Six top trainers seeking a Champions Day first
11 Oct 2018
Andrew Balding, Clive Cox, Richard Fahey, Richard Hannon, Sir Michael Stoute and Roger Varian are still seeking a first success on QIPCO British Champions Day.
Crystal Ocean, left, the King george runner-up, will seek to give Sir Michael Stoute a first success on QIPCO British Champions Day. Picture: Steve Davies/Racingfotos.com
What have Andrew Balding, Clive Cox, Richard Fahey, Richard Hannon, Sir Michael Stoute and Roger Varian got in common?
Brilliant trainers, all of them. But the answer we were looking for is that none of them have yet to taste success on QIPCO British Champions Day, despite saddling 91 runners between them
Will the eighth Champions Day, at Ascot on Saturday week (October 20), bring a breakthrough victory for any of them? We assess their chances.:
The Kingsclere handler has had 19 runners on Champions Day but the closest he has come to hitting the target has been with Whiplash Willie, fourth in the QIPCO British Champions Long Distance Cup in 2014, and Tullius, who filled the same position in the QIPCO-sponsored Queen Elizabeth II Stakes on the same card.
Balding’s principal hope this year appears to be Beat The Bank, a dual Group 2 winner this year bound for a second stab at the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes. Donjuan Triumphant (Sprint) and Horseplay are among his other Group 1 possibles, while he has South Seas and Zwayyan engaged in the Balmoral Handicap.
None of Clive Cox’s previous ten runners on Champions Day have fared better than fourth.
Electolysyer (QIPCO British Champions Long Distance Cup in 2012); My Dream Boat (QIPCO Champion Stakes in 2016) and Harry Angel (QIPCO British Champions Stakes Sprint last year) have all filled that position. The last-named went off 5/4 favourite, but faded in the closing stages.
Three years ago his Kodi Bear was also a leading fancy for the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes but trailed in eighth.
Harry Angel seeks to make amends in the Sprint Stakes and Cox also has Simply Breathless in the Balmoral.
Ribchester came close to giving Richard Fahey a first Champions Day winner last year when beating all bar Persuasive in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes – and it had been the same 12 months earlier when he was runner-up to Minding
Growl also finished runner-up for Fahey in the Sprint in 2016 at 50-1.
In total, he has sent 28 runners to Champions Day without quite pulling off a victory. His four entries this year range in price from 25-1 to 66-1.
Having only taken out a licence in 2014, Richard Hannon has had less opportunities than most to strike on Champions Day.
So far, he has had nine runners on the big day and most have been outsiders.
Night Of Thunder was the exception, starting 2-1 favourite for the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes four years ago and beating all bar Charm Spirit.
This year he has four possible runners in the Balmoral, so watch out for him in the finale.
The doyen of Newmarket training ranks has won big prizes all over the world during his decorated career but, so far, a win on Champions Day has eluded him.
Half of his 14 challengers have gone off at single-figure odds but none have finished closer than second, the position achieved by Poet’s Word in the QIPCO Champion Stakes last year.
Queen’s Trust was also third for him in the QIPCO British Champions Fillies & Mares Stakes in 2016.
Estimate, owned by the Queen, started 2-1 favourite for the QIPCO British Champions Long Distance Cup in 2013 but could finish only seventh.
This year, Stoute’s principal hopes appear to be Expert Eye in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes and Crystal Ocean in the Champion Stakes. They are chalked up at single-figure odds.
Newmarket-based Roger Varian has had 11 runners on Champions Day with the best of them being Belardo, who ran a cracker to be second in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes three years ago at 33-1.
His Zabeel Prince went off at 4-1 for the Balmoral Handicap last year but failed to figure. Morando had started 5-1 favourite for the same race 12 months before but could finish only seventh after meeting trouble in running.
Varian has three fancied contenders engaged in the Balmoral, including Mountain Hunter, and his four other possible runners on the day include Pilaster, an intriguing contender for the Fillies & Mares.