Champion Stakes field takes shape

Cirrus Des Aigles - Saturday hot pot?

Cirrus Des Aigles - Saturday hot pot?

As the going for QIPCO Champions Day at Ascot on Saturday gets softer, trainers are busy firming up their plans for which race their horse will – or will not – run in. I’m sure Matt will be marking your card later in the week, so I’ll focus on running plans, today in the Champion Stakes.

The best part of an inch of rain has fallen at Ascot since last Thursday, which led Clerk of the Course Chris Stickels to give a going reading of Good to Soft, Soft in places, with no prospect of it being any better than that. He said on Sunday, “If we were racing today we’d be calling it soft ground.” With unsettled weather throughout this week he added, “We have to expect it on the easy side, given that forecast. It’s not going to be a drying week. The track does take the rain and it soaks through quite well, given a dry day, but when you have showers forecast on and off and it’s currently on the easy side, it’s going to remain that way.”

That soon led to John Gosden taking The Fugue out of the Champion Stakes and the end of her European season. She’s off to the Breeders’ Cup to try and improve on her third placed finish of last year.

Simon March, racing manager for Andrew Lloyd Webber set to the position, saying, “As it stands I think it’s unlikely she’ll run at Ascot as she wants it rattling fast, which it clearly won’t be by Saturday. I’d think it’s next stop California for her, and then we can look forward to seeing her again next year.”

Soft ground will also rule out Declaration Of War, one of four horses along with Kingsbarns, Magician and Ruler Of The World, from Aidan O’Brien’s stable in the 15 entries.

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Race favourite Cirrus Des Aigles is attempting to win the race for a second time, having pipped So You Think two years ago on good ground. Then he was a 12/1 chance, and was that price three weeks ago for Saturday’s renewal. Now the best you can get is 5/4, so for those already on, that’s a very reasonable price to lay off on your Betfair account.

His trainer Corinne Barande-Barbe was undisturbed about the news on the weather. She said, “I heard there was plenty of rain and I think there will be more during the week, which wouldn’t disturb me at all. Cirrus Des Aigles has come back to form at the right time. I trust the horse. He is very well and is coming back to his best now. I suppose it is normal he is favourite due to the way he won last Saturday (the Prix Dollar ten days ago). He confirmed my opinion when he won that he was back to his best. Let’s see what happens because I think he has a very good chance.”

Farhh, who last season twice had a closer look at Frankel’s backside than almost any other horse (albeit six and seven lengths away) heads the challengers. He’s certainly not been over tried this season, as injury has kept him off the racetrack since he won the Lockinge Stakes at Newbury back in May. He’s an injury prone horse, as trainer Saeed Bin Suroor explained. “He is hard to train. Since he was a two year old, after every run he had a problem. We have looked after him really well in everything he does. So far we have done a good job with him and I hope he stays sound until the race.” He’ll be joined in the race by stablemate Hunter’s Light.

Richard Hannon has Sky Lantern entered, and it’s still a toss up whether she will go to Ascot or be held back for the Hong Kong International meeting in December. Why not both, I wonder?

A piece of work on soft ground at home on the Marlborough Downs led to both work rider Toni Vaughan and jockey Richard Hughes calling for her to turn out this weekend. Richard Hannon jnr said that they were moving towards that, but had yet to secure agreement from owner Ben Keswick. There was one shadow on her participation, as he explained. “It just happens that her most disappointing run as a two year old was on soft ground, but that was at Goodwood and it might have been the track. Hughesie is adamant she’ll stay a mile and a quarter on any ground and there’s a lot more chance today that she’ll run than there was last Friday.” Expect a final decision tomorrow.

Jim Bolger was not making any encouraging remarks about his Irish Derby winner Trading Leather, who he reported as being “very well, but we are very concerned about the ground with him.” Bolger also has Parish Hall entered.

Of the remaining five entries, Ryan Moore will ride Sir Michael Stoute’s Hillstar, Ted Durcan, David Lanigan’s Main Sequence, and Paul Hanagan is on board Mukhadram for William Haggas. Arrangements for the other two French entries, Morandi and Triple Threat are yet to be confirmed.

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1 reply
  1. Hugh says:

    Hi Ian, I think you’ve forgotten just how close Cirrus got to Frankel’s back end in the same race last year. Can’t see anything else getting close to Cirrus on soft.

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