Queen Elizabeth 11 Stakes (Group1) 1m (Str) Ascot Saturday

ascot moetThe Queen Elizabeth II Stakes is the big international centrepiece of British Champions Day on Saturday, and while the overall record of Gallic invaders hasn’t been that impressive, they have won two of the last five renewals, courtesy of the Freddy Head trained duo, Charm Spirit in 2014 and Solow the following year. The legendary Jockey/Trainer is unrepresented at the weekend, but fellow French handler, the upwardly mobile, Francis-Henri Graffard, looks to have serious prospects of again taking the prize across the Channel for France with his rapidly improving 4yo gelding, The Revenant.

The son of Dubawi has won 8 of his 10 starts, the first two, (at a pretty modest level) when trained at Newmarket by Hugo Palmer. Transferred to Chantilly handler, Graffard, for his 3yo campaign, he won 3 of his 4 starts, again at a fairly low level, ending the season with a win in a Saint-Cloud conditions event. Gelded over the Winter, he returned to action at a higher level, winning all his first 3 starts, culminating with a Group2 Victory at Baden-Baden at the end of May. A real soft ground specialist, he took a 128 day Summer break, (presumably avoiding the faster ground) and put in a really scintillating effort on his reappearance in Longchamp’s Group2, Prix Daniel Wildenstein, on very soft ground a fortnight ago, beating the Group1 winning Olmedo, by 4 1/2L. With plenty of rain in the forecast he looks likely to get his ground, and with riding phenomenon, Pierre-Charles Boudot, doing the steering, the son of Dubawi, has plenty to recommend him.

Aidan O’Brien has won the race 4 times and both his Magna Grecia, and Circus Maximus, look interesting. The former, was landing his second Group1 from 4 starts when winning The 2000gns by 2 1/2L from King Of Change at the beginning of May but then was a major disappointment when sent off a 6/4 chance for the Irish equivalent 3 weeks later. He failed to make any impression and finished a well beaten 5th. However that was on fast ground and his only other defeat came on a similar surface. The going for his Guineas victory was described as Good but the time would suggest that there was plenty of juice in the ground so it’s probably safe to assume that the son of Invincible Spirit needs to get his toe in to perform to his optimum. Indeed his dam, Cabaret, a daughter of the great Galileo scored her only two wins on soft and his half brother, Invincible Ryder was also at his best when the mud was flying.

Aidan O’Brien’s Yucatan For Racing Post Trophy GloryCircus Maximus was landing the second top level success of his 10 race career when winning the Group1 Prix Du Moulin by the minimum distance from Romanised 6 weeks ago. Headed at the furlong market he really had to battle for it, demonstrating what a tough individual he is. A strict interpretation of the form through the 4th home in The Moulin, Olmedo, leaves him with something to find with The Revenant, but the son of Galileo is out of that classy mare Durtle who was progressive throughout her career, and was at her best on easy ground, suggesting that her son’s career may be following a similar pattern.

Saeed Bin Suroor, with 5 wins to his credit, has the best record in the race, and will be hoping to make it 6 with his top rated, globe trotting, 5yo, Benbatl. The son of the exceptional Dubawi has top level victories in Australia, Hong Kong, Germany, and Dubai on his c.v. and connections would love to add Great Britain to the list, and following an impressive win in Newmarket’s Group2 Joel Stakes 22 days ago it certainly looks possible. Racing over a mile for the first time since June 2018, champion elect, Murphy, sent Benbatl straight into the lead, and dictating the pace throughout, cleared away for an impressive 5L victory. Campaigned over further for most of his career, connections must have been delighted with the performance and are surely looking forward to Saturday with plenty of optimism. A word of caution though, their Super Star, has never won with with the word soft in the going description.

With 2 wins, and 3 seconds, from 6 starts at the Berkshire track, the David O’Meara trained 6yo, Lord Glitters, clearly loves Ascot, and ran his best race ever at the track when landing the Group1 Queen Anne Stakes over Saturday’s course and distance in June. He seems to handle any ground and I’m sure the talented Irishman will have his stable star primed for maximum effort on Saturday.

The Richard Hannon trained King Of Change, was a 66/1 shot when runner up in
The 2000gns, but showed there was no fluke about it 137 days later, when comfortably beating the 112 rated Turgenev, at Sandown 31 days ago. His half brother,
Century Dream ran a great race in this last year beaten only 3/4L in 3rd when an unconsidered 25/1 shot on soft ground.

