Weather a key factor on British Champions Day

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Alastair Bull

October 19th, 2017

It hasn’t taken long for British Champions Day, held at Ascot Oct. 21, to become one of the best racedays in the world.

Founded in 2011 by combining two Ascot feature races and three from Newmarket, it has once again drawn outstanding fields.

However, punters this year will need to keep a close eye on the weather. Rain is predicted, which would change the likely outcomes of many of the races.

The card begins with the two-mile British Champions Long Distance Cup (G2). The two horses that fought out the Ascot Gold Cup return: the winner, Big Orange, and the runner-up, Order of St. George. The latter is favorite, in part because it’s known he will handle any track conditions, whereas Big Orange needs it firm. It would pay to watch Order of St. George prior to the race to see how he’s recovered after finishing fourth in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe three weeks ago.

Taking them on is the 3-year-old Stradivarius, who beat Big Orange in the Goodwood Cup before finishing third to Capri in the St Leger. He should handle soft ground. Doncaster Cup winner Desert Skyline looks the best of the others.

The 3-year-olds Harry Angel and Caravaggio, both of whom seem to handle all tracks, look the ones to beat in the six-furlong British Sprint Stakes (G1). Caravaggio, from the Aidan O’Brien stable, beat Godolphin’s Harry Angel in the Commonwealth Cup at Royal Ascot, but Harry Angel has since won the July Cup and the Haydock Sprint Cup.

Caravaggio was fourth in the July Cup and sixth in the Prix Maurice de Gheest. He found winning form again in the Flying Five Stakes, but needs to improve to beat Harry Angel. Last year’s winner Quiet Reflection and the Diamond Jubilee Stakes winner The Tin Man are the best of the older horses.

O’Brien and John Gosden provide half the entries for the 1 ½-mile Filly & Mare Stakes (G1) between them. O’Brien’s best chance is Matron Stakes winner Hydrangea, though she is unproven at 1 ½ miles. Gosden saddles the favorite Journey, winner of this last year, though she will have to reverse the form with French mare Bateel, who beat her in the Prix Vermeille. Gosden’s 3-year-old filly Coronet, second to super mare Enable in the Yorkshire Oaks, can’t be ignored.

Europe’s leading miler Ribchester seeks his fourth group one victory of the year in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes (G1). Against him is O’Brien’s dual Guineas winner Churchill, whose form has tapered off since those triumphs, and the exciting Beat the Bank, who takes on group one company for the first time.

The climax of the day is the 1 ¼-mile Champion Stakes (G1). The favorite is Cracksman, winner of the Great Voltigeur Stakes and Prix Niel at his last two starts. Coming back in distance from 1 ½ miles, he takes on Barney Roy, placed behind Breeders’ Cup-bound Ulysses at his past two starts, and French Derby winner Brametot.

Breeders’ Cup Turf winner Highland Reel would be a great chance if the rain stays away, but soft ground would likely ruin his chances. Irish Champion Stakes runner-up Poet’s Word should not be forgotten.