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Power and the Glory – Mullins, Henderson and Cracksman are Weekend Wonders

The curtain came down on another Jumps season with familiar trainers crowned King on either side of the Irish Sea.

There’s no doubting that Gordon Elliott has made great strides and is now a serious threat to the Mullins dominance. He does, however, still lack the quality that will finally see him fulfilling the dream of a trainers’ title. He needs several more Samcro’s if he is to wrestle the title from his rival. This was blindingly evident at Punchestown, as Mullins monopolised Grade One events thanks to the likes of Un De Sceaux, Bellshill, Faugheen and Footpad.

The Closutton master was clearly relieved, saying: “It’s nice to do it. It’s tough, as I feel for Gordon. He’s had a fantastic year and he was hoping this year would be his year. Certainly coming out of here on Tuesday evening I thought our chance was totally gone. It’s a little bit cruel, but I suppose Gordon has ended the year with over 200 winners and over 5 million euro in prize-money, so it’s probably not too bad! I’m happy to win it and I’m very happy for my staff. It’s great competition and great for racing. It’s been a huge narrative throughout the year and it’s better for the game.”

Whilst the Elliott/Mullins battle went down to the wire, over here in the UK Nicky Henderson has surged clear of the pack. Buveur D’Air, Might Bite and the phenomenon that is Altior, ensured that Henderson scooped the major pots. Paul Nicholls was again, best of the rest, though he continues to struggle in his search for new stars. Politologue was impressive at times, though lacks the X-factor. Clan Des Obeaux is a horse of huge potential and may be one for the King George at Christmas.

Henderson was thrilled to land the title and said of his powerful battalion: “They have delivered. Like always, you have your ups and downs and it started with downs before ups when we had to stop with Altior. That was a pity, really, as it took him out of the first half the season and it was a rush to get him ready for Cheltenham, but it has been good. It has been a long, wet winter and it has been hard work, but I’ve got a great team that has in some ways swam their way through it and we are now out at the other end.

“Everything was good, the horses have been good across the board. Might Bite, Altior and Buveur D’Air had to show up again and they did, within reason. It’s not been easy (winning the title once more). Cheltenham was good and that put us at a bit of an advantage and plenty more came in at Aintree. It wasn’t until the Scottish National was over, that is when we thought we were safe.”

Of the big three he said: “I think Might Bite’s performance at Aintree was the outstanding moment as he came back from such a battle at Cheltenham (runner-up in the Gold Cup) and to come back from that was a great performance. Altior (Champion Chase) and Buveur D’Air (Champion Hurdle) were great at Cheltenham and if picking other moments, they would be two other highlights.”

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The concern for the chasing pack is the strength in depth of the Seven Barrows squad. Henderson added: “They (Altior, Buveur D’Air and Might Bite) have to deliver on the big stage and if you have got them you are the guy that is under pressure, but they have been great. They are still young and some pretty good ones have come through with them, like Santini, We Have A Dream and Terrefort. There is plenty to back them up. I think Santini could be a very exciting novice chaser and I think he could be a very exciting horse.”

With the Jumps season proper, now closed for the Summer, we can look forward to the first Classics at Newmarket, less than a week away. And yesterday at Longchamp we were reminded of just how thrilling the latest Flat season could be, as Cracksman made a stunning return in landing the Group One Prix Ganay.

Sent off a short-priced favourite, Gosden’s four-year-old powered clear in the latter stages of the race, with Cloth Of Stars and Rhododendron among those swept aside.

Gosden spoke to At The Races immediately after the victory, saying: “He’s a stronger horse this year and is still growing. It was a nice pace, without being anyway near crazy. Frankie knew he was going to use the pacemaker and I particularly liked standing over a furlong down and seeing how he stretched past me. It’s a lovely run. There’s Cloth Of Stars and Rhododendron in there and we’ve shown them a clean pair of heels and the race will bring him on a lot.”

Conversation turned to the inevitable clash with Gosden’s wonder-filly Enable. The trainer confirmed that she was on target to run in the Coronation Cup at Epsom, and that the stable stars will likely meet, assuming all is well with both, in the Arc at Longchamp. For Cracksman, a trip to Royal Ascot now appears likely, with the Prince Of Wales’s Stakes a short-term target.

Stat of the Day, 26th April 2018

Wednesday's Runner was...

6.55 Lingfield : My Target @ 6/1 BOG 5th at 9/2 (Mid-division on inside, headway chasing leaders over 1f out, weakened well inside final furlong)

Our next runner goes in Thursday's...

8.35 Chelmsford :

Before I post the daily selection, just a quick reminder of how I operate the service. Generally, I'll identify and share the selection in the evening before the following day's race and I then add a detailed write-up later on that night/next morning.

Those happy to take the early price on trust can do so, whilst some might prefer to wait for my reasoning. As I fit the early service in around my family life, I can't give an exact timing on the posts, so I suggest you follow us on Twitter and/or Facebook for instant notifications of a published pick.

Who?

Ode To Autumn @ 3/1 BOG

A 5-runner, Class 4,  1m A/W Handicap (3yo) on polytrack worth £7310 to the winner...

Why?

This 3 yr old gelding has won twice and made the fame a further three times from his six starts so far with finishes of 211 on the All-Weather, including 2 wins from 2 over the 1m trip, the most recent being an LTO success 69 days ago.

His trainer, John Gosden, is bang in form, as typified by...

  • 18 winners from 50 (36% SR) in the last 30 days
  • 13 from 37 (35.1%) over the last fortnight
  • and 8 from 20 (40%) over the last week.

On top of this, Johnny's LTO winners are 147/488 (30.1% SR) for 137pts (+28.1% ROI) since 2014, from which...

  • April runners are 35/85 (41.2%) for 50pts (+58.8%)
  • and Class 4 runners are 27/77 (35.1%) for 18.5pts (+24.1%)

Whilst in the same 2014-18 time frame, his runners returning from a break of more than 60 days are 134/487 (27.5% SR) for 87.9pts (+18.1% ROI), including of relevance today...

  • LTO winners : 56/163 (34.4%) for 45.8pts (+28.1%)
  • in April : 54/153 (35.3%) for 33pts (+21.6%)
  • on Polytrack : 37/107 (34.6%) for 16.8pts (+15.7%)
  • over a 1m trip : 32/104 (30.8%) for 75.7pts (+72.8%)
  • at Class 4 : 32/104 (30.8%) for 45.8pts (+44%)
  • and here at Chelmsford : 12/22 (54.6%) for 20.5pts (+93.1%)

And finally for now (!), it's worth noting that this is Mr Gosden's only runner here today and in fact his only runner anywhere all day, and when sending just one handicapper out to a meeting since 2013, he has come home with the prize money on 52 of 199 (26.1% SR) occasions rewarding followers with 47.4pts [profit at an ROI of 23.8%, from which...

  • his only runner all day : 20/89 (22.5%) for 20.7pts (+23.3%)
  • at Chelmsford : 4/12 933.3%) for 8pts (+66.7%)

...giving us...a 1pt win bet on Ode To Autumn @ 3/1 BOG which was available from 10Bet, BetVictor, Betway, Coral & SportPesa at 5.50pm on Wednesday, whilst Bet365 were a shade better at 10/3 BOG. In fact 11/4 BOG was still widely available at 8.15am on Thursday, so we should all manage to get on. To see what your preferred bookie is offering, simply...

...click here for the betting on the 8.35 Chelmsford

Don't forget, we offer a full interactive racecard service every day!

REMINDER: THERE IS NO STAT OF THE DAY ON SUNDAYS

Here is today's racecard

P.S. all P/L returns quoted in the stats above are to Betfair SP, as I NEVER bet to ISP and neither should you. I always use BOG bookies for SotD, wherever possible, but I use BFSP for the stats as it is the nearest approximation I can give, so I actually expect to beat the returns I use to support my picks. If that's unclear, please ask!

