Qipco Champion Stakes Tips (Group1) 1m2f Ascot Saturday

Followers of The Oddsguru blog should have been on good terms with themselves following last week’s Cesarewitch Handicap. Our selection, Withhold came home in front with our E.W. suggestion, London Prize a gallant second, keeping on well at the rewarding odds of 16/1. The winner was backed in from around 10/1 on the day to 5/1 favourite but I hope some readers availed of the much fancier odds available when first advised. The winner won with plenty in hand and is one to keep in mind for next years Cup Races, while the runner up on this performance must still be a well handicapped horse over hurdles, and is one to keep on the right side of in that discipline.

With the market going 3/1 the field at the time of writing, Saturday’s Champion Stakes has quite an open look about it, and there must be at least half a dozen contenders with realistic chances. Sir Michael Stoute with two wins is the most successful handler at the weekend, although we have to rewind seventeen years to the last time he was in the winners enclosure, when his 4yo Kalinisi, came home in front. He is represented at the time of writing by the brilliant Ulysses, winner of this year’s Eclipse Stakes, (Oddsguru’s Selection) and Judmonte International, and an excellent third in The Prix De L’Arc De Triomphe a fortnight ago. He does seem to have an excellent chance on paper, particularly if the rain stays away but with his main objective being The Breeders Cup in just two weeks time it wouldn’t surprise if he didn’t run and Sir Michael relied on his second string, Poets Word.

This 4yo son of Poets Voice, with only eight runs under his belt, has made giant strides this term, and could prove to be a more than able substitute. He started the season winning a Class2 Chelmsford Handicap off a mark of 104, and followed up with a good second in a Chester Group3(10 1/2f Good). He won a Goodwood Group3 (12f Soft) next time, forging clear in the last furlong, and put up a career best last time, when running Decorated Knight To 1/2L in The Irish Champion Stakes. Out of the tough Nashwan mare, Whirly Bird, who won five of her seven starts, Poets Word is on a strong upward trajectory and is well worth considering, particularly if the going is soft.

Since the race was transferred to Ascot The Classic generation have only had a single success, Almanzor last year, but overall the three year olds have a respectable record with eighteen wins since 1980, and the market at the time of writing is headed by one of that age group, John Gosden’s 3yo colt, Cracksman. As a son of the great Frankel out of the Pivotal mare Rhadegunda who was best at distances around a mile, Cracksman is bred to be a miler but has looked to need every yard of 12f when winning his last two races. He might just find himself tapped for a bit of toe up Ascots short straight.

The Richard Hannon (pictured above) trained, Barney Roy kicked off his season winning the 2000gns Trial, The Greenham Stakes, at Newbury in April and could have been an unlucky loser of the Guineas itself as he stumbled going into the dip and lost his action. He recovered, and fought back to go down to Churchill by a length. He went on to win The St James’s Palace Stakes by 1L from Lancaster Bomber and when stepped up to 10f put up a superb effort when going down by a rapidly diminishing nose to Ulysses in The Eclipse. He didn’t get the best of rides when finishing 2L and a neck behind Ulysses and Churchill in the Juddmonte International next time and connections are confident that he will be much closer this time. While the two in front of him that day have been kept busy he has had a nice nine week’s break and will strip a much fresher animal on Saturday.

Surprisingly, a victory in The Champion Stakes is missing from the C.V. of A O’Brien, but with eight entries at the time of writing you would have to think that he is pretty serious about correcting the deficit this time around. A further incentive needless to say is that record of Bobby Frankels which he is so close to breaking. (25 Group1 victories in a season). His best chance probably lies with the doughty Highland Reel. The 5yo son of Galileo has already won six races at the highest level and banked more than six million quid. It will need to stay dry however as he has never won on anything slower than good.

The prize has gone across the Channel four times in the last eleven years and

Jean-Claude Rouget, who won with the 3yo Literato in 2007 looks to have a live contender with another 3yo, Brametot. Quite cheaply bought he must have delighted connections when winning the French 2000Gns and followed up in The Prix Du Jockey Club. Given a 73 day holiday he finished fifth at Deauville in a prep race for The Arc and then ran well to finish fifth again in the Chantilly showpiece itself despite a difficult passage. Probably best at 10f he could be involved at the business end on Saturday.

