A smattering of the season’s top performers will be on show at Ascot on Saturday, as the 2018 UK & Irish flat racing campaign draws to a close with British Champions Day.
We’ve previewed each of the five Group contests ahead of the big day.
Long Distance Cup (1:25pm)
Hotpot Stradivarius is the obvious favourite for this. John Gosden’s star has won the Yorkshire Cup, Gold Cup, Goodwood Cup and Lonsdale Cup in a remarkable unbeaten season.
He’s the odds-on jolly for a reason. But his record on softer than good ground is a worry. The four-year-old has yet to win in four attempts with tread underfoot. Could that let in someone else?
Flag Of Honour will need to improve despite winning the Irish St Leger last time out.
Mount Moriah does his best work on soft and looks the best of the remaining bunch after finishing fourth in this for Ralph Beckett 12 months ago.
Sprint Stakes (2pm)
Librisa Breeze is a bit of an Ascot specialist. Dean Ivory’s hopeful has triumphed three times around the Berkshire course, including in last year’s renewal, and will relish the expected softer ground.
Clive Cox’s speedster has obvious star quality. Unfortunately that’s leveraged out by a record of zero from five at Ascot, where he got caught in the stalls over the summer.
Rejuvenated ace Limato will also be hopeful of going close back in elite company after completing a hat-trick for Henry Candy at Newmarket last time.
Fillies and Mares Stakes (2:40pm)
It’s difficult to look past Lah Ti Dar over 1m 4f. The Dubawi filly has won three from four this term and found only Kew Gardens too tough over 2f further in the St Leger.
She looked slightly rough around the edges that day and should benefit from being returned to female only company here. Kitesurf provides the main challenge after missing the Arc in favour of this.
Coronet’s second to Sea Of Class in the Yorkshire Oaks also makes for impressive form, while O’Brien-charge Hydrangea will appreciate the return to softer ground for the first time this season.
She won this race 12 months ago by 2l from Bateel and must be considered again at a nice price.
Queen Elizabeth II Stakes (3:15pm)
French-trained horses have won two of the last four iterations of this race.
So it’s no surprise to see Prix du Moulin winner Recoletos near the front of the market. Carlos Laffon-Parias’ charge usually runs best in softer conditions.
However, the colt’s victory over Wind Chimes doesn’t appear quite as solid after the runner-up’s subsequent defeat to Laurens in the Sun Chariot Stakes, who has been supplemented here.
Karl Burke’s filly has continued to defy the odds over 1m this season and will need to do so again with Roaring Lion following Roaring Lion’s QEII confirmation on Thursday.
Gosden’s charge has been masterful over 1m 2f this term. With softer than good ground expected at Ascot, a chance has been taken on the hopeful over 1m for the first time since the 2,000 Guineas.
Former handicappers Lord Glitters, Addeybb and Beat The Bank will all hope to be on the premises. So too will regular Group performer Lightning Spear.
Champion Stakes (3:40pm)
Who will prevail? Cracksman or Crystal Ocean? The duo head the betting for the Champion Stakes, with Cracksman currently chalked up as the odds-on favourite.
Gosden’s raider has been begging for softer than good ground all term. He should get it here as he bids to win the contest in successive years and bounce back from Ascot defeat in June.
However, the jolly hasn’t looked quite at it this term. While Crystal Ocean enjoyed a solid prep-run behind Enable in the September Stakes last time out.
Sir Michael Stoute’s charge missed the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe in favour of this and should push the soft ground specialist all the way based on his seasonal runs.
O’Brien charge Capri will also be expected to put up a significant challenge at a nice price.
All Odds and Markets correct as of date of publication