After the 2-year olds took centre stage last week at Future Champions Day, all eyes will be on Ascot this Saturday where the well-established older horses lock horns for Qipco British Champions Day and we have free horse racing tips for the weekend.
This racing fixture has quickly become a highlight of the British flat season and last year represented a fitting end to the career of the legendary Frankel whose victory in the 1 ¼ mile Champion Stakes reaffirmed his status as the undisputed champion of thoroughbreds.
The racing public has been spoilt by Frankel’s presence since the inauguration of British Champion’s Day and the combination of his absence and the poor weather certainly reduces this year’s spectacle. As was predicted, thanks to the rain softened ground there were a host of withdrawals at the 48 hour stage and we are now left with field of 10 runners all hoping to follow in the wonder horses’ hoofprints.
Watch Frankel's final win in last years British Champion Stakes at Ascot:
If the markets are to be believed this year’s renewal centres around Cirrus Des Aigles (11/10 Bet365) who suffered the inevitable fate of losing to Frankel by 1 ¾ lengths in last year’s race, after winning the first Champions Stakes in 2011. He returns without his conqueror and with the clear aim of making it 2 from 3. Since his comfortable win in the Prix Dollar on Arc weekend, Cirrus Des Aigles has sat at the head of the ante post market and last week he was available around the 5/2 mark. However as the rain came and punters latched on to his preference for soft ground this 7 year-old was backed off the boards and we now find him as a firm favourite who, if you follow the market confidence, will prove very difficult to beat.
As individual pieces of form, his last run and more importantly his second to Frankel 12 months ago, certainly justifies his current price however it would be foolish to simply ignore the other results of this season so far. It is important to remember how rare it is to have a flat horse still in training at the age of 7 let alone to have a horse able to maintain a top level of form at that age and we have to take that into account for Saturday's racing tip.
With the retirement of Frankel, Cirrus started this season as the highest rated horse in the world, however after four straights defeats as favourite it seemed that age had caught up with him and many in the sport were quick to write him off. Although he was beaten comprehensively in the King George at Ascot (with Hillstar finishing infront of him) his trainer was confident that he still had the ability to perform at the highest level. He lost a further two races back on home soil before bouncing back and recording two impressive wins on his last two starts. The ground and the trip seem to be ideal and if he reproduces his best form he will prove hard to beat.
His main challenger should come in the form of Farhh (4/1 Bet365) who returns from a 154 day absence due to injury. His only run this season came at Newbury in the Lockinge Stakes over a mile on good to firm ground where he exhibited an impressive turn of foot to move clear of the field and win by 4 lengths. Although the form of that race isn’t the strongest Farhh did beat the Ballydoyle and subsequent multiple Group 1 winner Declaration of War by around 11 lengths. There is a lot to like about this son of Pivotal as he has good strong form over today’s trip as well as coping well in the past with rain softened ground. Usually it is best to watch a horse’s first run back after such a lengthy break but in this case that shouldn’t be too much of a concern and we are happy to side with him for our Champion Stakes betting tip. Godolphin have a reputation for getting horses fully primed after a lay-off and Farhh’s form shows that he is probably at his best when fresh. He is rated 1lb clear of the favourite on both the Official Ratings and the Racing Post ratings and could well give the favourite the most to think about.
Outside the top two we have a trio of horses hovering around the double figure mark. Mukhadram (9/1 Coral) represents William Haggas who has a generally poor recent record at Ascot. The horse ran well finishing second to Al Kazeem both in the Prince of Wales Stakes and in the Eclipse before he went one better and won the Group 2 York Stakes. Although this horse has form on good to soft ground (winning the Group 3 Brigadier Gerard Stakes) he is seen to best effect on good to firm ground as he likes to set the pace and dictate matters from the front. Similar tactics may leave him vulnerable on Saturday as the ground looks to be testing, something which will suit those horses who can switch off mid-pack.
Aiden O’Brien withdrew three horses to leave a sole representative in the form of Ruler of the World (9/1 Betfred). This year’s Derby winner is the preference of Ryan Moore (who also had the option of riding Hillstar) and on official ratings only has 3lbs to find with the favourite. Although I respect both the Ballydoyle operation, I would be surprised to see this horse in the first two places. His form in France gives the impression that he will act on the ground, but what concerns me most is the trip. Even though he’s a winner over a mile and a quarter, he looks to need a good test of stamina as was the case when he was a fast finishing second to Kizuna in the Prix Niel and a staying on 7th in the Arc less than 2 weeks ago. He may well just suffer if there is a sudden injection of pace in the race.
With Ryan Moore swerving Hillstar (11/1 Sky Bet), the Champion jockey Richard Hughes is given the ride on the Sir Michael Stoute runner. This horse certainly has place chances, but like so many others in the race his best form has come on a sounder surface and over a longer trip.
Of the remainder, Morandi (16/1 William Hill) looks to have the most likeable chance. Twice a runner-up to the impressive Arc third Intello on softened ground this three year old colt could deal with the conditions better than most.
Although the market confidence screams in favour of Cirrus Des Aigles I’m still reluctant to get involved for Saturday's Ascot feature race. Everything seems to be right for the French raider and provided he has maintained the level of form he showed recently in France he looks the most likely winner. However the threat of three races in less than 30 days taking their toll and the horse producing a below par effort (as shown at the start of the season) is all too apparent. With that in mind, at the current prices there is a lack of value in backing the favourite but at the same time I wouldn’t be willing to lay him. So then I’m faced with the talented yet fragile Godolphin representative Farhh. I’m staking a lot on the assumption that he is fit, well and ready for this contest but at the prices he represents the value bet and is the likeliest winner if the favourite falters.
Champion Stakes Betting Tip
Farhh to win – 4/1 with Bet365
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Bet on our Saturday racing betting tips for Ascot at Bet365.
(n.b all information accurate at the time of writing 17/10/2013)