STAR PREVIEW Sat: Champions Day Ascot

British Champions Day 2020, Ascot
Live on ITV1 HD and ITV Hub from 1.00pm, and Sky Sports Racing from 12:30pm

The end of a flat season like no other is here – domestically at least – with British Champions Day. Sadly, like all the great races of the season – in this country at least – it will take place with no crowds, and that is naturally a great disappointment, especially for the tenth anniversary of an event that has made its own slot in the calendar. However, in the current circumstances, all in British racing from top to bottom must be thanked for their extraordinary effort to complete the season in full in the most difficult of years. Hopefully, by the beginning of the next campaign, we’ll be able to enjoy such events in person.

As it is, there’s a top class card for us to enjoy at home, with the caveat of testing ground – soft, soft to heavy in places – and some winners to be found, so let us commence with our race by race guide.

Long Distance Cup (1.20): This is a hotly contested event, where it is understandable that Stradivarius is a strong favourite – especially given what he did in the Gold Cup on a testing surface – but he can be avoided at the prices. He didn’t have a slog when seventh in the Arc, but he was just beaten in this last season and more appealing bets can be found. Search For A Song received a brilliant ride from Oisin Orr in the Irish St Leger (thus retaining her title) when taking aim and passing Fujara Prince in the straight, and both horses have to be respected here although Search For A Song has no form of note on ground this testing, and Fujara Prince is going further than he has ever done before.

Sovereign’s Irish Derby has the look of a ‘fluke’ – in the sense that he’ll never have things drop that favourably again – whilst Dawn Patrol’s had a long season too and also has those same concerns. Of the Ballydoyle contingent, Broome – who was fourth in the Coronation Cup (Stradivarius ahead) is most interesting, given that he was an eight length winner over Sovereign in last year’s Ballysax Stakes. A strong stayer over a mile and a half, 2m could be to his benefit.

There have been plenty of well-priced winners of this and Morando is of interest. A wide margin winner of the Ormonde Stakes in 2019 (Kew Gardens, last year’s winner of this, second) he has been inconsistent but was a wide margin winner on soft ground of the Cumberland Lodge at the backend of that season and after finding the Hardwicke too hot for him on his seasonal reappearance, he found things happening too quickly in in the Geoffrey Freer Stakes and again in the Stand Cup Stakes at Chester.

He’s always looked as if he’d be a decent stayer and this ground ought to suit, whilst he surely won’t lack for a decent pace, and a light season ought to be a help for Andrew Balding’s veteran.

In a race where no horse is ruled out, the other outsider of interest is Trueshan, an improving stayer who is a heavy ground winner. He was disappointing in the Ebor but previously had shown a great attitude to beat Alignak (closely tied in with Morando) and he then landed a decent Salisbury conditions affair afterwards. A decent stayer of 1m6f at least, more improvement would not surprise. Be bold and back the pair to win at small stakes.

Sprint (1.55): One of the races of the day. Gelding has been the making of Dream Of Dreams, who would have taken the Diamond Jubilee in a stride further before a wide margin win in the Hungerford Stakes and a game success in the Sprint Cup. He’s sure to take the beating here, although the market has found him well and truly and there’s less between him and One Master than the betting would suggest in any case.

One Master came from her Prix Foret win to finish a close second last year in this and whilst she’s had a busier campaign this time around, she ought to be as closely involved as any horse with track, trip and ground all fine for her. Oxted’s July Cup victory is the best form over six furlongs but we have no idea how he’ll cope with ground so testing and that’s the case for Starman, who is a tremendously exciting prospect.

King Power took this race last year with Donjuan Triumphant last year and they have two serious chances with Art Power and Happy Power. Art Power was touted as a Group 1 winner in waiting when taking the field apart in the Palace Of Holyroodhouse Handicap, an impression he did nothing to dismiss when taking the Lacken Stakes in fine style.

He was a disappointment in the Nunthorpe but ran a very respectable race when fourth in the Sprint Cup and it’s unlikely we’ve seen the best of him. Happy Power comes here off the back of a hat-trick, having impressed when taking the Challenge Stakes at Newmarket just over a week ago, and we know he enjoys the ground and will get over.

Cape Bryon bombed out in this last year but would be a major player if on form, and Glen Shiel won’t be too far away.

Don’t be afraid to look for a really big price here – Dounjan Triumphant won this at 33/1 last year and Forever In Dreams was 3rd at 66/1 – and whilst the market seems wise to the lurkers, it wouldn’t be a shock to see Sonaiyla (close second to Glen Shiel in Phoenix Sprint Stakes) or indeed Onassis (consistently improved this year, thrives with slow ground and fast pace) run above their odds.

Fillies and Mares (2.30): One is taking a chance that Wonderful Tonight is over her grinding win in the Prix de Royallieu (Passion fifth) but it was her second Group prize on heavy this season and her fifth in the Vermille (Even So behind) in between also reads really well in this context. She was behind Dame Malliot that day but these conditions favour her. It could be worth having another one on side in the shape of Mehdaayih, who was rated highly enough to take on the colts in both the Champion (here, last year) and Prince Of Wales’s Stakes, where she didn’t run badly on either occasion; She handles an ease in the ground (whether she wants it this testing has to be debated, but she doesn’t appear to be ground dependent) and she’s a winner over this trip, having beaten the solid yardstick Edisa in the Prix de Malleret convincingly last June. Her best – if it can be found – gives her a bigger chance than 7/1.