Curtis takes the high road to Season Salvation

Joe Farrell caused a 33/1 upset when defeating Ballyoptic by a nose in a thrilling finish to the Scottish Grand National.

It’s been a challenging winter for Pembrokeshire trainer Rebecca Curtis, with the number of horses in her yard tumbling from around 50 to little more than 20. Winners have been hard to come by, so this success is a huge tonic for herself and the team.

“It’s amazing,” said Curtis, speaking to ITV Racing just after the result of the photo-finish was announced. “We’ve had a difficult season and to end it like that is just brilliant for us. I thought it was a big ask, he’s just a novice but he stays all day. It’s my first time in Scotland. I own a quarter of him, and thankfully it’s paid off. I’m drawing a line under this campaign, though this is a great way to finish.”

Adam Wedge was the victorious jockey and was clearly thrilled to have held-on in a pulsating finish. He’d kicked on with three fences to go and looked likely to win by some distance. But Tom Bellamy got a hell of a tune out of Ballyoptic late-on.

“He’s stuck his neck out,” said a thrilled and relieved jockey. “I could feel Tom Bellamy getting to me all the way, but he's tried his heart out. To come here today not knowing whether he would stay, it’s fantastic.”

Nigel Twiston-Davies will surely have Aintree in his sights for the runner-up. Ballyoptic remains on a workable handicap mark, though may have to be campaigned accordingly next winter. A temporary switch to hurdles would not be a surprise. Vintage Clouds had led for much of the race but had to settle for third. Doing Fine arrived late on the scene to snatch a fourth-place finish. Vicente had been looking to make it three in-a-row, and ran another cracker at the track, finishing a fine fifth.

As the Jump season draws to a close, action on the Flat stepped up a gear, with informative meetings at Newmarket and Newbury.

Roaring Lion was all the rage in the Craven Stakes last Thursday, having proved himself to be one of the leading juveniles last summer. But it was Godolphin blue that shone brightest, as the Charlie Appleby-trained Masar romped to an impressive nine-length success. William Buick set the fractions and kicked for home almost three furlongs out. The chasing pack were left toiling with the winner instantly cut to single figures for the 2000 Guineas in a fortnight.

Appleby said of the winner: “William said he quickened twice, before the Dip and then up the hill. He’s got quicker but he’s also got stronger. People asked why we gave him a run in Dubai, but that was just to take the gas out of him and put some manners on him. He was always going to be a three-year-old and he looks to be a nice horse. We were confident coming into this race that we were a player and that he’d either win or finish second to Roaring Lion. The Guineas route will be foremost in our sights now.”

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Just 24 hours after the Masar romp, we witnessed another stunning performance, this time at Newbury, when John Gosden’s Lah Ti Dar crushed a field of fillies over 1m2f. Stunningly bred, by Dubawi out of Dar Re Mi, this filly could be special. Apparently weak at two, this was her debut on the track and Frankie Dettori was impressed with the performance. She’s now third-favourite, behind a pair of O’Brien fillies, for the Oaks at Epsom.

Saturday at Newbury was supposed to revolve around a resurgent Expert Eye in the Greenham Stakes. Sir Michael Stoute’s colt had looked a future star when winning the Vintage Stakes at Goodwood last August, but then flopped on his final juvenile outing in the Dewhurst. Sadly, he again fluffed his lines, though ran with more promise, finishing runner-up to James Garfield. Keen from the off, he came under pressure two furlongs out, and though gaining late-on, he never looked likely to get to the winner. He may well improve for fast ground, though it’s likely that he is not the star many believed him to be. The winner is undoubtedly good, though looks shy of top-class.

Raid was something of an eye-catcher back in fourth. Trained by David Simcock and owned by Qatar Racing, this was only his second career start and having been outpaced mid-race, he stayed on strongly in the latter stages. He should improve a bundle for this.

A little more than six exciting months lie ahead in this latest Flat campaign, and at its conclusion, many of the season’s best will head to America for the 35th Breeders’ Cup World Championships. This year’s glittering season finale comes from Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky. A few days ago, organisers announced details of qualifying races to be run around the globe.

“As international participation increases for Thoroughbred racing on a global scale, the Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series continues to support horsemen and racing stables with important incentives, such as automatic starting positions and free entry fees, to qualify for the World Championships,” said Craig Fravel, Breeders’ Cup President and CEO. “We also recognize the outstanding work by our 28 racetrack and racing association partners around the world who conduct these Challenge races and thank them for their support and commitment to the series.”

There will be 11 such races held in the UK, five in Ireland and a further four in France. Four qualifiers take place at Royal Ascot, including the Queen Anne Stakes and the Diamond Jubilee. The Irish Champion Stakes is another notable entry on the list, along with elite juvenile events at Longchamp, the Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere and the Prix Marcel Boussac. The winner of the Darley Yorkshire Oaks from York, for example, would automatically qualify for the Filly and Mare Turf at Churchill Downs.

It’s a laudable effort by the Breeders’ Cup guys to promote the valuable and prestigious event across the globe, and may well tempt some to renew those passports for an early winter jaunt across the pond.

Gosden’s Lion set to Roar as Classics draw near

Newmarket is in the midst of the Craven Meeting, supplying early clues for the opening Classics in May.

The feature event takes place on Thursday, with last year’s Racing Post Trophy runner-up, Roaring Lion, set to get his season up and running. Gosden’s youngster is currently third-favourite for the colts’ classic behind Aidan O’Brien’s pair of Gustav Klimt and Saxon Warrior. Yes, the major forces in Flat racing are set to go head to head once again.

Roaring Lion will be a short-priced favourite on Thursday with the Charlie Appleby pair of Masar and Glorious Journey leading the challenge. Speaking yesterday, Appleby said: “Masar flew in from Dubai this week and is fit and well. The combination of his unfamiliarity with the dirt surface and a wide draw means that you can put a line through his latest Meydan run, but at least he has the benefit of a run. He is a colt that has shown his inexperience in the past, but he’s done plenty of racing and travelling and he has been getting better with every race. If he brings his strong Jean-Luc Lagardere and Solario form into the Craven, it will make him a major player.”

According to the markets, his other contender has the best chance of toppling the favourite: “Glorious Journey has also been in Dubai and has done very well, but whatever he does on Thursday, there will be some improvement in him,” the trainer added. “The race he won was not the strongest of Group three’s, but he couldn’t have done any more than stay unbeaten. I walked the course on Monday and I would be amazed if it is not good ground by Thursday. We know all about the Rowley Mile’s incredible drying capabilities and it will suit Masar, who is a quick ground horse.”

The Craven has gone to classy sorts in the past, including last year’s winner Eminent, who went on to win a Group Two in France prior to a place finish in the Group One Irish Champion Stakes. Team Hannon took four Craven’s in a row from 2012 to 2015, with winners including Toronado and Toormore. The former came fourth in the Guineas, before going on to capture a pair of Group Ones. Toormore landed his only Group One as a juvenile, though had several victories in Group Two’s in subsequent campaigns, and also coming within a neck of taking the Lochinge.

Haafhd in 2004 was the last horse to win the Craven Stakes prior to victory in the 2000 Guineas. Trained by Barry Hills and owned by Hamdan Al Maktoum, he was particularly potent at Newmarket, winning on four of his five visits. The final success came in the Champion Stakes run over 10-furlongs, defeating a high-class field which included Azamour, Norse Dancer, Refuse To Bend and Doyen.

Chances are that Thursday’s Craven will fail to provide a Guineas winner, though in Masar, Glorious Journey and Roaring Lion, we have horses of huge potential, with the right sort of pedigree and high-profile connections.

