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Dreaming of Champions Day glory

13 Oct 2016

I have a busy few days ahead, with plenty of rides, but I just cannot wait for Saturday and Champions Day.

This is the day that you want to be riding at, the day that you dream about when you start riding as a jockey, and I’m very lucky to be able to kick things off in the opener!

It looks a really hot renewal of the QIPCO Long Distance Cup and I’m delighted that Simple Verse is taking her chance over the longer trip. She’s coming into the race fresher than most and seems to be in great heart at home. You’ve got a previous winner of the race in the shape of Forgotten Rules and although Order of St George is a Gold Cup winner and ran well in the Arc, he won’t have had an easy race there.

I saw my old friend Litigant work at Kempton on Monday and he seems in super order as well. Joe (Tuite) is very happy with him and it is testament to him that he is back in that shape after nearly a year off.

The Sprint is also very interesting and you have Quiet Reflection, Shalaa and Twilight Son all drawn next to each other in 9, 10, 11. Last year’s runner-up Twilight Son is coming into the race fresh and appreciates a bit of cut in the ground, but I think Shalaa will come out on top.

Physically he looked like he would come on for the run over course and distance two weeks ago and he impressed me by doing it the hard way. He was a bit fresh and then toughed it out in front without coming in for a hard ride from Frankie.

In the Fillies & Mares, you couldn’t have been more impressed with Zhukova this year and she’s been aimed at the race by Dermot Weld. She’s still relatively lightly raced and her best is probably still to come. As usual Aidan holds a very strong hand with three runners, whilst Oaks runner-up Architecture could also run a very big race.

There’s a massive field turning out for the QEII and Minding is getting weight from all of us. She wasn’t beaten far in the Irish Champion and a repeat of that form would probably see her hard to beat. For me she has the edge over Ribchester, Galileo Gold and Awtaad.

My ride Lightning Spear is the best of the older horses and has been freshened up since winning the Celebration Mile at Goodwood. He’s drawn next to Minding in 7, there looks to be plenty of pace in the race and we couldn’t be happier with him. I will certainly be having a pretty long think between now and Saturday at 3.10pm about tactics!

The feature QIPCO Champion Stakes looks an absolutely fascinating clash and something that racegoers are going to be very lucky to see! This has been the target all year for Fascinating Rock, but is the ground soft enough? Jack Hobbs, who was sent off odds-on for the race last year, really pleased the eye in a recent spin at Kempton and My Dream Boat loves Ascot.

But the main draw is the head to head between Almanzor and Found. If the French horse wins, he will probably be the highest-rated horse in the world, and rightly so. He has a lovely draw in 1 and has the excellent Christophe Soumillon on board. It will be tricky for Ryan on Found from her outside draw and Almanzor might be hard to catch.

The closing Balmoral looks as competitive as ever. The Andrew Balding-trained pair of Here Comes When and Tullius have both been working well. The former is a proper Group horse on his day and I wouldn’t be surprised if he ran a big race at a big price. Tullius is full of his old enthusiasm at home, whilst Master The World should run well, too.

Horse to Follow: STAR STORY
She’s one of the nicest two-year-old fillies that we have and will handle some cut in the ground. I like her a lot.