Passion has had a productive season but looks exposed by this point and improvement may be more forthcoming from Frankly Darling and Gold Wand; Cabaletta beat Frankly Darling on her debut when both raced on heavy but she’s since been disappointing on soft ground.

The De Vega pair of Antonia (sixth in this last year as a three-year-old, won twice this season) and Manuela (big disappointment in Royalieu) are also respected.

QEII (3.05pm): Palace Pier was outstanding in the Prix Jacques Le Marois and assuming he’s at his peak – and with this being the plan, why shouldn’t he be? – he can make it a Group 1 hat-trick. There’s no real urge to take him on although last year’s second The Revenant was impressive in the Prix Daniel Wildenstein and has been aiming at this race all season.

Circus Maximus has another fair each/way chance whilst the same can be said of Nazeef, who’s now 6-6 over this distance following a game win in the Sun Chariot two weeks ago. John Gosden’s four-year-old filly is arguably one of the most improved horses in the country and a line through the likes of Terebellum and One Master (beat both that pairing and Billesdon Brook in dash to the line for Falmouth Stakes) suggests she’s more than worth a shot against the colts and is worthy of each/way support.

Champion Stakes (3.40): A cracking renewal where there isn’t an obvious angle in. Magical is a worthy favourite to follow up her win last season but there’s the slight worry that she may have left something on the pitch when taking the Irish Champion Stakes and that could make the difference against Mishriff, who’s been rested since the summer for this after a pair of very impressive wins over 10f in France including the Prix du Jockey Club.

Lord North, who was superb in the Prince Of Wales’s Stakes at Royal Ascot, lost nothing in defeat when third in the International and handles really testing ground too – and then one has to add Addeybb, second to Magical last year in this and since a winner of two Australian Group 1’s (as well as finishing second in the Prince Of Wales’s) into the mix.

Skaletti, who quickened smartly to take the Prix Dollar for the second year in a row on Arc weekend, is another horse who you have to consider and all told, this might be a race to enjoy.

Of the outsiders, Japan has been a disappointment who probably wants faster ground, and whilst Serpentine ran well in the Grand Prix de Paris, repeating his Derby exploits over this shorter trip will be a million times harder. Pyledriver has had a great season and shaped like the quickest horse in the Leger – if handling the ground, he might be of interest as he’s been seriously underestimated before already but this is not a race that makes betting appeal.

Balmoral (4.15pm): Raaeq is the choice of many here and that’s understandable given how impressive he was when bolting up over 7 furlongs here last time, but he’s been found by the market and this is a multitude more competitive, so he’s taken on.

Njord is first preference of the market leaders, having improved hand over fist for Jessica Harrington since moving from Sheila Lavery. He’s terribly unlucky not to have won a major prize already this season, being beaten a nose and a neck at the Galway Festival before being cut off when starting his run in the Irish Cambridgeshire.

Upped to Listed class, he ran an excellent race in the Listowel Stakes when he was too keen early off what didn’t look to be the strongest gallop before making good headway to be fourth. That form looks rock solid, as the reopposing Keats (second that day) won a listed contest afterwards and the winner Lady Wannabe followed up in the Darley Stakes.

Back to a straight mile on testing ground, he can take all the beating here, but two others make too much appeal to leave out against the field.

Raising Sand ran a belting race to finish as close as eighth in the Hunt Cup given how isolated he was (second home on that side was Cardsharp, who finished fifteenth) and that effort can arguably be marked up given how well the race has worked out, with Dark Vision and Monatham having won since (Listed event for the former, big handicap win for the latter) whilst Pogo has won a listed race and finished placed in Group 1 and 2 company since, and Bell Rock, who reopposes here, has finished third in the Cambridgeshire since.

Raising Sand’s course and distance form needs no introduction, the ground ought to be no problem, and Saffie Osborne’s 7lbs claim is a great help for a horse who is fairly handicapped on that Hunt Cup eighth.

A flyer is taken on Graignes, who hasn’t cut too much ice in four starts for George Baker, but who has the look of a handicap plot here. He was a serious performer for Yann Barberot, finishing fourth in Persian King’s Poulains win before then finishing fifth in the Marois and also in the Foret behind One Master.

You can throw out his well beaten effort on his stable debut in Qatar, and he caught the eye when eighth in the Lennox (form has worked out brilliantly) and he found 6 and a half furlongs too short at Deauville in what has the look of a prep run for this contest, and he didn’t lose much in defeat when fifth in the Superior Mile to some very promising pattern performers. That race developed into something of a sprint; This won’t, and he may well be suited by the strong gallop and big field. If he can run to something like his best, then 104 could underestimate him hugely.

RECOMMENDED BETS (scale of 1-100 points)
BACK Morando 1 pt win in 1.20 Ascot at 18/1 with
BACK Trueshan 1 pt win in 1.20 Ascot at 18/1 with
BACK One Master 1 pt win in 1.55 Ascot at 9/2 with
BACK Wonderful Tonight 1 pt in 2.30 Ascot at 4/1 with
BACK Nazeef 1 pt each/way in 3.05 Ascot 10/1 with
BACK Njord 1 pt win in 4.15 Ascot at 17/2 with
BACK Raising Sand 1 pt win in 4.15 Ascot at 12/1 with
BACK Graignes 1 pt win in 4.15 Ascot at 25/1 with

PROFIT/LOSS SINCE JAN 1 2017: PROFIT 125.09 points
(Excluding Cheltenham 2021 antepost, Six Nations Outright, Six Nations Specials, Premier League 2020/21 Ante Post)