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But, before the Colts get their opportunity to shine, the fillies will take centre-stage in today’s Nell Gwyn Stakes. As was the case with the boys, it’s been a while since the winner of this went on to 1000 Guineas glory. The front-running Speciosa was the last to do so in 2006. Having landed the Classic in May, she failed to win another of her nine further career starts.

Frankie Dettori has an extraordinary record in the race, having won seven in total, including the last four. His association with John Gosden accounts for the last two, though today he’ll be aboard Juliet Foxtrot, trained by Charlie Hills. Testing ground probably played a part in her disappointing final juvenile display at Naas last September. Sporting the familiar silks of Khalid Abdullah, she’s by Dansili out of a King’s Best mare, and will surely appreciate a sounder surface.

The Mark Johnston-trained, Threading, also disappointed on her final two-year-old start, though that came in a strong looking renewal of the Cheveley Park, won by Aidan O’Brien’s high-class filly Clemmie. She sits at the head of the betting, having impressed in the Lowther at York, though much will, of course, depend on how she has progressed over the winter.

Jim Crowley gets the leg-up aboard John Gosden’s Nawassi. A daughter of Dubawi, the Hamdan Al Maktoum-owned filly probably didn’t beat an awful lot at Newmarket in November but nevertheless looked a juvenile full of potential.
Soliloquy is also by Dubawi though owned by Godolphin. Charlie Appleby will be looking to build on an impressive winter at Meydan, and this filly could prove useful.

We’re sure to learn plenty in the coming days and hopefully get a few pointers for the Guineas meeting that’s just a few weeks away.

Record Breaking O’Brien is a Donny Dazzler

Doncaster played host to history in the making, as Aidan O’Brien broke Bobby Frankel’s record when landing the 26th Group One of the season in the Racing Post Trophy.

Saxon Warrior proved a worthy favourite when bravely fending off what had looked a race winning surge from the John Gosden-trained Roaring Lion. Ryan Moore had hit the front at the two-furlong mark, but looked set for the runner-up spot as Oisin Murphy swept past. As Gosden’s talented youngster wandered off a true line, it was Moore who galvanised his mount for a renewed effort, and as the line approached Saxon Warrior responded tenaciously.

O'Brien said of the winner: “He travelled very strong and Ryan gave him a brilliant ride. When John's horse went by him you thought he was beaten, but he found plenty and we're delighted. Ryan said he'd have no problem being a Guineas horse, so we could start off in that and go on, but there's plenty of stamina in his pedigree. I think he'll be comfortable at anything from a mile to a mile and a half. He's a very special horse, we think. He's done everything we've asked of him and he's only been a baby.”

Moore was also impressed, saying: “He's a beautiful horse and he gave me so much confidence the whole race. It wasn't going right, but he's very good and that's the difference - they're beautiful horses that are beautifully prepared. When the other horse came, I hadn't asked my lad a question.”

Saxon Warrior’s performance was understandably overshadowed by the history making trainer. O’Brien was modest as ever, though clearly thrilled with the achievement, when saying: “It's incredible. I'm so delighted for everyone, I'm thrilled. You just don't expect it, all you can do is your best. I feel so proud for everyone. It's a privilege to be working with such special people. We're in a very lucky position and we're a small link in a big chain.

“It is so hard to win Group Ones that I never expect it. We've just got a great team, that's at the heart of it. The lads (Coolmore trio of John Magnier, Derrick Smith and Michael Tabor) do a great job breeding and buying the horses and it is our job not to damage them. It's been a funny year really. A lot of horses have progressed and progressed. There were so many horses like that, it was unusual. A lot of very well-bred horses just got better and better.”

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The record had stood since 2003, and the master of Ballydoyle had come close on numerous occasions. But after a quick-fire opening to the 2017 campaign, O’Brien managed to maintain the momentum throughout, thanks to a stunning array of thoroughbred talent.

Churchill got the show on the road back in May when landing the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket. Just a day later it was the turn of Winter to prove herself the outstanding three-year-old filly at a mile, as she romped to victory in the 1000 Guineas. The pair went on to repeat the feat in Ireland at the end of May, ensuring that the race to 26 was well and truly on.

His Classic generation proved exceptional, especially the fillies. Along with the outstanding Winter, Roly Poly weighed in with vital Group One victories. And then came a late rattle from another dazzling duo in Rhododendron and Hydrangea.

But it is the dominance of the Juvenile division that truly sets O’Brien and the Ballydoyle Boys apart. In Clemmie and Happily they have a pair of Group One fillies with the potential to reign supreme at three. And then there’s the young colt’s U S Navy Flag and of course Saturday’s Racing Post Trophy winner Saxon Warrior.

Both past and present have been wonderfully glorious for all connected to the ‘Ballydoyle Bandwagon’. And with history now made, the future looks set to be just as triumphant.

O’Brien’s Doncaster Date with Destiny

Could Saturday prove to be Aidan O’Brien’s ‘date with destiny’ as he saddles four in a bid to capture the Racing Post Trophy and finally break Bobby Frankel’s record?

Currently standing on 25 top-level winners for the season, the Ballydoyle master is set to launch a powerful assault in search of the magic 26. With three victories from the past eight renewals, this is a race that O’Brien often targets with his elite juveniles. Camelot won in 2011, and in Saxon Warrior and The Pentagon he has a pair that currently head the market for next year’s Epsom Derby.

Favourite for tomorrow’s renewal is Saxon Warrior. He’s unbeaten in two starts, having landed a maiden at the Curragh, and then capturing the Group Two Beresford Stakes at Naas. That last victory came on soft ground, though he’s by Deep Impact and should appreciate a sounder surface. He’s a powerful looking youngster, with the size and scope to progress nicely in time. This race often goes to lightly raced juveniles, with favourites having an impressive recent record of seven wins from the last 10. Ryan Moore takes the ride.

The Pentagon appears to be the stable’s number two, though Seamie Heffernan makes a habit of winning on the supposed second-string. Off the track since July, his bare form is possibly a little shy of what is required to win this. He beat the Jim Bolger trained Theobald last time, and that colt has since been thrashed on two occasions. Moore clearly thinks Saxon Warrior is the better of the pair, and he may be right.

The markets suggest that Jim Bolger’s Verbal Dexterity is the main danger to Team Ballydoyle. His impressive victory in the Group One National Stakes last time looks to be the strongest piece of form. That success came on heavy ground, and there’s a danger that he was somewhat flattered by the inability of others to cope with conditions. His pedigree lacks the ‘wow factor’, and if the rain stays away I fancy he’ll be outgunned by one or more of O’Brien’s colts.

John Gosden has had another sensational campaign, and his Royal Lodge winner, Roaring Lion, looks a leading contender. He got the better of Aidan O’Brien’s Nelson on that occasion, despite finding Newmarket’s undulations a little unsettling. He’s a beautiful looking son of American stallion Kitten’s Joy, and though this is certainly his toughest assignment, he looks capable of a huge performance.

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Aidan’s Seahenge is another Group Two winner, having captured the Champagne Stakes at Doncaster in September. He came up a little short in Group One company when third to another Ballydoyle colt, U S Navy Flag, in the Dewhurst a few weeks back. He’s certainly not without a chance, though it would be a surprise if he were the best of the Ballydoyle boys.

Jockey Andrea Atzeni is going for an incredible five Racing Post Trophy victories on the trot. He gets the leg-up on Martyn Meade’s Chilean. The youngster was an impressive winner of a listed event at Haydock last time. That came in testing conditions, and the form took something of a knock when the runner-up flopped at Pontefract earlier this week. Nevertheless, he has an exciting pedigree, being by Iffraaj out of a Duke Of Marmalade mare. The stallion’s standing was well advertised by Ribchester and Nathra in last week’s QEII. A drop of rain wouldn’t do his chances any harm, and at 14s he could be the each-way play.