Selection : Barney Roy

E.W. : Poets Word

John Gray

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Betfred Cesarewitch Handicap 2m2f Newmarket Saturday

First run in 1839, the race was named in honour of the Russian Crown Prince, The Tsesarevich, (reportedly after a donation by him of £300 to the Jockey Club). The unfortunate prince later became the Tsar, Alexander 11, and was assassinated in 1881. Punters, while not exactly suffering the ultimate fate of poor old Alexander, haven’t fared particularly well in recent renewals of the contest. Only two “Jollies” have come home in front since the great Vintage Crop prevailed as 5/1 fav in 1992, and in the past decade we have seen one winner returned at 66/1, two at 50/1, and a 25/1 shot collect the prize, so don’t be put off by a long price. The race, which uniquely starts in one county and finishes in another, (starts in Cambridgeshire and crosses the border into Suffolk) has only the one slight change of direction, at the 10 furlong marker, and this almost straight two miles two furlongs gallop, puts a unique premium on stamina. Jockeys struggle to get a breather into their mounts in this nonstop charge across the heath, so very rarely does an animal without winning form at a minimum of two miles on the flat or over hurdles prevail.

The 4yo, Withhold, was trained last term by Charlie Hills, and following some nondescript efforts, showed improved form when given a test of stamina. The son of Champs Elysee put up an excellent performance when getting the better of Saturday’s opponent, London Prize, over two miles at Haydock last October, winning by 3/4L and he now meets the runner up on 8lbs better terms on Saturday. Transferred to the Roger Charlton (pictured) yard, Withhold wasn’t seen again until reappearing in a mile and a half Newbury Handicap last month where he proved his well-being, finishing third over the inadequate trip. He was keeping on nicely in the final furlong off a mark of 87 and is bound to have benefited hugely from the run after such a long break. He races on Saturday off the same mark, and looks a well handicapped animal with a nice racing weight of 8-8 to carry. With Silvestre De Sousa doing the steering he has to be of interest.

Now six, London Prize didn’t see a racecourse until he was four. He made his debut in a two miles Worcester national hunt flat race in June 2015 which he duly won when trained by John Ferguson. Transferred to the Ian Williams yard the following May, progress was slow, until running Withhold close in that Haydock contest last October, racing off a mark of 72. Since then progress has been dramatic highlighted by a win in the prestigious Imperial Cup over hurdles at Sandown, off a mark of 137, and three further victories on the flat, culminating in a win in the valuable Northumberland Plate consolation race in July off a mark of 89. By Teofilo whose progeny stay well, and out of a mare who has produced the 3mile chaser Categorical and the stayer, Daghash on the flat this tough battler shouldn’t fail for want of stamina and looks reasonably treated on his new mark of 95.

Alan King won this with the 50/1 outsider Grumeti two years ago and considering the way his 5yo, Who Dares Wins, stayed on so resolutely to take The Cesarewitch Trial over course and distance three weeks ago, he must be more than a little hopeful of finding himself back in the winners enclosure on Saturday. Staying is the name of the game for Who Dares Wins as he also demonstrated when staying on strongly to finish a close fourth in the 2m2 1/2f Chester Cup. A winner of a Class1 Newbury Handicap Hurdle with 11-10 in the plate he should cope with a four pounds rise for his Trial victory and doesn’t look overburdened with 9-4 on Saturday.

The Willie Mullins trained, Laws Of Spin did well to win last year’s Irish Cesarewitch (2m good) as a three year old at the Curragh by 1 1/4L from the year older Cradle Mountain, staying on well off a mark of 89. Brought along slowly this term by master trainer Mullins, he came good again last time when winning a valuable 1m5f Leopardstown Handicap off a mark of 97 five weeks ago. He is up another four pounds on Saturday giving him a hefty looking 9-8 to carry but Aim To Prosper won with two pounds more five years ago and Sergeant Cecil carried 9-8 successfully in 2005.

The beautifully bred John Constable, who currently heads the market, hasn’t raced on the flat for over three years, when he was trained by Aidan O’Brien, for whom he had a pretty undistinguished career. This 6yo son of the brilliant Montjeu, is out of that highly talented mare, Dance Parade, who won both The Queen Mary, and Fred Darling Stakes, and is a full brother to the Ascot Gold Cup winner Leading Light. The only success he had for O’Brien was in a 13f Navan maiden, but his talented Welsh trainer, Evan Williams, seems to have found the key to him, and he has really blossomed over hurdles wearing a tongue tie. Having won his last two races he now has a very flattering rating of 156 in that discipline. If this improvement over hurdles, mirrors a commensurate improvement on the flat, he looks extremely well treated on a mark of 89 and would be a serious blot on the handicap.

