British Champions Day at Ascot brought the curtain down on the flat season on Saturday, with Silvestre De Sousa being crowned the king of the weighing room for his first jockey’s title.
While his victory had been long confirmed there was still the small matter of five Group races to work through at the Berkshire track.
Flying Officer kicked things off in style, rewarding connections decision to supplement him for the Long Distance Cup by staying on strongly under an enterprising ride from Frankie Dettori.
Sixth in the race last year, ground conditions came right for him this time round as he scored by a length.
A return to the track in June could be the target next season with Ladbrokes entering the son of Dynaformer into the Ascot Gold Cup market as a 10/1 shot.
The venue could also be the venue of another horse’s big race target of 2016 after St Leger winner Simple Verse showed her tenacity to claim the Fillies and Mares Stakes from Journey.
In bagging a second Group 1 in a row, Sheikh Fahad of Qatar Racing, and also a main player in the sponsors QIPCO said that he hoped “she can be a King George filly next year.”
There doesn’t however look likely to be a next year on the track for champion sprinter Muhaarar.
Charlie Hills’ colt continued his dominance of the sprint division, taking a superb fourth straight success at the very top level.
His performance oozed class as he scored by two lengths in the six furlong contest, and while his handler believes he would have coped with the turns in the Breeders Cup, it looks as if it is off to stud for Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum’s star.
The subject of a will-they-won’t-they debate right up until the last minute, connections decided to give the dual Guineas winner a run in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes – though they probably wish they hadn’t now.
While tasting defeat to Queen Anne hero Solow is nothing to be miffed about, Ballydoyle would have hoped their colt could at least finish in front of 33/1 shot Belardo and 66/1 poke Gabrial.
Instead, sixth was all he could manage on the softer than ideal ground. A trip to Keeneland for the Breeders’ Cup Classic could still happen, but his chance of success has gone from a 10/1 shot to 12/1.
The final Group success of the day went to Ireland as Fascinating Rock got his ground and secured a scalp in the shape of the well-fancied Jack Hobbs in the Champion Stakes.
An Emerald Isle one-two was completed by Aidan O’Brien’s Found who ran on strong at the death to record a fifth second placed finish this term.
A real Champion Hurdle contender?
While the glitz and glamour of Ascot was taking place, jumps fans were gearing up for the return of a top-class hurdler on Sunday.
The New One has won the Listed WilliamHill.com Hurdle at Kempton for the past two years, and with two Grade 1s to his name was sent off as a 2/11 favourite.
Nigel Twiston-Davies’ horse obliged for favourite backers in Sunbury-on-Thames, but it perhaps wasn’t in the manner of a horse at long odds-on.
He didn’t make any noticeable errors in his jumping but a tendency to go out to his right at his hurdles and the time it took him to pick up for Sam Twiston-Davies in the closing stages are probably reflected in his 20/1 odds to get the better of the likes of Faugheen in the Champion Hurdle.
Also on the Kempton card was the emergence of a Supreme Novices’ Hurdle contender.
Maputo was a Group 3 winner on the flat for Mark Johnston, before the taking the well-worn path of switching to a career over the obstacles for John Ferguson.
The gelding made no meal of taking his record over fences to four from four in the Listed contest, quickening well in the style of a good horse.
There is a long way to go until the Festival, but he could be just the type to throw down a challenge in the opening contest at Cheltenham.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.
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