Godolphin have supplemented Loxley, though the Charlie Appleby trained colt has only had one run in public. This gorgeous looking son of New Approach got going late, when dead-heating with a fair yardstick at Goodwood. He looked green that day, and though this race has favoured unexposed types, he’ll need to be far more streetwise to win. Nonetheless, that debut was full of promise, and connections clearly think plenty of him.

I fancy the ‘main man’ will get his record-breaking victory. Opposing O’Brien in juvenile Group One’s is a futile exercise. Saxon Warrior is beautifully bred and has the right kind of profile. I’m pretty sure that Roaring Lion will run a huge race, but at 14/1 I’ll take Chilean to hit the frame for each-way punters.

Cracksman Shines Brightest on a Grey Day

It was a case of ‘like father like son’, as Cracksman provided the show-stopping performance of Champions Day 2017, to capture the Champion Stakes.

So often during his illustrious career we witnessed Frankel powering clear of the opposition, winning his races by a country-mile. And so, what a thrill to see Cracksman mimic his ‘old man’ at Ascot yesterday. It wasn’t always that way for Gosden’s talented colt, but this late season version has packed on the power and is able to maintain a relentless gallop despite testing conditions.

The question is whether he possesses the gears to be as effective on a sounder surface, but there’s no doubting that he is a machine in the mud.

Frankie Dettori had him tucked in behind the leaders in the early stages yesterday, but on turning for home the jockey struck-out for glory. Cracksman immediately put lengths between himself and the field, and with stamina aplenty powered clear in devastating fashion. He hit the line a yawning seven lengths clear of Poet’s Word, with Highland Reel third.

“He’s improved through the year and grown up a lot,” said a thrilled John Gosden. “If he was a middleweight earlier in the season, he is a light heavyweight now. He's really progressed and to do this against older horses, he's a fast-improving horse.”

Dettori was completing a stunning Champions Day double, and said of Cracksman: “I’m thrilled for everyone. It’s Frankel’s first Group One [in Europe], my first Champion Stakes, a lot of firsts and a great performance. The Champion Stakes is a colossal race, my father came close, I came close a couple of times, it’s been bugging me a long time to put it to bed with a great performance.”

He went on: “I didn’t expect Persuasive to win, I didn’t sleep very well because of Cracksman, I really felt the horse was in tip-top shape. When the rain came I was delighted because I knew it would make it a test of stamina, the headwind helped because it makes it even harder to get to the end, it stacked up towards my side, but the horse still had to deliver, and he did. I’m made up.”

When asked of next season’s selection dilemma, Dettori added: “To have Enable and Cracksman in the same year, well done John Gosden, he’s a genius. We’ll tackle the bridge next year. It’s Cracksman’s day today, let him have the glory!”

It proved to be a sensational day for Gosden and Dettori. They caused something of an upset earlier in the day, when Persuasive swooped late to take the QEII. Ribchester had looked the likely winner at the two-furlong pole, when moving stylishly to the front. But he began to flounder in the testing ground and approaching the furlong mark Dettori launched an attack aboard the grey filly. She handled conditions better than the rest for a huge victory, with Ribchester and Churchill chasing her home.

Thrilled, though clearly surprised to have won, Dettori said: “To be honest, looking at the line-up I thought God, she'll have to run well as there were Group One winners all over the place. But the key thing was that she had got the ground.”

Gosden said of the winning filly: “He (Frankie) was saving and saving, trying to keep her together. He went for a run on the inside and got blocked, so had to take her back and swing out. She'd have been an unlucky loser. When she got out she flew down the middle of the track.”

Richard Fahey, trainer of runner-up Ribchester, cursed the ground for the defeat: “It's deja vu, the ground has beaten him again. He's a horse that's won on soft ground, but he's such a good moving horse. William (Buick) felt he came there to win and win well and he just gets blunted in the dead ground. He just doesn't put it to bed and the winner coped with the conditions better. That's twice he's been beaten in desperate conditions.”

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A successful Champions Day is the icing on the cake for Gosden, having had a glorious 2017 campaign. The firepower at his disposal can only be surpassed by one other trainer. And many Flat racing fans had arrived at Ascot in the hope of seeing Aidan O’Brien break Bobby Frankel’s Group One winning tally. Team Ballydoyle have yet again set the standard for others to follow, and though Caravaggio and Churchill came mighty close, it was another outstanding filly that gave them the Group One success they so desperately sought.

Hydrangea, like Cracksman, is another talented racehorse from a Pivotal mare, and as such had no problem coping with the testing ground. The issue was whether she would see-out the trip, having never previously attempted the mile and a half. When French filly Bateel loomed large at the furlong pole, Hydrangea’s stamina was put to the test, and she responded admirably to Ryan Moore’s urgings. Pulling out plenty for pressure, she battled on bravely to win by two-lengths.

On drawing level with the record, O'Brien said: “It's incredible for everyone, they all put in so much hard work, day in day out. We're a small link in a big chain and I'm delighted for everyone, it's a magic, special day. She's by Galileo and they will not stop, their will to win is incredible. She pulled out more and it was Ryan's idea to run her as he thought there was a chance she'd get the trip. We weren't sure, but she did.”

Moore echoed the thoughts of his trainer, when saying: “What Aidan O'Brien has done this year is remarkable and it is a massive team effort. Everyone who looks after these horses, they put in so much time. The filly has been on the go all year and has got better and better. I thought she had a good chance. I'm delighted for Aidan.”

O’Brien also landed the opener, when Order Of St George produced a battling performance to take the Long Distance Cup. He needed every yard of the straight to get his nose ahead of Jess Harrington’s Torcedor. John Gosden’s well-fancied three-year-old Stradivarius, produced another performance full of promise in finishing strongly to take third. He remains a young horse with a huge future.

Harry Angel’s Ascot hoodoo continued when he made it 0-4 at the track in the Champions Sprint Stakes. He’d travelled wonderfully well through the race, but possibly struck for home a little early at the two-pole. The writing was on the wall as he entered the final furlong, with Tasleet attacking to his right and Librisa Breeze to his left. As Harry crumbled it was Dean Ivory’s grey Librisa, that found plenty for pressure, pulling a length clear of Tasleet at the post. Caravaggio got going too late, but managed to pip Harry A for third.

Winning jockey Robert Winston told ITV Racing: “It means a hell of a lot. My career was finished, only for this horse, and that's being honest. I was packing up last year, I gave my notice to Dean, but this horse and Mr Bloom have kept me going. Dean is a great man to ride for, he has great staff and brilliant owners, including Mr Bloom.” Of the winner, Winston added: “He'd get a mile-plus, but has so much natural speed and is so genuine. I know I have been criticised a couple of times this year when he should have won, but that's the way you have to ride him.”

For Ivory, a winner on Champions Day was clearly a huge thrill: “I could not believe it. The ground and everything went right for us. He has been off a long time, seven weeks, and he has been so unlucky this year. We have got the luck when it mattered. That was the hardest field in the last 10 years and to come out and do it like that, I'm thrilled. He is a horse that has never had a clean run. This year is his year and I've seen him grow into a proper horse. Robert Winston believes in the horse as much as we do.”

The final race of the day went to yet another grey, when Lord Glitters came with a thrilling late rattle to nab Europe’s most valuable handicap, the Balmoral. Stuck out the back with nowhere to go, Daniel Tudhope switched the David O’Meara trained four-year-old to the wide outside with just a furlong remaining. In the clear, he thundered home, hitting the line a neck ahead of yet another Gosden runner, Gm Hopkins.

It was a suitably thrilling finale to an exhilarating Champions Day.

Stat of the Day, 21st October 2017

Friday's Result :

4.55 Redcar : Restive @ 9/2 BOG WON at 10/3 : Towards rear, headway 3f out, ridden to chase leaders over 1f out, stayed on to challenge when carried right inside final furlong, led towards finish, scoring by a length...

