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Week Five of the free preview of Saturday’s Channel Four Racing, and it’s all about Champions’ Day at Ascot, the final day of the flat season, when the year’s best horses compete to be crowned champion of their discipline. Well, that’s the theory, anyway. It depends on the weather. And if they’ve run in the Arc recently. Amongst other things. Anyway, Week Four of the free preview of Saturday’s Channel Four Racing was heartbreaking. We started off with Arthenus getting us off to a great start, winning at 10/3. But then it was more or less a procession of seconds and thirds. And the most disappointing of all was Oriental Fox getting touched off by a short-head in the Cesarewitch by a 50/1 shot of all things. The fact Oriental Fox was gambled heavily before the race filled me with confidence, only for him to lose it on a dip. Sigh. But I did advise to back him each-way, so it wasn’t a complete bust. In fact, we made a loss -0.5 units which is horrible given the fact we had several chances of getting a winning week. Anyway, that leaves us with a profit of +9.38 units, after one month of free horse racing tips. Remember, we’re in this for the long haul, and I won’t hide any results. There’s no point, is there?
Now, let’s look Saturday’s Channel Four Racing and it’s all about Ascot, a place I love. Seriously, if you’ve never been and you get the chance, go, go, go. I was fortunate enough to go on the Saturday of this year’s Royal Ascot and it was a real treat. Shame the weather was terrible, but never mind. Remember, it’s an early start at 12:45, so be ready to go first thing in the morning, or get them on before you go to bed tonight. Can’t have you missing the almost traditional first winner, can we?
So who is going to be the champion stayer? Well, that title should probably go to the winner of the Long Distance Cup, the first race of the day which is run over 2 miles, and we’re seeing a lot of old foes go at it once again, with a few upstarts coming along to try and upset the party.
Willie Mullins is coming in two-handed, which is always scary, given his history of putting a bolter into a race like this. Clondaw Warrior and Wicklow Brave are two very classy hurdlers, great stayers, but you would think Mullins have the preference of Wicklow Brave, given the jockey booking of Ryan Moore. Wicklow Brave is going to love the softening ground and any more rain will give Mullins even more hope – this could turn into a real slog. Clondaw Warrior has a lot to do on flat form, and I think Willie Mullins knows this with his booking.
Agent Murphy, very lightly raced, but very young. Got the better of Wicklow Brave at the Curragh last time out, but was found wanting by Order of St George. He’s got a lot to find at this level.
Clever Cookie hasn’t looked so clever at the top level this year. Lightly raced this year, but just doesn’t seem to be able to hang on the big stage after two flops this season.
Flying Officer is two from two this season, but didn’t go well last time out at Ascot in this very race. Yes, it was heavy ground, but he’s also got a lot to find.
Forgotten Rules should be forgotten after finishing well behind Agent Murphy and Wicklow Brave, not to mention Order of St George.
Litigant has had 8 runs with 6 wins, but they’ve all been in classes well below this. Now, he did give Wicklow Brave a beating at York last time out and was giving the Irish raider a few pounds. On paper, if he keeps improving, he could be hard to beat.
Pallasator has the beating of Clondaw Warrior on paper, but not Agent Murphy. Not by a long shot. He did beat Clondaw Warrior last time out in a Group 2, but I don’t feel that form is that hot in this company.
Simenon doesn’t have the beating of Pallasator, which is nice. Neither does Suegioo.
Gale Force doesn’t seem to have a chance, it’s a step up in class and maybe just a step too far.
Hidden Gold went well this time last year, but it was in much easier races. Stepping up in class hasn’t been the easiest step to make, so I would avoid.
Amour de Nuit is getting weight all round and will be off 8 stone 11lbs thanks to an age and filly allowance. She might need further, and would probably be suited over hurdles going forward. However, if the rain comes, she might be in the frame to land her treble.
But for me, this is all about Agent Murphy. Order of St George is a seriously classy animal, and although he was done by 11 lengths, he’s on an upward curve, and at 4 years old he’s got a lot to give. Litigant looks interesting on paper, but at 7 years old, he should have had a lot more racing under his belt. The fact he sprung a shock at 33/1 at York last time out doesn’t mean too much, as the form doesn’t suggest it was a hot race. So get on Agent Murphy to continue his rise to the top. This shouldn’t take too much to win it, and he looks classy enough to get the job done.
The Champion Sprint Stakes. Have I ever conveyed just how I feel about these huge field sprints? I’m sure I have, you know. In fact, I know I have. Just get a pin, stick it in one and back it. At the tail-end of the year, we won’t find anything springing up out of nowhere, though, surely. It all boils down to this for the best sprinters.
Lightning Moon looks ready for action after only two runs this season. He didn’t go well last time out over 7 furlongs, but it was too far, Godolphin realised this and brought him back in trip. He made three starts in his first season and won all three, one win coming in a Group 3 at Ascot in the soft. If his last two runs are a tune-up for this, he could be the sleeper in all of this.
