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Champions Day shaping into cracker with month to go

20 Sep 2018

Stablemates Roaring Lion, Cracksman, Stradivarius and Lah Ti Dar among potential star cast

Stradivarius has carried all before him this season and could start QIPCO British Champions Day with a bang. Picture:

With just a month to go until QIPCO British Champions Day at Ascot, we take a look at how the main contenders for the glittering six-race card are shaping up.

Race: Long Distance Cup (1.25pm)

Stradivarius has established himself as the outstanding stayer this year, winning the first four races in the Long Distance category of the Champions Series – the Mansionbet Yorkshire Cup, Gold Cup, Qatar Goodwood Cup and Weatherbys Hamilton Lonsdale Cup.

He sat out the Doncaster Cup last week but, provided his exertions have not left a mark this season, his connections have indicated he will return to the scene of his exciting Gold Cup success.

The four-year-old, trained by John Gosden, has yet to taste defeat this season and if successful would become only the second horse to win five Series races in the space of a season. The other? None other than Frankel, who achieved the feat in 2012.

He is already no bigger than Evens to sign off the season in style, although Capri, a best-priced 8-1, would be a fascinating rival if Aidan O’Brien heads him in this direction. He won the Irish Derby and St Leger last season, and did not shape badly in France last time after a lengthy break.

Race: QIPCO British Champions Sprint (2.00)

The past two winners, The Tin Man and Librisa Breeze, are on course to try and repeat their victories but be warned – the only horse to have twice won on Champions Day is Frankel.

The Tin Man was recording his third Group 1 win when landing the 32Red Sprint Cup last time at the main expense of Brando, who is set to reoppose. Harry Angel and Tasleet both failed to make an impact at Haydock but write them off at your peril.

There looks like being tremendous depth to the race with Blue Point, the King’s Stand winner, and City Light, beaten a whisker in the Diamond Jubilee Stakes, among other likely runners.

Race: QIPCO British Champions Fillies & Mares Stakes (2.40)

The first three home last year – Hydrangea, Bateel and Coronet – could all meet again and are prominent in the ante-post betting.

However, the one the might all have to beat is the exciting Lah Ti Dar, who met with the first defeat of  her career when runner-up to Kew Gardens in the William Hill St Leger last Saturday.

Connections blamed that defeat, partly, on her inexperience, but she will know more on Champions Day.

Forever Together, the runaway Investec Oaks winner, has to be on any shortlist. Sea Of Class, winner of the Irish Oaks and Darley Yorkshire Oaks, is also engaged, but seems more likely to run in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe.

Race: QIPCO-sponsored Queen Elizabeth II Stakes (3.15)

French-trained runners have won two of the past four renewals and Recoletos is the 3-1 ante-post favourite to improve their record.

The four-year-old did not convince with his stamina when fourth to Cracksman in the QIPCO Champion Stakes on Champions Day last year but again showed what he was capable of over a mile when landing the Prix du Moulin at Paris Longchamp on his latest start.

Accidental Agent, winner of the Queen Anne Stakes, and Lightning Spear, who scooped the Qatar Sussex Stakes, are possible runners, while it would be folly to discount such as Lord Glitters, Expert Eye, Beat The Bank and Addeybb.

Race: QIPCO Champion Stakes (3.50)

Roaring Lion thrived on his racing this season and made it three Group 1 wins in succession when clawing back Saxon Warrior in the QIPCO Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardstown last Saturday.

Before that he had put up a superb display when slamming six other Group 1 winners in the Juddmonte International Stakes, having previously landed the Coral-Eclipse. No wonder he is a best-priced 9-4 to win again.

Not that he will have it his own way if Cracksman, his stablemate, also lines up. He was a dazzling seven-length winner of the QIPCO Champion Stakes last year and Anthony Oppenheimer, his owner, is keen on him defending his title.

The Balmoral Handicap

Entries for the £250,000 mile handicap will be revealed next week and, if anything like last year, then expect 70 or so to initially throw their hats in the ring.

A maximum field of 20 will be allowed to take part, so only those with the highest ratings will make the cut.

Lord Glitters won last year’s renewal, with Accidental Agent fourth.

It shows the class that will be required to prevail.