Saturday's selection goes in the...

1.25 Ascot :

Before I post the daily selection, just a quick reminder of how I operate the service. Generally, I'll identify and share the selection in the evening before the following day's race and I then add a detailed write-up later on that night/next morning.

Those happy to take the early price on trust can do so, whilst some might prefer to wait for my reasoning. As I fit the early service in around my family life, I can't give an exact timing on the posts, so I suggest you follow us on Twitter and/or Facebook for instant notifications of a published pick.

Who?

Stradivarius @ 8/1 BOG

Why?

A Group 2, 3yo+ contest over 2m on soft ground...

...and a 3 yr old Colt who is a former Group 1 winner and has won three times and been placed twice from 5 runs this year.

His suitability for today's task can be shown by the following achievements...

  • 3/3 going left handed, 2/2 after a short 25-45 day break
  • 2/2 at odds of 5/1 and bigger, 2/2 in fields of 12 or more
  • 1/1 at Group 2, 1/1 here at Ascot and 1/1 over 2 miles

He's trained by John Gosden, whose runners are 19/99 (19.2% SR) for 2.94pts (+2.96% ROI) over the last 30 days, of which Frankie Dettori has ridden 5 winners from 20 (25%) for profits of 17.03pts (+85.15%).

More long term, this trainer/jockey partnership is 44/170 (25.9% SR) for 21.7pts (+12.8% ROI) in Class 1 contests over the last four seasons, including...

  • those priced at 5/4 to 12/1 : 32/132 (24.2%) for 38.9pts (+29.5%)
  • 3 yr olds @ 27/91 (29.7%) for 28.3pts (+31.1%)
  • here at Ascot : 7/30 (23.3%) for 2.4pts (+8%)
  • and at Group 2 : 7/25 (28%) for 18.4pts (+73.6%)

...giving us... a 1pt win bet on Stradivarius @ 8/1 BOG, which was widely available at 8.50pm on Friday. To see what your preferred bookie is offering, simply...

...click here for the betting on the 1.25 Ascot

Don't forget, we offer a full interactive racecard service every day!

REMINDER: THERE IS NO STAT OF THE DAY ON SUNDAYS

Here is today's racecard

P.S. all P/L returns quoted in the stats above are to Betfair SP, as I NEVER bet to ISP and neither should you. I always use BOG bookies for SotD, wherever possible, but I use BFSP for the stats as it is the nearest approximation I can give, so I actually expect to beat the returns I use to support my picks. If that's unclear, please ask!

Barney Army – Hannon Colt to repel French Raiders

It’s primed to be as good a Champions Day as any before, with numerous plots and subplots at play, set to engage and enthral the expectant Flat racing masses.

Ascot has practically sold-out, and it’s no wonder with the talent on display. Even the late withdrawal of Ulysses (anticipated in yesterday’s piece) cannot dampen the spirits for what is set to be a high-class end of season extravaganza. Stoute’s outstanding four-year-old heads to America for a tilt at the Breeders’ Cup Turf, but in his absence, there remains a glut of exceptional thoroughbreds battling for supremacy on the richest day of British racing.

News also came yesterday that Churchill will contest the QEII, rather than take on Cracksman and Barney Roy in the Champion Stakes. The dual-Guineas winner has disappointed since his success in the Irish Guineas at the Curragh, but it is hoped that a drop back to a mile will spark a revival in fortunes for O’Brien’s high-class colt. He and Caravaggio remain the most likely of the Ballydoyle team to deliver the Group One success needed to match Bobby Frankel’s record.

Though I am not focusing on the QEII for today’s preview, I fancy that Ribchester will prove an unsurmountable obstacle, though a reinvigorated Churchill is a huge danger to Godolphin’s talented miler.

It’s the showpiece event that I have chosen to look at today. The Champion Stakes is the most valuable event, and arguably along with the QEII, the most coveted. It’s fair to say that the roll of honour lacks a certain ‘je ne sais quoi’, though does carry the names of Brigadier Gerard, Frankel and last year’s exceptional French colt Almanzor.

Despite Ulysses resting-up prior to an American excursion, the remaining field of 10 still pack a high-class punch.

It’s quite amazing that neither Frankie Dettori or John Gosden have yet managed to capture this prestigious event. They look to put that record straight with tomorrow’s race favourite Cracksman. Winner of the Great Voltigeur and the Prix Niel in his last two starts, this son of the mighty Frankel (himself the winner in 2012) out of a Pivotal mare has been campaigned at a mile and a half throughout the summer, and this drop to 10 furlongs could prove an issue. The forecast rain due to hit Berkshire should aid his chances, along with a forceful ride from Dettori as he looks to make his mounts stamina a telling factor.

Fellow three-year-old Barney Roy appears the main danger to the favourite. Connections will have been thrilled to hear the news on Ulysses, having finished behind Stoute’s fella in the Eclipse and the Juddmonte. You could argue that Hannon’s contender would appreciate a sounder surface, though he coped admirably at York following an apocalyptic morning’s downpour prior to that Juddmonte race. Barney won the St James’s Palace Stakes on his last visit to the track, and is likely to have a little more ‘zip’ than Cracksman. Nevertheless, the favourite will likely take some passing, and that may well prove the thrilling aspect of this race.

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The French challenge is a two-pronged assault, and although Jean-Claude Rouget’s Brametot has star appeal, his compatriot Recoletos should not be underestimated, especially if the ground turns soft or heavy.

Brametot won the French Guineas and followed up by taking the Prix du Jockey Club. He was a creditable fifth in the Arc when incurring traffic problems, but this 10-furlong trip appears his optimum. Rouget’s Almanzor took this race 12 months ago, and though this challenger is not as good, none of the contenders are. I believe that he’s a leading player and is likely to be delivered late and fast, as he was in the French Derby.

Recoletos was just behind him that day having looked a likely winner inside the final furlong. The softer the ground the better for this three-year-old, and odds of 25/1 are more than generous. Though his season started in March he’s not been overplayed, and I have a strong feeling he’ll outrun those odds. He could prove a surprise package with conditions to suit.

With Ulysses away, Sir Michael sends Poet’s Word into battle. A typical Stoute sort, he has improved rapidly during his four-year-old campaign, and was a terrific runner-up last time in the Irish Champion Stakes. He stays further and goes on any ground. First or second in his last six starts, he looks sure to go well, though I fancy a place finish is the best he can hope for.

Of O’Brien’s duo only Highland Reel can win, and for that to happen the rain must stay away. Cliffs Of Moher is simply not good enough.

Yet again I find myself siding with Barney Roy. I was sure York would suit him last time, but he came off third-best behind Ulysses and Churchill. I fear Cracksman, especially if plenty of rain falls, as he’s a relentless galloper, rather than a colt with gears. Favourites have a modest record with three wins from the last 10, and so I’ll be backing Barney for the win. If plenty of rain falls I’ll chance a French three-year-old each-way, though it will be Recoletos rather than Arc fifth Brametot.

Best of luck to all those having a punt. And to those heading to Ascot on Saturday, enjoy a thrilling day of racing.

Champions Day Chat

His pedigree (by Frankel out of a Pivotal mare) suggests that the 10 furlongs of the Champion Stakes should prove ideal, yet the trip is touted by many as a concern for Cracksman. His last four outings have all come at a mile-and-a-half, and he looked a powerful stayer when winning both the Great Voltigeur at York and the Prix Niel last time at Chantilly.

Frankie Dettori appears confident that the trip on Saturday will not inconvenience his mount. Speaking on Racing UK he said: “I think he'll be fine over 10 furlongs, he's getting stronger and if the rain comes it will help him and disadvantage some of the others, like Highland Reel and Ulysses. It will make it more of a test of stamina, so I'm praying the rain comes. John (Gosden) has done a brilliant programme for him this year bearing in mind we've got next year to look forward to as well. We're going there with lots of confidence and hoping for the best.”

