It’s sure to be test up the home straight of Ascot’s wide track on Saturday, and while some will be driven away by the heavy going, one horse will be licking his lips (do horses have lips?) at the prospect of getting his toe in.
With his record on soft or heavy ground since the start of 2011 reading 211111251211 it is clear to see what Cirrus Des Aigles’ preferred conditions are.
And with three of those victories coming at the very highest level, it’s hard to see him not adding to that record in the Champion Stakes at a price of 5/4, with many of his opponents looking unsuited by the slog it is sure to be.
His record in this race is exemplary as well; victor in 2011, before finding the great Frankel too good in 2012, and was beaten just a neck by Farhh 12 months ago.
Despite his age (he’s in his ninth year), this campaign has been one of the best for Corrine Barande-Barbe’s gelding.
Victory in the Prix Ganay looks even more impressive now, with runner-up that day Treve going on to claim a second straight Arc. He also won the Coronation Cup, despite going lame towards the finish, beating Arc runner-up Flintshire by 2l on what would have been unfavourable ground.
Second in the market is Dermot Weld’s Free Eagle (7/2).
The three-year-old returned after a year off with a scintillating win in a Group 3 contest at Leopardstown, and looked a smart prospect.
But despite the promise, he looks simply too short in the betting for a horse yet to compete in a Group 2, let alone a Group 1, and one that hasn’t raced on softer than good.
He is a half-brother to the smart Custom Cut, who handles all underfoot conditions, so should be OK, but cannot be taken to oppose Cirrus with at this stage.
For those wanting to take on the favourite are best served looking for something that definitely goes on the ground.
Noble Mission certainly does and may cause a surprise if getting an easy lead, but makes no appeal at 9/2.
At a big price, Western Hymn (14/1) could well run into a place, and if others run below par wouldn’t be the most surprising winner.
He won a Sandown Group 3 on desperate ground, and followed up with a Group 2 win at Saint-Cloud, before plugging on for fourth at Deauville last time out.
He was ahead of subsequent St Leger runner-up Snow Sky earlier in the season, and could well improve the required amount.
However, if the favourite is on his game, it looks like the rest will be simply there to make up the numbers in Berkshire.
All odds and markets correct as of the date of publishing
Fancy a flutter? Sign up today to claim up to £100 in free bets.