Ascot is expecting the biggest Champions Day crowd since Frankel’s send-off 11 years ago to bid farewell to Frankie Dettori on Saturday. That’s the mantra for the day. And yet I wouldn’t be at all surprised if we see him back here in 12 months’ time! He’ll certainly be back for Royal week, won’t he?
I can understand completely why he has changed his mind about retiring. He has had a wonderful season, remains amazingly fit and can still jump off horses with apparent ease to show off his rare athleticism. The west coast of the US will suit him, nice weather, no travel and lots to do on his days off.
It’s been lashing down all week and thank goodness they have the contingency to switch to the inner course for the round course contests. It’s on the soft side there, too, but nowhere near as deep.
Don’t forget BetGoodwin are still offering best odds guaranteed and if your selection is beaten by a nose, you can get your money back (up to £100).
It’s hard to fancy Frankie’s mount Trawlerman in the opening Champions Long Distance Cup, as he is not going to find the testing conditions playing to his strengths.
Trueshan is going for a fourth consecutive win in this race. It’s his ground and he has rediscovered his mojo after a wind operation. He doesn’t even need to be held up anymore and looks more versatile, tactically.
Kyprios is favourite and last year’s Gold Cup winner was off for a year before an encouraging second in the Irish St Leger last month. I am sure he will step forward for that and his demolition job on deep ground in last year’s Prix du Cadran remains strong in the memory.
Because he ran poorly in the Doncaster Cup behind Trueshan, last year’s runner-up Coltrane seems to be a big price. There isn’t much between him and Trueshan at their best. But I will be rooting for Trueshan, trained brilliantly by BetGoodwin ambassador, Alan King.
Kinross, last year’s impressive winner, is surely Frankie’s best chance of the day in the Champions Sprint as he is effective on this surface and is the highest rated in the line-up. However, he’s not that far clear of everything else and only superior by 2lb to the July Cup runner-up Run To Freedom who also chased home Kinross in this 12 months ago.
Kinross was just lacking a bit of his usual sparkle in the Prix de la Foret last time and is around 7-4, whereas Run To Freedom looks an each-way play at 25-1, although this will probably be the slowest ground he has raced on.
The one proper mudlark in the race is Vadream – she is a different mare on this surface and romped home on heavy ground at Doncaster in April and then defeated the Nunthorpe winner Live In The Dream in the Palace House at Newmarket on soft. Sixth on slightly better ground a year ago, she is a player for sure but that is now reflected in her price.
The Fillies & Mares is up next and Frankie and the Gosdens – they have won this three times in the past seven runnings – will fancy their chances with Free Wind who was well beaten in the Arc last time. She won the Lancashire Oaks on soft last year but has become a little unpredictable.
Jackie Oh gets the nod here because she arrives here in great form after a second in the Prix de l’Opera (to the brilliant Blue Rose Cen) on ground that may have been lively enough for her. She is well worth a crack at this trip for the first time as she is bred to stay. Her chief asset is handling ground like this and she has probably not stopped improving.
Keep an eye on the French challenger Roi Boissonade who will be held up and has a lot of ability. Her stamina will come into play and again the ground is a big plus. She looks a worthy each-way alternative at around 12-1.
Time Lock should go well too and looked good at Newmarket last time, albeit on quick ground, but she does handle soft.
Paddington looks the one to beat in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes. His winning run of seven was ended in the Juddmonte International but he remains unbeaten in four starts at a mile (easily beat Chaldean at Ascot, too good for Facteur Cheval at Goodwood) and is also unbeaten in four runs when the ground is soft or worse.
There are strong vibes coming from Ballydoyle since his break after York and this could be the last time we see him before he heads off to stud.
Nashwa, such an admirable filly, was just ahead of him at York and is given plenty of respect as her performance in the Falmouth Stakes when dropped back to a mile was sensational. This is a tougher race of course but she is almost a free each-way bet at around 9-2.
Big Rock is the other one of interest. A front-runner, he could take some pegging back if allowed too much rope and appeals each-way.
On a line with Facteur Cheval, he has a similar chance as Paddington. Overall, he has a high level of form, including when second to the brilliant Ace Impact in the French Derby.
However, the one run that marks him out today is his thrashing of Horizon Dore, favourite for the Champion Stakes, don’t forget, which came on heavy ground over nine furlongs at Chantilly in May. The winning margin was five lengths but it could have been much more – he was eased down considerably! So, the more rain, the better.
Since that defeat, Horizon Dore has gone from strength to strength, winning all four with a trademark turn of foot. The Champion is his first dip into Group 1 waters, however, and as much as I like him, I am prepared to take him on in the feature, Britain’s most valuable Flat race.
Bay Bridge defends his crown (My Prospero third last year) after appearing not quite to stay in the Arc and King Of Steel is such a solid performer at this level and would bring the house down if Frankie brought him home. I am not sure he’s quite good enough, though.
Just a heads-up about Point Lonsdale who may look to have a stiff enough task. But he is the sole Ballydoyle representative here and has form figures of four out of four on soft or softer ground.
He could have done with the race staying on the original Flat round course! So too perhaps the mare Via Sistina who is also respected.
But as a spectacle, the race has been saved by the switching of the race to the inner course with the presence of Mostahdaf who is by some way the best horse in this race.
Brilliant in the Prince Of Wales’s Stakes from off the pace and then making the running in the Juddmonte, they say he is at his best on quickish ground. But he has won twice on soft and I think he will win again.
My fellow BetGoodwin ambassador Hayley Turner is on Docklands in the closing Balmoral Handicap and he has to be a player, being unbeaten in two starts over this straight mile.
He romped home on soft in May and then won the Britannia on much faster ground at the Royal meeting off a 14lb higher mark. Now he is another 10lb higher in the handicap so it won’t be easy.
He tried Group 3 company at Goodwood last time but in a muddling race, could never land a blow.
Good luck to Hayley as she closes in on a career 1,000! Two to go as I write and she rides one at Redcar on Friday.
Other than Docklands, my shortlist of mudlovers consists of Migration, Raadoburg, Awaal, Rhoscolyn, Lattam and Vetiver.
The two I like best? Awaal, second in the Lincoln, gets a 4lb pull for a length and a quarter with Migration and is also 7lb better with Sonny Liston for two lengths when they were third and second in the Royal Hunt Cup over this course and distance. He has been knocking on the door!
And the other is Lattam who won the Irish Lincoln back in March and is 6lb better for a length with Rhoscolyn on Goodwood Golden Mile form. He will be played late.
They are drawn on different sides of the track.
1.15 TRUESHAN, 1.50 RUN TO FREEDOM EW, 2.25 JACKIE OH, 3.05 PADDINGTON, BIG ROCK EW, 3.45 MOSTAHDAF, 4.25 AWAAL, LATTAM BOTH EW