France have a decent record in the Champion Stakes and have a live contender in the French Guineas and Derby winner Brametot. Racing manager for Al Shaqab in France, Rupert Pritchard-Gordon, said of Jean-Claude Rouget’s runner: “He did his last piece of work on Monday morning in Deauville and all the signs are good. He looks like he's taken the Arc very well and I think a truly-run mile and a quarter will really suit him. He comes into the race relatively fresh having only run twice since June and everything points to a good performance.”

Rouget’s Almanzor won last year’s race, though he was exceptional. Brametot is undoubtedly talented, but has something to find if he is to beat Ulysses. And the French three-year-old form in general looks a little below par this year.

The amount of rain that falls in the next few days may well dictate whether Ulysses takes his place at the start. The main target for Stoute’s classy four-year-old has always been the Breeders’ Cup, and should the ground become testing at Ascot, the Eclipse and Juddmonte winner may well head straight to the States.

“We’ve said from a long way out the aim is Del Mar,” said the Niarchos family racing manager, Alan Cooper. “It was natural to leave him in this after the Arc. The other thing is the ground and we will have to see what the weather is doing.” Stoute has always said that a sounder surface is ideal, and with just two weeks separating Champions Day and the Breeders’ Cup, his participation has to be in some doubt.

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A pair that look certain to take up their engagements at Ascot are Ribchester and Barney Roy. The Godolphin owned duo are fancied to go close in their respective races, with Barney, hopefully, set to clash again with his old adversary Ulysses. Pipped in the Eclipse, he was beaten further in the Juddmonte, though tactics look sure to change this time around.

Richard Hannon is clearly looking forward to the day, saying: “He’ll go to Ascot in great nick having had a break. He’s fresh, he’s a very exciting horse. Ride him a little bit differently and anything can happen.” Barney’s last visit to Ascot resulted in victory in the St James’s Palace Stakes, and he is yet to finish outside of the first three in six career starts.

Ribchester is favourite to land the QEII, having finished runner-up to Minding 12 months ago. Richard Fahey sounded happy with his outstanding miler when speaking earlier in the week: “Everything has gone according to plan. He’s a very easy horse to train with no issues, touch wood. He tends to go on any ground. When he got beaten at Goodwood, I’m not blaming the [heavy] ground, I’m blaming the conditions. It was blowing a gale and pouring down with the rain. It was a horrible day. But he’s bounced back and won a Group One in France since, so we are very happy and comfortable with him.”

It could be an exciting day for John Gosden. Along with Cracksman, he has a pair of talented fillies lined up for the Fillies And Mares Stakes. Speaking earlier this week, he said of Journey and Coronet: “Journey’s in great form. She ran a blinder in France when she ran into a filly (Bateel) who loved that ground more than she did. It will be her swansong, she goes to stud after this.”

Of Coronet he appeared just as enthusiastic, saying: “Coronet ran an exceptionally good race in the Yorkshire Oaks to Enable and just found the pace and distance too far in the Leger. She’s a very good filly and she’s getting better all the time. She seems to be racing more alertly now than she used to, so fingers crossed, they will both run good races. I haven’t got as far as riding arrangements. I’ll talk to Mr Dettori, who likes to tell us what to do. If he gets it wrong then it’s his fault, not mine.”

Stoute has an Expert Eye on the Dewhurst

The Future Champions Festival begins tomorrow at Newmarket and promises to be a thriller.

Aidan O’Brien is just two shy of the world record Group/Grade One winners for a calendar year, set by American trainer Bobby Frankel in 2003. With fancied runners in the Fillies Mile on Friday and the Dewhurst on Saturday, there’s a chance the master of Ballydoyle could draw level on 25 winners.

For that to come to fruition, he would have to defeat one of the summer’s most exciting juveniles, and current favourite for the 2018 Guineas, Expert Eye. Sir Michael Stoute’s youngster put in a devastating display last time at Goodwood in winning the Group Two Vintage Stakes. With just a couple of runs under his belt, he’ll be up against more experienced two-year-olds, including O’Brien’s Group One Middle Park winner, U S Navy Flag.

Stoute sounded confident in the ability of his youngster, when saying: “He seems in good shape. I contemplated going to the Curragh but he had a bit of an issue when we scoped him. That knocked that out of the way so we trained him for the Dewhurst. We've had precocious two-year-olds, but we don't seem to get them nowadays. This fellow just came along and was naturally precocious. You would have to say that he’s the best two-year-old that I have had for quite a while. He’s been pretty natural from the beginning.”

The trainer added: “Before we ran him we knew that he was pretty smart as he has always shown speed and been very athletic. And then, when we were preparing him for Goodwood, we began to realise just how good he was. The form has worked out but this is quite a while later. We have had plenty of time to prepare him for this so there will be no excuses.

“The Dewhurst looks a tough race. In the past we never had to go up against a battalion like Aidan’s, it’s quite incredible really. Let’s just see what happens on Saturday. Andrea Atzeni will again be riding him, but I would be surprised if he gets beyond a mile as a three-year-old. I am having a resurgence. I am very happy with the way that the summer has gone and my whole team has done a great job.”

John Gosden is another trainer having a season to remember, and he has a leading contender in the Hamdan Al Maktoum owned Emaraaty. He’s a well-fancied third-favourite for the race, despite this being a completely different proposition from the race he won at Newbury.

The owner’s racing manager, Angus Gold, said: “I watched Emaraaty work on the Limekilns on Saturday morning and he is in fine physical shape. Jim Crowley rode him and was very pleased with him. It is a big step up from a maiden to a Group One and I would be stupid to assure you that he was going to beat horses like Expert Eye on Saturday. But he’s a very quick colt with great potential and we are very hopeful that he will be a Group One horse at some point in his career.”

A day prior to the Dewhurst, it’s the fillies that take centre-stage. Following her success at Longchamp, Aidan O’Brien’s Happily looks a worthy favourite for the Group One Fillies’ Mile. Doing her best work at the end of the Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere, the final climb to the finish on the Rowley Mile should prove ideal.

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September is also set to take her place for Team Ballydoyle, and should be better suited by conditions having got a little ‘stuck in the mud’ on her previous two starts. She was mightily impressive on quick ground at Royal Ascot, when comfortably accounting for a classy pair in Nyaleti and Masar.

If O’Brien is to be beaten, then Godolphin’s Magic Lilly may be the one. It’s a tough ask for one with so little experience (one career outing), but her performance on debut at Newmarket was eye-catching. She’s exceptionally bred, being by Derby winner New Approach, out of the Oaks winning mare Dancing Rain.

“Magic Lily is a filly we were confident would run a nice race on her first start, but she ended up winning very impressively and seeing out the one-mile trip really well,” said trainer Charlie Appleby.

“She did a nice piece of work on Saturday and that made our minds up to supplement her. She has worked together with my recent Prix Marcel Boussac winner, Wild Illusion, and worked well. The Dubai Future Champions Festival is an important festival for the whole Godolphin team. I’ve been lucky to have winners there in the past and it’s good to have a few live contenders, including Magic Lily, this year.”

Though the highlight of the two days is undoubtedly the juvenile events, we also get the opportunity to see one of the most talented sprinters back on the track. It’s proved a frustrating campaign for five-year-old Limato, but his trainer Henry Candy will be hopeful of a change in fortunes tomorrow.

With drier conditions at HQ, he looks to run his stable star in the Group Two Challenge Stakes at seven-furlongs. “It has been infuriating to have a horse of his calibre and not be able to do anything with him," Candy said. “I am very happy with his condition at the moment and looking forward to running him on Friday. His defeat in the Lennox Stakes was 80 per cent down to the ground, which was riding soft. We talked ourselves into running him that day when we shouldn’t have.”

