It is the last really big day of the flat racing season in the UK on Saturday when Ascot stages the traditional end of term Champions Day where some of the best horses in racing head to Berkshire for some really good fayre.
There are a couple of Group 1 races on the card and having had plenty of success in the big races in this the weirdest of seasons with everything that has gone on in the world, we are not missing the chance to finish with a flourish!
3.05 Ascot: Champions Mile
A great day’s racing & this is up there in the battle for race of the day. With 14 lining up, the draw suggests low is the place to be; the pace & the market leaders are all drawn there which puts me off the chances of Nazeef who’s 6 from 6 over this trip but is drawn widest in 14. The odds on favourite is the unbeaten 3 year old Palace Pier. He’s 5 from 5 with the last 2 in Group 1 company; the first when landing the St James Palace here beating Pinatubo & then scoring in the Jacques le Marois over in France on heavy ground. He does look hard to beat and I wasn’t in a huge rush to take him on but maybe the straight mile at this track could stretch his stamina, especially given the front runners in the field. French challenger, The Revenant, was 2nd here last year and has an excellent career win record but this is only his 2nd start of the year & that defeat 12 months ago was his only start at the very highest level. He should go well but 5/1 doesn’t represent value.
Circus Maximus is the one for me. A solid Group 1 performer with an unblemished Ascot record, he’s a great each way bet at 9/1. His form at this trip, outside his juvenile campaign, is excellent with 3 wins from 8 & never finishing outside of the first 4. Add to that all those starts have been in Group 1 company and his chances look even better. He’s a hardened battler so a big field suits better than his last 2 defeats in France (once behind Palace Pier) where fields of just 7 and 6 didn’t help. He’s won at the last 2 Royal Ascot meetings, both in double figure fields, and with a lack of solid alternatives to the favourite, I cannot see him out of the places. He also looks to be a worthwhile bet in the without the favourite market.
Back Circus Maximus (e/w) for a 1.5/10 stake at 10.00 Bet365 BOG (⅕ odds 1-4)
Back Circus Maximus in the ‘w/o Palace Pier’ market for a 1/10 stake at 4.50 Bet365
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3.40 Ascot: Champion Stakes
A cracking renewal of the Champion Stakes where only 3 of the 11 strong can be confidently ruled out. In fact, the next 3 trading at the longest odds are the Derby winner, the Great Voltigeur winner & last year’s Juddmonte winner. How’s that for strength in depth? All 3 can probably be discounted in such a strong heat where last year’s winner Magical is a solid favourite. Since winning here 12 months ago, she’s won 3 of 4, all Group 1’s, including the Irish Champion Stakes when getting the better of Ghayyaith who, coincidentally, is the only horse to beat Aiden O’Brien’s brilliant mare. John Gosden has the next 2 in the market in Prix Du Jockey Club winner Mishriff & Prince of Wales winner Lord North. Addeyybb makes up a solid front 4 in the betting and it’s hard to pick holes in them.
At bigger odds, I can’t resist an each way bet on the French charge Skalleti. The brilliant Boudot takes the ride and whilst it’s the horse’s first try at this level, a record of 12 wins from 15 starts, including 5 Group wins, isn’t to be sniffed at. 2 starts ago, he beat the Arc winner Sottsass & last time out, he won the Group 2 Prix Dollar convincingly. Both of those wins were on heavy ground, a surface that clearly suits given he’s 7 from 7 on soft ground or worse. Whether he’s quite up to this level remains to be seen but conditions are right up his street and he rates a solid chance.
PLACED – Back Skalleti (e/w) for a 1/10 stake at 11.00 Skybet BOG (⅕ odds 1-4)