten by just three lengths in the corresponding race 12 months ago on ground much quicker than ideal and should prove even better on today’s soft ground.
Tip: Librisa Breeze
Last year’s Fillies and Mares winner Journey is 3/1 to win back-to-back renewals however, the ground is much different from last year’s good-to-firm conditions and Bateel must go close in likely testing conditions. She has been backed into 2/1 from 3s favourite, however, at a double-figure price, I’m willing to chance Horseplay (2.40) at 12/1 for the in-form yard of Andrew Balding. She receives 6lb from her elders and left quite the impression when shedding the maiden tag in similar ground last autumn. After just five career starts she remains unexposed and open to much further improvement.
The New One (4.25) must concede upwards of 13lb to the Welsh Champion Hurdle field but Zak Baker takes off 5lb and he looks a class apart at Ffos Las. Nigel Twiston-Davies’ charge bypasses his normal starting point at Kempton in favour of this afternoon’s feature in South Wales and looks well-placed to make a winning reappearance. Garde la Victoire produced similar heroics from top weight 12 months ago and I expect The New One to do likewise this afternoon.
Tip: The New One
Bristol de Mai must likewise produce a performance under the burden of top weight in the feature 2m 5f Handicap Chase however, Paul Nicholls’ Romain de Senam (3.00) is unopposable after bolting-up last weekend at Chepstow. The selection, currently the 10/1 favourite with the sponsors for next month’s BetVictor Gold Cup, jumped magnificently under Sam Twiston-Davies last Sunday and must surely go close under a 6lb penalty.
Tip: Romain de Senam
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