Trainer John Gosden will hold a strong hand in Saturday’s British Champions Fillies and Mares Stakes (G1) at Ascot in England, where he’ll saddle the top two betting choices in the 1 7/16-mile turf test.
Gosden’s star sophomores #11 Star Catcher and #3 Anapurna would loom as standouts regardless of course conditions, but the “good to soft” nature of the course should only enhance their chances.
Star Catcher, a daughter of Sea the Stars, is the preferred mount of acclaimed jockey Frankie Dettori, who has ridden both fillies to top-level triumphs. Star Catcher has four wins from five starts this season and has recorded consecutive victories in the Ribblesdale Stakes (G2) at Royal Ascot, the Irish Oaks (G1) at the Curragh and the Prix Vermeille (G1) at Longchamp, all at 1 1/2 miles.
In the Ribblesdale, Star Catcher was a comfortable winner over soft ground, so she shouldn’t be troubled by the rain-soaked course at Ascot. Likewise, Anapurna slogged her way through very soft ground at Longchamp two weeks ago to win the 1 3/4-mile Qatar Prix de Royallieu (G1).
The daughter of Frankel had previously showcased her class with a hard-fought triumph in the 1 1/2-mile Investec Oaks (G1) at Ascot. In between those triumphs, she was soundly beaten by Star Catcher in the Prix Vermeille, but she was returning from a layoff at the time and ran well below her best form. Can Anapurna reproduce her best while wheeling back two weeks after a tough effort at Longchamp?
For the exotics Aidan O’Brien’s consistent filly #6 Fleeting is an obvious contender to hit the board. Third in the Investec Oaks and runner-up in the Irish Oaks, Fleeting might be 0-for-7 this season, but she has competed in a half-dozen group 1 races and has held her own against some fine fillies and mares. A narrow runner-up effort over very soft turf in the Prix de l’Opera (G1) at Longchamp two weeks ago suggests she won’t have any trouble with the course.
If you’re looking for a longshot, you could do worse than consider the group 3 winner #2 Sun Maiden. A daughter of Frankel conditioned by Sir Michael Stoute, Sun Maiden has never run over soft ground, but her pedigree suggests a testing run over waterlogged ground might be in her wheelhouse. Frankel is the sire of Cracksman, a beastly soft-ground runner who romped by six lengths over such going in last year’s Champion Stakes (G1) at Ascot.
Let’s key Star Catcher on top in the trifecta, while using her three main challengers underneath.
$7 trifecta: 11 with 3,6 with 3,6 ($14)
$3 trifecta: 11 with 3,6 with 2 ($6)