The trainer added: “At least it’s been no problem keeping a lid on him at home without a race, as he is a very free worker and keeps himself pretty fit. This seven-furlong trip should be fine. I think he is capable of winning Group races at anything between six furlongs and a mile, and I don’t see any problem with him handling the Rowley Mile as he is very light on his feet. This is likely to be his final start of the season and, although we are toying with the idea of trying him over a mile again next year, we will go wherever the ground is right.”

Roly Digs Deep for Group One Glory

Roly Poly displayed guts along with a fair splash of class to take the Sun Chariot Stakes at Newmarket on Saturday.

Despite a hectic campaign, Aidan O’Brien’s filly showed no sign of fatigue, as she fought off the challenge of race favourite Persuasive, to land her third Group One. Ryan Moore took her to the front from the off, setting a sensible pace. Headed by Dawn Of Hope at the two-furlong pole, Moore refused to panic, instead gathering his mount for a renewed effort as they met the rising ground. Persuasive threatened to land a blow, but Roly Poly found plenty for pressure, hitting the line more than a length ahead.

This was O'Brien’s 23rd Group One victory in yet another glorious campaign. He said of the win: “Ryan gave her a class ride. She's a great filly, with a great heart. She's tactical and tough, amazing really. She's a great pedigree, out of a very good Galileo mare and by War Front, and the lads do a great job with her at home.” When asked if a trip to America was on the cards, he added: “I think so, the lads will decide what they want to do, but herself and Rhododendron could be trained for the Breeders’ Cup fillies race.”

John Gosden trained the second and third home in the Sun Chariot, and said of Persuasive and Nathra: “They both ran superbly well. The winner on this ground was too good for us. With a bit more juice in the ground, both of our fillies would have troubled the winner. They have run true and honest right to the end of the season. I think that will probably be it for both of them and the breeding sheds beckon.”

Chris Richardson, the managing director of Persuasive's owners, Cheveley Park Stud, hinted that one last hurrah remained a possibility, saying: “She ran a blinder, she just needs a bit of juice in the ground. We are just going to keep the door open for the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes. If it came up soft and she was still in good form, it could be an option and we might just give her one more whirl.”

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The strong French challenge failed to materialize, with Usherette proving best of the raiding party, staying on late for a fourth place finish. Likewise, Qemah was also doing her best work in the latter stages, though could only finish sixth.

O’Brien is now within touching distance of Bob Frankel’s single-season Grade One world record, and said of the challenge: “It would be incredible for everybody, but the horse always comes first. That's the important thing. After every race, the lads sit down and have a chat and see what race they want to pick. They have a big discussion with the people around them, make a target and we go with that. It's race to race, but the horse always comes first and we're doing our best in every race, it's all we can do.”

The trainer will now focus on the Future Champions Festival at Newmarket on Friday and Saturday, as he searches for further Group One glory. A year ago, Team Ballydoyle took both juvenile features, with Rhododendron winning the Fillies’ Mile and Churchill landing the Dewhurst. The stable have been responsible for the last three winners of the fillies’ race, and have Happily entered on Friday. O’Brien has also won three of the last four Dewhurst’s, though Sir Michael Stoute’s Expert Eye is a short-priced favourite for Saturday’s renewal.

Hard as Rock Roly can land a Ballydoyle Blitz

Saturday’s Sun Chariot Stakes is the feature race at Newmarket.

First run in 1966, it was originally open to three-year-old fillies and run over 10 furlongs. Older fillies and mares were invited in 1974, and the race was cut to its current distance of a mile in 2000. The race achieved Group 1 status in 2004.

The race regularly attracts the best milers from the UK, Ireland and France. The French have taken five of the last 10 renewals, thanks in the main to a stunning run of success from Sahpresa, who racked up a treble from 2009 to 2011.

Three-year-olds have a decent record, having won five of the last dozen, though only two of the last eight. Alice Springs took last year’s race, making it two from the last nine for trainer Aidan O’Brien.

Roly Poly is possibly only third or fourth best of the Classic generation milers at Ballydoyle, but with others having run at the Arc meeting, she is his main contender for this. She has improved throughout the summer, chasing home the dual-Guineas heroine, Winter, on a couple of occasions, then landing the Falmouth and the Rothschild in July. She was below par in the Matron Stakes at Leopardstown, when probably asked to do a little too much up front. Ryan Moore will be back onboard tomorrow, and she looks sure to go close.

The French challenge is a powerful one, with a trio of fillies representing arguably the best three trainers in the country. Jean-Claude Rouget’s Qemah is without doubt a high-class miler. Twice a Group One winner, she was fourth to Roly Poly in the Rothschild, though incurred traffic problems and got going far too late. Slightly disappointing at Leopardstown last time, when keen early and again doing her best work too late, she does needs things to fall just right if she is to land a blow. Nevertheless, she has the talent and the gears to go close.

Andre Fabre took the race with Esoterique in 2015 and has a leading contender in the Godolphin owned Usherette. She’s proved slightly disappointing this term, if a little unfortunate when third to Qemah in the Duke Of Cambridge at Ascot. Ridden from the front in the Rothschild, the change of tactics failed to spark improvement as she faded to sixth late-on. She did win a listed event last time, but will need to step forward again if she is to win this. Rain would probably help her cause, though I fancy she’ll find a few in better form on the day.

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The final French challenger is trained by Freddy Head. Siyoushake was fourth in last year’s race and has run consistently well this season without success. A close third to Roly Poly in the Rothschild (without looking likely to win), she then finished runner-up in a Group One over 10 furlongs. She’s a solid performer at this level, and is likely to be doing her best work late on.

Her trainer spoke earlier in the week: “Siyoushake is still in great condition and I have been very happy with her work. We tried her over a mile and a quarter last time but I think that a mile is her best trip. I think that she has improved since her fourth in this race last year. It’s been a very good season for her and she’s been placed in a couple of Group 1s.”

Persuasive leads the UK challenge, and Gosden’s filly currently heads the market. She was runner-up in last year’s Matron Stakes, and though only third this time round, possibly ran slightly better, when finishing with a real rattle in just failing to catch Ballydoyle’s Hydrangea and Winter. Her belated return to action this summer came in the Rothschild, when a strong finishing fifth behind Roly Poly, and there’s every chance she’ll be able to reverse that form. Favourites have a good recent record, and I fancy she’ll be flying at the finish.

Aljazzi is the other significant UK contender and trained locally by Marco Botti. Runner-up to Qemah in the Duke Of Cambridge at Royal Ascot when a 40/1 shot, she was very impressive last time when winning a Group Three at Sandown. Like Persuasive, she arrives here a relatively fresh filly and looks to be improving at a fair old rate. This is a hugely competitive renewal, but several of the leading players appear exposed, and the race may be open to an improving sort.

This is a tough race to call, and though I’m not convinced Roly Poly is as good as last year’s winner Alice Springs, she arrives here off the back of a very similar looking campaign. O’Brien clearly believes that she is hardy enough to take this on her eighth start of the season (identical number as Alice in 2016) and who am I to argue.

As O’Brien hunts down Bobby Frankel’s Group One winning record, I’ll take Roly Poly to land the Sun Chariot. Persuasive looks sure to go close, but still needs to prove she can win a Group One. She lacks gears for me, and though I see her finishing strongly she may find herself with a little too much ground to make up. Best of luck to those having a punt.

Majestic Enable Crowned Queen at Chantilly

Enable was duly crowned Queen of Chantilly, winning the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe with a performance of sheer majesty.

We hoped and prayed that Gosden’s outstanding filly would arrive in France at the peak of her powers. And it proved a five-star performance all-round, as she made it five Group One victories for the campaign, giving Frankie Dettori his fifth success in the Arc. Owner Khalid Abdullah was also securing his fifth victory in Europe’s most prestigious race.