Muhaarar will go off plenty short in a race that could be trappy. It’s no surprise, of course, having won four out of his last five, including a huge win at the Royal meeting in the Commonwealth Cup, But he looks like he prefers top of the ground racing, and with the ground on the soft side of good, I wouldn’t like to back him at such a short price in a competitive race.
Twilight Son has had a huge year after continuing his undefeated run into this season. He’s five for five and it wouldn’t be a shock to see him topple Muraarar. He didn’t need any more than 6 furlongs in his last win, a Group 1 at Haydock in the Betfred Sprint Cup, but he gamely held on and showed he has the fight.
It’s all a bit confusing, and class shout out, but we’ll take a chance that Godolphin have been prepping for this, and Lightning Moon (each-way) is ready to get back to winning ways. If the favourite wins, fair enough, but I wouldn’t be backing him at prohibitive odds.
The Champion Fillies and Mares’ Stakes is a seriously hot race. So many contenders, and, for me, the race looks wide open.
The four year-olds look like they have a bit to find with the three year-olds. In fact, at this late stage in the year, it’s not that huge a difference, so any age allowances really benefit those that get them. Tapestry ended up tailed off in the Arc, and just doesn’t seem to have the ability that some thought she did. Ryan Moore is an interesting booking, but it’s going to be tough for her to win this against some classy younger horses.
Arabian Queen, conqueror of Golden Horn in a weird, weird race, didn’t follow it up last time out, although 6th behind Treve in an Arc trial isn’t disgraceful. But let’s just put the Golden Horn result down to the ground and a bit of a poor ride.
Candarliya is going to like the ground and she’ll like this trip. The only question is can she back up after a tough race a fortnight ago?
The same could be asked of Covert Love. She’s had a great year but a hard-fought win last time out.
The official, finally, St Leger winner, Simple Verse should, in theory need longer. Softening ground will help, but an extra couple of furlongs wouldn’t go amiss.
For me, this is a two-way shootout, and I’m putting my preference on Candarliya (NB). She will definitely handle the ground, she gets the trip and her win last time out was a little more comfortable than that of Covert Love. Both have had a tough season, though, so there might just be a surprise lurking at bigger odds.
The Queen Elizabeth II Stakes is for the milers, and it’s all about Solow. Frankie Dettori was on the radio a couple of days ago claiming this was the big tip of his for this meeting. Now, jockeys have been known to exaggerate their chances a little, but since Frankie isn’t actually riding Solow, it’s worth taking note. Now, there is no value to be had on the favourite, but is it any wonder? Eight wins on the bounce, he’s one of the form horses in the world, and this is the trip he does the business over. Course and distance winner at the Royal meeting, and the form of Esoterique holds up well. He’s had quite a light season and this should see him capping it of in style, in my opinion.
Gleneagles will want the rain to stay away and will be a non-runner if even a drop falls, according to Aidan O’Brien. So we’ll just skip Gleneagles, as it looks like the excuses are coming already.
So, yeah, there doesn’t look too much that can beat Solow (NAP), and although I won’t win any awards for the novelty of this selection, sometimes you can’t look past the favourite. Territories also looks interesting in a race to fill the places behind the hot-pot Solow.
The Champion Stakes is the highlight of the day, and we’ve got another Frankie Dettori fancy in the shape of Jack Hobbs. The fact Jack Hobbs didn’t go for the Arc is a positive for backers of the favourite, but is there going to be any challengers for him? If Frankie doesn’t think so, and he’s in the race on another horse, what does that say?
Well, I think there could be a challenger due to the ground. There are question marks over the ground for Jack Hobbs, although all signs point to him being able to cope. We all thought that about Golden Horn and he hacked up in the Arc, so we should be careful.
Found went well in the Arc and hasn’t been disgraced behind the amazing Golden Horn in the past. He’s going to like this ground and should eat it up the softer it becomes, if it does. He did find the 8 furlongs at Ascot a little too sharp the last time he raced here, but the extra two furlongs should be a huge help to him. Ryan Moore on-board is a huge help, and we’ll take on the short-price favourite here.
Lucky last of the flat season and it’s the 20-runner Balmoral Handicap. What a way to finish the flat season, eh?
Buckstay will be looking to make it two on the bounce, will gM Hopkins will be looking to regain some of that early season form. To be honest, there’s a lot of questions to be asked here, and it’s hard to solve, as we know what each horse has done on merit, so the handicap should, in theory, be spot on this late in the season. Will be get the blanket finish the handicapper wants? Doubtful.
One that is interesting for maybe the wrong reasons is Merry Me (each-way), as she’s finished second in her last four races. However, she’s been going up and up in class and could be well handicapped on that.
But the Balmoral Handicap is wide open, as you will see with the prices, so let’s dig deep and see that Merry Me pulls through to cap off the flat racing season.