Just about everybody is itching for the jumps campaign to get fully underway, but we aren’t quite at that point yet and there are some very big flat races taking place on Saturday. Seymour Biz runs the rule over the main action and provides 4 selections for your Lucky 15 wager. Find all previous UK racing previews in his weekly column: Saturday Horse Racing Tips.
I always feel that this Saturday’s meeting at Ascot is not put on for punters or racegoers, it’s for very rich owners and bookmakers, but hoorah, it’s Champions Day at Ascot on Saturday and all the top trainers will be there to try to pick up some big money in the end of season jamboree. As I’m sure you can tell this is not my favourite meeting of the year, it’s full of over the top horses who have had their day in in the sun in May, June, July and August and are now being asked to do it all again in the Ascot mud in October. That said I do hope Stradivarius can win for Gosden and Frankie. Soft going specialists may have been kept for this as they may have struggled on the firmer surfaces so with that in mind I have tried to find some value horses for the meeting. ITV have decided to concentrate all their efforts on Ascot to the detriment of all the other Saturday meetings but we can look forward to some decent jump action next week at Cheltenham. So here are my thoughts for this meeting along with this week’s Lucky 15.
The going at Ascot is going to decide every race on the card and none more so than the first race at 1.35, the Qipco British Champions Sprint Stakes. Officially the going is heavy on the round course and good/soft on the inner round course so it is all about how the horses deal with this. The straight course is good to soft, soft in places and this is where the Sprint is run. Favourite for the Sprint is Hello Youmzain who won the Sprint Cup at Haydock at the beginning of September after leading all the way. I don’t think he will get things all his own way this time. Martyn Meade pulled Advertise out that day due to the going so I am not hopeful he will run here, if he does I don’t think he will handle it. One Master is fancied after his fine victory at Longchamp earlier in the month. He has won at Ascot for William Haggas and performs on soft going so is in with every chance. Cape Byron is a course specialist, he has won here three times this year on all types of going but this is a big step up in class. Another mudlover from Andrew Balding’s yard is Donjuan Triumphant who was second behind Cape Byron here on his last outing. He is a classy performer with some give underfoot and is quite able to spring a surprise in these conditions.
At 2.45 we have the Qipco British Champions Fillies and Mares Stakes and John Gosden has a really strong hand here with Annapurna, Sparkle Roll and Star Catcher. The latter could be the best of the trio having lost only once this year and is a course and distance winner at Royal Ascot in June where the going was soft. Her latest victory was at Longchamp in September. Another trainer with a strong hand here is Aidan O’Brien who runs Delphinia, Fleeting, Pink Dogwood and South Sea Pearl with Fleeting looking the best of the bunch, however she has gone down three times to Star Catcher and I don’t in all reality see her getting her revenge. All these top fillies could be trumped by Dermot Weld’s Tarnawa who has won her last two races at the Curragh and Cork. They were fine preparation outings for this as the Cork surface was yielding/soft and she came home comfortably, she could be the answer here.
The Queen Elizabeth ll Stakes is at 3.20 and it has attracted a tremendous field. Current favourite is The Revenant, a French challenger from the yard of F H Graffard. He is unbeaten this year on the continent latterly at Longchamp in very soft ground. He will find the same conditions here at Ascot and will take all the beating. Among the challengers is Benbatl from Saeed Bin Suroor’s stable, he has only raced once this year and that was at Newmarket in September but he has only ever won on good going so I must pass him over. Lord Glitters won the Balmoral here two years ago on soft and has since moved up to Group company successfully, he won at the Royal meeting and trainer, David O’Meara is hoping he can add another victory at his favourite course where he is a dual winner. But I have my eye on the 2000gns winner from Aidan OBrien’s yard, Magna Grecia. After his fine victory at Newmarket he was disappointing at the Curragh but has not been seen since, if O’Brien has worked his magic the colt will be suited by the going and he may well taste success again
The big betting race of the day is the Balmoral Handicap at 4.40 on the mile straight course. Top weight is the Cambridgeshire winner Lord North but John Gosden’s top class gelding has never won at Ascot and seems to prefer better going than he will find here. Coolagh Forest was a winner at York last week where he kept on strongly but with a 6lb penalty he will be held here. Kynren finally broke his duck for the season here at Ascot at the beginning of the month, and while he never seems to run a bad race for trainer David Barron he is another with 6lb extra on his back. Another Gosden horse, Kick On, has won last time out and that was a Class 1 race also it was on good/soft going at Salisbury and he could figure in the finish. But I am going to side with a proven mud lover and that is Ralph Beckett’s Mitchum Swagger who ran here at the Royal meeting but didn’t get a clear run and finished 8 lengths behind the winner, Afaak. He did win on soft at Newmarket last November and given a good draw can provide a shock here.
Saturday E/W Ascot Lucky 15
1.35 Donjuan Triumphant
3.20 Magna Grecia
4.40 Mitchum Swagger