Selection : Withhold

E.W. : London Prize

John Gray

Kingdom Of Bahrain Sun Chariot Stakes (Group1) 1mile Newmarket Saturday

The race is named after the 1942 winner of the fillies Triple Crown, Sun Chariot (pictured), who was foaled in 1939 at the British National Stud, which interestingly, at that time was located at Tully Co Kildare in the Irish Republic. The property subsequently became the Irish National Stud and with its famous Japanese Gardens is well worth a visit. The contest is limited to fillies and mares and is run over the straight Rowley Mile. The excellent trainer Luca Cumani has trained the winner on an impressive six occasions but sadly, with his reduced string is not represented this time, so in his absence, Sir Michael Stoute with four previous victories, the last one in 2014 with Integral, is the leading handler at the weekend. French yards have a great recent record in the contest with five of the last eight winners coming from across The Channel. Since the race was opened to all ages in 1974 the Classic generation have had much the best of the argument with thirty three 3yo’s winning, including last year when Aidan O’Brien’s Alice Springs came home in front.

We have to go all the way back to 1991 to find the only successful contender from the all conquering John Gosden yard, but they do seem to hold a strong hand this time with current market leader, Persuasive. The 4yo daughter of Dark Angel won her first five starts but has come up short in her three efforts at the top level, including last time, when finishing third to the O’Brien pair Hydrangea and Winter in the Group1 Matron Stakes at Leopardstown. However she was beaten less than a length and was putting in all her best work at the finish, so with the tougher track, possible softer ground, and a strong pace in her favour on Saturday, it might just be the Gosden filly’s turn to be the bride.

Having won an amazing four Group 1s last weekend, Aidan O’Brien has the American, Bobby Frankel’s world record of twenty five top level victories in a season, firmly in his sights, and must have high hopes that the tough Roly Poly will bring him another step closer. Already a veteran of fifteen contests, the robust 3yo had to settle for minor honours twice behind stable companion, Winter, earlier in the season, but came good in July when winning back to back Group1s, The Falmouth at Newmarket, and The Prix Rothschild at Deauville. Following a six week break she could only manage sixth in The Matron Stakes at Leopardstown under Seamie Heffernan. However, significantly, only three of the last ten winners of Saturday’s contest boasted a last time out win, and as five of the last six came from the Falmouth, the stats certainly speak in the O’Brien contenders favour. With Moore back doing the steering she has to be on the shortlist.

The French trained 4yo, Qemah won twice at the top level in 2016 and put up another excellent effort when winning the Group2 Duke Of Cambridge Stakes at this year’s Royal Meeting. She was less than 1/2L behind Roly Poly at Deauville but was well beaten in The Matron at Leopardstown and needs to bounce back, but with that good recent record of Gallic raiders in mind she is not so easy to pass over.

The Marco Botti trained 4yo daughter of Shamardal, Aljaazi, looked an improved filly last time when winning a Sandown Group3 easily by 3L from the Gosden trained Nathra, a possible contender on Saturday. Well suited by the stiff track she drew clear in the final furlong to win convincingly in what was a truly run heat. In her previous race, ten weeks earlier, she had put up another excellent performance when going down by 3/4L to Qemah at Royal Ascot. Relatively lightly raced she won her maiden over the Rowley Mile so should be very much at home on the stiff track and is well worth considering.

The Willie Haggas trained Sea Of Grace fetched €260,000 as a yearling, and it looked money well spent when she won a Curragh Group3 on her third racecourse appearance. The 3yo daughter of Born To Sea moved from the John Oxx yard at the end of her 2yo career and she put up a decent effort when finishing fourth behind Roly Poly in the Falmouth Stakes. An even better effort followed when winning a Haydock Group3 very easily from Lincoln Rocks and she can be excused her defeat in a 10f Curragh Group2 last time as she didn’t get home on the rain softened ground. Worth a second look!

Selection : Aljaazi

Danger : Persuasive

John Gray