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IT’S THE big finale of the turf flat season at Ascot with Champions’ Day at the Berkshire track and although the Champion Stakes is the billed feature race, it is the QEII Stakes at 3.10 which looks the big race of the day, as Palace Pier and the new kid on the block, Baaeed, come face to face.
The former was a huge disappointment in the race 12 months ago and although the ground will be much more in his favour this time around, this looks a much deeper race.
Baaeed was no more than workmanlike when landing the Prix Du Moulin from Order of Australia, but there were mitigating circumstances that day, and his trainer William Haggas has suggested that we will see a different horse this afternoon.
However, this is no two horse race with the likes of 2,000 Guineas’ second Master of the Seas, last year’s winner The Revenant, Alcohol Free, 1,000 Guineas’ heroine Mother Earth and the top-class Lady Bowthorpe all set to line up here.
Preference at the likely odds of around 10/1 is for ALCOHOL FREE who patently failed to stay the extended 10 furlongs in the Juddmonte International at York, but previously readily beat Poetic Flare in the Sussex Stakes at Goodwood when showing a top-class turn of foot.
She has been given a two-month rest since York and should have a nice advantage over many of her rivals by arriving here fresh and ready to roll.
There is good reason to believe that she will need a career best to land this famous Group One, but her sharp turn of foot on ground which will be perfect for her makes her a value play in this deep renewal.
The Champion Stakes (3.50) sees 10 runners go to post, headed by the globe-trotting 6/4 favourite Mishriff, winner of the aforementioned International at York.
I thought that race fell into his lap perfectly and that the John Gosden trained charge was slightly flattered by that run.
Fourth and fifth in the Arc, Adayar and Sealiway, both take their place in the line-up.
It was a very messy race at Longchamp and I see the Derby winner as more of a stayer over a mile-and-a-half, so I think he will race prominently here without having to lead as he did in France, the drying ground being a huge plus for him here.
But the market has a hold on all of these entries, and the each-way call against them could well be the highly progressive DUBAI HONOUR.
He has gone from strength to strength in the second half of the season, bagging a pair of Group Two events in France, the latter a length-and-a-half success in the Prix Dollar.
On my private ratings he has about 9lbs to find with the best of these, but whereas their form has levelled off, this son of Pride of Dubai is still improving and if any of the field are going to be well backed on the day, the selection is the most likely candidate.
The Champion Stayers sees old foes Trueshan and Stradivarius clash again, and it is hard to know which will come out on top, both had a fairly hard race two weeks ago in Paris and HAMISH could trump them both.
Winner of the 2019 Melrose Handicap at York as a three-year-old, he has been very lightly raced since then due to injury, but on his comeback in the September Stakes at Kempton Park, he easily beat that good yardstick Hukum by a neck. His fine form was confirmed when the latter messed up in the Group Three Cumberland Lodge Stakes.
Hamish has a superb record. Fresh and with the give in the ground that he needs to show his best form, we could see a further improved model on his first venture over two miles.
The Champions Sprint (2.00) looks a wide open affair, and I am prepared to take a chance on Jersey Stakes hero CREATIVE FORCE (nb).
He hated the fast ground in the July Cup, running on when the race was done and dusted, then was way too free when a close-up second in the Lennox Stakes at Goodwood and once again found things happening way too quickly on top of the ground in the Haydock Park Sprint Cup.
The Godolphin charge gets the vote over the likes of Art Power, Wokingham Handicap winner Rohaan and recent course and distance winner in the Bengough Stakes Vadream.
The Champions Fillies and Mares (2.35) should go the way of SNOWFALL who hardly had a race in the Arc after being caught in mid-division off a slow pace when they quickened up and having nowhere to go, but the Balmoral Handicap (4.30) looks a wide open affair with 20 entries set to go to post.
It shows the strength in depth in this year’s renewal, with every one of the runners standing on a rating of 100 or higher.
SUNRAY MAJOR readily landed the big seven furlong handicap here at the beginning of the month and will surely run in group races if kept in training next year.
A mere 6lbs penalty may not be enough to stop him here, and Frankie Dettori can guide him to victory over the likes of stable mate King Leonidas and Montatham.
But for the best bet of the day, I am going to go out on a limb and tip up MY JEANIE RAI (NAP) in the Wolverhampton 7.30 as she showed more promise than her final placing suggested first time up and could shock some bigger stables here.
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