Dermot Weld can strike at double on Champions Day
14 October 2016
Qipco British Champions Day gives us the chance to celebrate the Flat season, our champions and marvel at superstars.
Congratulations to Jim Crowley and Josephine Gordon - you’ve lit up the season. Well done, as well, Silvestre De Sousa and Tom Marquand for making the jockeys’ championships so absorbing. If only that could happen every season.
A huge crowd is guaranteed at Ascot for wonderful racing, with plenty of distractions to add to the entertainment throughout the afternoon.
It is a day that needs to leave a mark, resonating in the recreational, occasional or even first-time racegoers to draw them back next year.
There certainly are all the ingredients. A wish list bigger than Santa’s has been granted with some mighty clashes.
The racing starts at 1.25pm with the Long Distance Cup. It is hard to ignore Gold Cup winner Order Of St George and the remarkable year Aidan O’Brien has enjoyed - and let’s not forget there is still a month or so to go.
The master of Ballydoyle hasn’t had the results expected of his genius on this day in the past and Order Of St George has had two recent tough races – beaten in the Irish St Leger when long odds-on and third in the Arc.
Time to flag up the master of this day over five years, the wily Dermot Weld, who can boast four winners from just seven runners.
He saddles 2014 winner Forgotten Rules, who ran a blinder on only start for nearly for nearly a year at the Curragh when conceding 12lb and beaten just half a length. He ought to be fresh in comparison to some of his rivals.
The Sprint is oozing class with five winners of Group One races plus some talented progressive speedsters.
I have overlooked Quiet Reflection because of the stable form, while I worry about Mecca’s Angel’s stamina. Twilight Son is a solid alternative for Henry Candy, whose Limato bypasses the race due to the ground.
Twilight Son was runner-up 12 months ago and has since landed the Diamond Jubilee at Ascot in June.
Shalaa did all that was asked of him on his first start back for a year, having excelled at two and Frankie Dettori has drummed up a superb relationship with him.
Librisa Breeze is the punters’ hero. His run in the last 150 yards in the Challenge Cup last time was visually spectacular. If he can lay up with his rivals early on he will finish strongly.
However with going, trip and calibre of opposition I select Signs Of Blessing, he’s been rested since his win at Deauville and he has had sight of Ascot when third in the Diamond Jubilee.
At 2.35pm all eyes will be fixed on Irish and Yorkshire Oaks victor Seventh Heaven, especially as she beat Found by almost three lengths at York.
Remember, though, she was in receipt of 10lb. Journey comes to Ascot having been there but missed out on the T-shirt, and with a better line-up this time around there’s a concern she’ll find at least one too good again.
I thought Speedy Boarding had finished for the season, and it might me a case of going to the well once too often.
Zhukova, another Weld runner, is my selection. She has won all three starts this year, and I’m encouraged that she has mixed it with the boys - giving US Army Ranger 6lb she defeated him by half a length. This is a step up in class, though I sense she may be up to it.
The QEII Stakes is full of the best milers. Four Guineas winners plus Ribchester, what a treat. Until Aidan O’Brien shared his intent, with Minding, Ribchester was favourite.
Brought to the boil expertly by Richard Fahey, third in the 2000 Guineas to Galileo Gold he went on to win the Jersey Stakes at Royal Ascot and then his Group 1 in Deauville, though I worry how those races have since worked out.
Hugo Palmer deserves major plaudits if he can bring Galileo Gold back to his peak and he may find it trickier to dominate some of his rivals.
Jet Setting won easily at Tipperary, while Awtaad bounced back from his disappointment in the Sussex Stakes to win at Leopardstown.
When all said and done, Minding has plenty of strength grit and determination. She was an excellent third in the Irish Champion Stakes - only beaten by Almanzor and Found.
With Aidan a bit partial to landing 1-2s in recent big races, I’ll be backing Minding to beat Hit It A Bomb.
Fascinating Rock arrives at Ascot seeking to become the 11th horse since 1900 to win the Champion Stakes in consecutive years, though his task is exceptionally tough. Not least of all because Aidan O’Brien is running US Army Ranger and the Arc heroine Found.
The latter is box office, only ever out of the first three once in 19 starts. She has a date with French challenger Almanzor, and it’s intriguing to note Aidan hasn’t shirked the contest.
Only two favourites have won in the last decade, though French challengers have a great record even when it was run at Newmarket. Almanzor won the French Derby and conquered all in the Irish Champion Stakes, then deliberately avoided the Arc to run in the Champion Stakes. He is very hard to oppose.
Tanya Stevenson’s tips for Champions Day at Ascot
1.25 Forgotten Rules
2.00 Signs Of Blessings
3.10 Minding to beat Hit It A Bomb
4.25 Sea Wolf/Yuften
Tanya Stevenson’s pointers for Champions Day at Ascot
Aidan O’Brien’s 15 runners at Champions’ Day have resulted in just two winners and he has drawn a blank since 2012
Dermot Weld has had four winners from his seven runners
Ryan Moore has yet to ride a winner on Champions Day at Ascot
1.35 Long Distance Cup/Jockey Club Cup
Eight of the last ten winners came from the first three in the betting
2.00 Sprint/Diadem Stakes
Eight of the last 10 winners took in Royal Ascot (including the last five)
Eight of the last ten winners came from the first four in the betting
Dougie Costello has ridden Quiet Reflection five times to four wins
Frankie Dettori is unbeaten in four rides on Shalaa
Paul Mulrennan has ridden Mecca’s Angel 14 times - to eight wins and four seconds
2.35 Fillies & Mares/Pride Stakes
Six of the eight winners came from the first three in the betting
Since 1990 nine 2000 Guineas winners have run in the QEII Stakes at Ascot. Three have won: Frankel 2011, George Washington 2006 and Mark Of Esteem 1996 – today Galileo Gold
Five of the last ten favourites have won
Eight of the last ten winners won at least one Group One in the season
Six of the seven winners aged four or older had all run at Royal Ascot
All of the last ten winners came from the top three in the betting
Seven of the last 10 winners were aged three
Over the last ten years five winners of the Jacques Le Marois have competed only one has won – Excelebration in 2012. Today, Ribchester will attempt to improve that record.
3.45 Champion Stakes
Only two of the last ten favourites have won
Six horses to have run in the Irish Champion since 2011 have all been beaten in the Champion Stakes at Ascot
French challengers have won the Champion Stakes 21 times since 1945.
Of the last 17 occasions the French have been represented in the Champion Stakes they have have won the race seven times and been second five times.
Fillies have won nine of the last 27 renewals
Only nine winners since 1945 have been aged five or over