Andrew Balding: I can see Fox Tal placing in Champion Stakes
The Betway ambassador previews all six races and assesses his four runners' chances on Champions Day at Ascot this Saturday.
It was a brilliant performance from Shadn who dispelled the slight ground concerns we had to win the Criterium de Maisons-Laffitte. It was a gusty performance from a small filly with a big heart, who hasn’t run a bad race all season.
Saturday at Ascot
Champions Day at Ascot is always fiercely competitive, so with any horses we run we’re always hopeful rather than confident and this year is no different.
Donjuan Triumphant runs in the Champions Sprint (13:35), a race he was third in last year. He loves getting his toe in and with the race being run on the straight course at Ascot, he’ll certainly be getting his favoured conditions.
He has been a fabulous servant for our yard and we will miss having him around. He’ll now be off to France, where he’ll be on stallion duties.
We run Cleonte in the Long Distance Cup (14:10) where we’ve all got to try and beat the mighty Stradivarius , who just keeps on winning.
Cleonte was disappointing last time out but we’re inclined to put a line through that. We know how much of a tough task we face, however, he likes Ascot and has a solid each-way chance on his Doncaster Cup form.
We don’t have a runner in the Fillies’ and Mares’ race (14:45), but I quite like Ralph Beckett’s horse, Antonia De Vega .
At this time of year you never quite know how much racing a horse can take until they’re on a racecourse, and John Gosden’s two fillies have had long, hard seasons, racing in top-class races.
Ralph’s horses are in tremendous form – they’re red hot – but Antonia De Vega is lightly-raced and comes here fresh, which could be a huge advantage.
Happy Power goes in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes (15:20) and on the best of his form, I think he has an each-way squeak.
He really does need soft ground – it’s imperative for him. The only two times he’s had ground anywhere near as soft as he’d like it this season was at Newbury and York, where he was successful both times.
This is much tougher but we’re hopeful he’ll outrun his odds with conditions set to be in his favour.
We’ve taken a slight punt in supplementing Fox Tal for the Champion Stakes (16:00) and we’re hoping it was a wise decision that will pay off.
We were correct in our thinking that the race would cut up and we come here off the back of a good win at Doncaster.
Whilst plenty of the others in the race have had long seasons, we’re going to Ascot with a fresh horse and on his homework, he certainly deserves a place in the field. Inexperience might just go against him on such a busy day, but he’s got a touch of class and I can see him running into a place.
We don’t have a runner in the Balmoral Handicap (16:40), but I’d say Lord North will be very hard to beat.
He won the Cambridgeshire in great style and again, he’s a lightly-raced horse against lots of exposed types. He ran well at Ascot in September, looks as though he’d enjoy any cut in the ground and I expect him to take all of the beating.
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