Selection.  : The Revenant

EW.             : Magna Grecia

John Gray

Sky Bet Ebor Handicap 1mile 6 furlongs York Saturday

york eborFirst run in 1843, with the exception of the war years, 1914-18 and 1940-42, it has been run continuously on York’s historic Knavesmire. It was abandoned in 2008 due to a waterlogged track, but a substitute race was run at Newbury. It is Europe’s richest Handicap, and this year carries a prize fund of £1000,000, with £600,000 going to the lucky winner. With prize money of this order on offer, and 22 closely handicapped horses in contention, it is, unsurprisingly, a difficult heat to predict, and only a single
“Jolly” has obliged in the last 20 years. Long priced winners are certainly not a rarity and a 100/1 shot won 13 years ago. The 1958 winner of The Ascot Gold Cup, the great mare Gladness, won the Ebor for the legendary Vincent O’Brien in the same year, and remained the sole Irish trained winner of the race, until Willie Mullins ended the drought in 2009. The flood gates haven’t exactly opened for raiders from across The Irish Sea, but they have won a further 3 times in the last 9 years, and one that catches the eye from that quarter is the Ger Lyons trained Mustajeer.

The 6yo son of Medicean ran well in last year’s renewal where he finished 4th, 5 1/4L behind the winner. Held up in the rear from his wide draw by pilot Gary Carroll, he was left with too much to do but kept on well under pressure in the final furlong. He only raced once more last season, winning a Naas Listed race with consumate ease in November. His 4 runs this term have all been in Group races, and he acquitted himself well last time, finishing 3L 5th in a Curragh Group2 8 weeks ago. He was only a head behind the 113 rated favourite, Southern France and a strict interpretation of that result would suggest that Saturday’s mark of 108 looks very fair. The Lyons yard is going great guns at present, and with Ireland’s Champion Jockey, Colin Keane doing the steering he has plenty to recommend him.

the knavesmire

York’s historic Knavesmire

The Roger Charlton trained 6yo Withhold has won 5 of his 13 starts and considering it was his first run for 269 days, ran a particularly fine race last time making all in Newbury’s Marsh Cup with the steadier of 9-10 on his back,(2m1/2f Gd-Sft). A similar front running performance saw him land last year’s Northumberland Plate in stylish fashion. He is 6lbs higher than last time, and the drop back in trip is a concern, but his relentless galloping style should serve him well and if he gets to the front could be difficult to peg back.

With a win, a second, and a third, from his three course appearances, there can be little doubt that the William Haggas trained Raheen House feels at home on
The Knavesmire. He was only having his second start for the yard when beaten a neck, finishing 3rd, in a group 3 over course and distance 6 weeks ago. He is making his handicap debut on Saturday, off a mark of 111, which seems high enough, but he does meet Saturday’s opponent, Weekender, with whom he virtually dead heated, (got the race in a subsequent inquiry) In an Ascot Listed race 22 months ago on 5 lbs better terms. He didn’t seem to have much left in the locker last time, and there has to be some doubt about his ability to last 14f in a race like The Ebor, but there are some positives from his pedigree as his full brother, Shraaoh, won the 2mile Group1 Sydney Cup at Randwick in April.

Since joining the Mark Johnston operation last February, the ex German/French 5yo, Kings Advice, has won an amazing 8 of his 9 starts, and is now rated 42lbs higher than for his first run for the Middleham yard, at the beginning of March. Last time out he again showed real battling qualities, to get the better of the useful Outbox in a driving finish to Goodwood’s Summer Handicap off a mark of 108. Kings Advice is 5lbs higher on Saturday, but the son of Frankel doesn’t seem to know when he’s beaten, and it won’t come as a great surprise if he lands Mark a second Ebor, to go with Quick Ransom’s win 27 years ago.

Mind you Mark’s second string, Baghdad, is no back number either. Another son of Frankel, he has responded well to the Johnston tutelage, winning 5 of his 10 starts since joining the Middleham Academy, and improving from an initial mark of 74 to 109. He held on bravely at Royal Ascot to land the 12f Duke Of Edinburgh Stakes by a short head from Saturday’s opponent, the fast finishing Ben Vrackie, (has disappointed since). Baghdad has run moderately in his last two races both over 12f and there has to be some doubt about his ability to stay Saturday’s trip but that said, Frankels do stay well, and he has an entry in the Irish St Leger.

John GosdenThe regally bred, Royal Line, (by Dubawi out of a daughter of the fabulous Urban Sea) has yet to live up to his regal pedigree, but did look a talented individual when winning Doncaster’s November Handicap last Autumn off a mark of 105. He gave the impression that there could be more to come over further, and having had a nice pipe opener over an inadequate 10f at the beginning of July, Mr Gosden (pictured) can seriously contemplate the prospect of becoming the first handler in the modern era to train back to back winners of The Ebor, (won last year with Muntahaa).

Selection : Royal Line

EW.          :  Mustajeer
John Gray