Cometh the hour, cometh the man, and that man was the enigmatic Italian Lanfranco Dettori. Tactics were always going to play a huge part in the Arc, especially with a Ballydoyle ‘bunch of fives’ doing their utmost to spoil the party.

As anticipated by many, and no doubt by Frankie, a pair of O’Brien colts were immediately sent to the front in hope of unsettling the favourite, maybe even trapping the filly on the rail. Dettori was alert to such a manoeuvre, and having shadowed Idaho in a move towards the head of affairs, she was then switched outside of Order Of St George, as he made his move alongside his stable companion.

That piece of quick-thinking from the Italian enabled Enable a perfect ‘posi’ outside of the Ballydoyle boys, ensuring a clear passage once the moment came to strike. At the two-furlong mark Dettori could wait no more, and with a ‘Whoosh’ the flying filly was gone. She stretched four-lengths clear in the blink of an eye, with the Juddmonte International winner Ulysses doing his best to stay in her slipstream. Resistance proved futile and at the line Andre Fabre’s Cloth Of Stars ran on strongly to snatch second from Stoute’s courageous colt.

An emotional John Gosden said of his phenomenal filly: “She’s very special. She was well positioned by Frankie in order to show her sheer class and brilliance.” And of the future he added: “I think it would be hard on the filly to go to the Breeders’ Cup. If she’s in great form, we should consider next year. It would be wonderful to go to Longchamp, for the opening of the new Longchamp, and try and do it again.”

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Dettori was as exuberant as ever after the thrilling success, saying: “She won like I expected. She’s an absolute freak. I said to John last week that she’s the best she’s ever been. He’s a genius to keep this filly 100% for the whole season. I got in position A, and knew I had no weight, and I know she stays, so I kicked and she gave it to me and I put four lengths and the race was over.”

Sir Michael Stoute appeared satisfied with third-home Ulysses, saying: “He's run his race and there are no excuses regarding the ground as it rode well. I don't think he's had too hard a race and, if that's the case, we will take him to the Breeders' Cup Turf again.” His jockey Jim Crowley was also pleased with the performance, adding: “I had a lovely position throughout, tracking Enable. He picked up well for me when I asked him in the straight, but the winner must be an exceptional filly.”

Order Of St George proved best of Ballydoyle in fourth. Aidan O’Brien summarised by saying: “That was probably far enough for Winter and we might go back to a mile and a quarter for the race at Ascot (Qipco Champion Stakes). Seventh Heaven is getting better and Idaho was probably lit up a bit. Order Of St George ran very well and we might look at the two-mile race (Qipco British Champions Long Distance Cup) at Ascot.”

As for Enable, the thrill of victory was almost matched by the possibility of a return to action next season. She has proved herself peerless, and the prospect of witnessing such power and elegance during another summer campaign is simply glorious.

Enable – Queen of Chantilly

She’s proved peerless throughout the summer, and now John Gosden’s Enable heads to France to be crowned Queen of Chantilly.

A short-priced favourite for Sunday’s Arc, the dual-Oaks heroine has won her last five starts, including four at Group One level. She’s dished out punishing defeats to those of her own sex, and at Ascot in July proved devastating in defeating the boys in the King George VI And Queen Elizabeth Stakes. That victory came in testing conditions, though this stylish mover had arguably looked more impressive at the Curragh, when winning the Irish Oaks on quick ground.

She’s won going left-handed and she’s won going right. She’s been destructive on galloping tracks, stiff tracks and those that were tight. She’s been ridden prominently throughout the campaign, possessing a high cruising speed, but then when asked for her effort has shown an abundance of stamina in pulling clear of all opposition. I would envisage Frankie Dettori keeping things as simple as possible. He’ll likely settle the filly in behind the leader, before making his move with around three-furlongs to go. She’ll take some catching.

Ulysses is likely to be the one giving chase. Sir Michael Stoute’s progressive four-year-old was unable to live with the filly at Ascot, though he’s 3lbs better off, and the ground may well be less testing on Sunday. He’s a powerful traveller, and there’s likely to be a point in the straight when an upset appears on the cards. Jim Crowley rode him beautifully in the Juddmonte International at York, when waiting as long as possible before asking for maximum effort. The question is whether Ulysses can ‘creep’ close enough to Enable, to allow him to land a serious blow. There also remains a doubt over his ability to see-out this trip effectively.

Chances are that Aidan O’Brien’s battalion will be doing their utmost to unsettle the favourite. His three colts have an abundance of stamina, and will need a thorough end to end gallop if they are to have any chance of success. Order Of St George may be the one to take it on from the front, though Idaho could also force the issue. Despite both being high-class thoroughbreds, I’m struggling to envisage either having the ability to trouble the favourite. Quite simply, they both lack the speed to get Enable out of her comfort zone.

Ryan Moore surprised many by opting to ride dual-Guineas winner Winter. Clearly he believes she’s the only Ballydoyle entrant capable of beating Gosden’s filly. Though a four-time Group One winner, the worry for Winter fans, is whether she’ll see-out this extended trip. Her victory in the Nassau Stakes at Goodwood will give hope, and she’s given the impression throughout the campaign of being a ‘tough as teak’ sort. You have to go back to 1990 to find a winner of the Arc who was attempting the trip for the first time. There’s no doubting the magnitude of the task, but she’s hugely talented.

Though France has captured the lion’s share of Arcs, their recent record is no more than mediocre. They have four wins from the past 10 renewals, with Treve accounting for two of those.

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French Derby winner Brametot is arguably their best hope this time, though he has to overcome a poor last run, when trailing home fifth in a Group Two at Deauville. Jean Claude-Rouget appears confident that the colt is back on track, and he certainly looked a classy sort earlier in the campaign. He defeated Waldgeist at Chantilly, though the form took a knock when Andre Fabre’s colt could only manage fourth in the Irish Derby. Brametot is a horse with gears, and without doubt a contender. He’s also two from two at the track.

If the French are to be successful, I rather fancy that Alain de Royer-Dupre will be heavily involved. Twice the winning trainer with Aga Khan inmates, he runs four-year-old Zarak, a son of 2008 winner Zarkava. Runner-up to Almanzor in last year’s French Derby, it was a little surprising that he wasn’t then aimed at the Arc. He stayed-on well to win the Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud last time, and at around 16/1 he looks a decent each-way proposition.

Danedream won the Arc for Germany in 2011, and they have a leading contender this time in the four-year-old colt Dschingis Secret. His form at three was ordinary at best, but he’s improved a ton this year. He defeated Hawkbill in a Group One in Germany, and earlier this month looked good in winning the Prix Foy at Chantilly. He has to be on the shortlist for a place finish.

Finally, I feel that I have to mention Aidan O’Brien’s Seventh Heaven. I’m a huge fan of the filly, though her preparation for the Arc has been a disaster. Off the track since a stunning success in May, I was looking forward to her return at the Curragh three weeks ago, but she ran an absolute stinker. Practically tailed-off throughout the Group Two Blandford Stakes, it could be argued that her odds of 33/1 are actually a little skinny. Nevertheless, O’Brien has decided to send her over, and I could not resist a few quid each-way.

Fillies have a terrific recent record in the Arc, as do three-year-olds. The British and Irish have won five of the last 10, and though favourites haven’t got the best of records, I cannot see any other than Enable winning on Sunday. I would love to see her put in a stunning performance, and believe she will. Winter and Brametot are potential dangers, and I also expect Ulysses to go close. I’ve already backed Zarak and Seventh Heaven each-way, but if pushed would have Enable, Ulysses and Zarak as my one-two-three.

Best of luck to all of those having a punt. Let’s hope the filly does the business.