A Long Overdue Ode to Tiger Roll

It is always irritating, especially when you’re in a “business” where people expect what you say to be proven right, when a statement of yours turns out to be shockingly, horribly wrong.

One such example occurred around ten months ago. Advising m family on who to pick for the Grand National, I picked four horses, as you will be able to see in my blog post about the race last year. They were: Anibale Fly (4th), Baie Des Iles (12th & last…), Total Recall (Pulled up) and Pleasant Company (2nd). Overall, that’s not bad and given Pleasant Company was a stride away from winning, I’d rate the prediction a 6 or 7 out of 10.

However, I was also unequivocally convinced about one other thing. I was asked by a few people about the chances of Tiger Roll. My answer: no chance, he’s too small.

My irrational fear of small horses in the Grand National started in 2016 when I confidently tipped up Holywell, a horse with proven class and stamina and a decent jumping record only for him to look terrified as his jockey led him up to have a look at the first, clout it when he actually got there and then fall at the second. It was my first proper bet in the Grand National, the race I love more than any other, having just turned 18 and it was an experience I would rather forget.

It was with this knowledge that I shook my head at any thought of Tiger Roll winning last year’s Grand National. You can imagine my frustration when the gutsy little bugger held on.

It has taken me a while to live it down, but it is time to hold my hands up and admit that Tiger Roll really is some racehorse. His effortless victory in a 2m4f Grade Two hurdle made no sense for a Grand National winner and yet he absolutely hacked up. It was a disdainful victory and a largely humorous one too. Tiger Roll proved that he not only had stamina and heart in abundance, but talent remains as well.

His almost unfeasible versatility is something to be admired and cherished. Punters and trainers alike so often pigeonhole horses as 2-milers or 3-milers that we miss out on clashes between the best. With Tiger Roll, there is no issue. He can win Triumph Hurdles over 2 miles and Nationals over 4 1/2.

Longevity is often cited as the key attribute for a publicly cherished racehorse and while Tiger Roll is now in his sixth season, his ability to turn up wherever he likes and give his all to win every time is surely a more potent heartwarmer.

He has gone from being the bane of my 2018, to one of my naps of 2019. God bless Tiger Roll and all he stands for. Racing needs more of him in the years to come.

Why this season’s big handicap winners may pay handsomely at Cheltenham (Also, hello again!)

Its been far too long since I wrote a post on this blog which simply won’t do. Fortunately, a little titbit popped into my head earlier that I realise may well be worth following.

This season, all of Global Citizen, God’s Own, Frodon, Aso, Paisley Park and Elegant Escape have won major handicaps. Barring any serious mishap befalling any of them before March, I believe all six to be players for the five major Grade Ones at the Festival.

We’ll start in the Champion Hurdle division. Global Citizen has since played his part in successive group races after winning the Geoffrey Fielden/Intermediate Hurdle at Newbury at the beginning of December. He was no match for Verdana Blue and Buveur D’Air in the Christmas Hurdle on Boxing Day but wasn’t beaten as far as initially realised having torn off in front and hung left into the straight. Back on a left-handed track most recently he made light enough work of Silver Streak and Western Ryder in the Champion Hurdle Trial at Haydock.

Those two were also defeated by Brain Power in the International Hurdle at Cheltenham, but he was in receipt of weight from those rivals and beat them by a smaller margin than Ben Pauling’s seven-year-old. Their prices, to me, do not reflect their levels of performance with Brain Power a best priced 16/1 while Global Citizen is available for some at 33/1.

With the Irish form looking mixed at best, Samcro looking more like Samslow (thanks to Paul Kealy for the nickname) and even Buveur D’Air now left with a few questions to answer, Global Citizen looks a value each-way bet at this stage with seven weeks until the off.

God’s Own, meanwhile, is unfortunate to be challenging in one of the most competitive ever divisions in National Hunt racing. Despite the competition, it is a class still utterly dominated, to boot, by a superstar in Altior.

He has been a likeable two-mile chaser for six seasons now and won his second Haldon Gold Cup at Exeter in November when fending off Ozzie The Oscar, a subsequent winner, off a mark of 156. No mean feat for a horse two months shy of his eleventh birthday.

Yet, there have been no signs that his enthusiasm has waned this season compared to last. He followed up victory with a creditable second behind the vastly improved Charbel in the Peterborough Chase and has an admirably consistent record in the Champion Chase. Third last year (at 40/1) behind Altior and Min, he was beaten fewer than ten lengths in both 2016 & 2017 while also being runner-up over course and distance to Un De Sceaux in the 2015 Arkle.

He won’t beat Altior, but with Footpad having failed to scale the heights of last season, Min and Fox Norton harbouring alternative options and Un De Sceaux and Simply Ned ageing just the same, many ahead of God’s Own have as many, if not more, question marks hanging over them. At 50/1, he may well give punters a grand each-way run.

So far, the thesis has been sufficient to provide each-way value, but the next two named may be potentials for the winners enclosure on St Patricks Thursday.

Both Frodon and Aso have returned victorious from Grade Three handicaps at Prestbury Park so far this season. What they have in common on top of that, is they both did so off top weight.

Frodon bombarded the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup field with a succession of exuberant leaps under Bryony Frost despite his diminutive stature. Off a mark of 164, it was one of the standout performances of the season and only Waiting Patiently is rated above him in the antepost market for the Ryanair. He flopped in that last season, but Paul Nicholls’ charge is still only seven and has surely improved. He is currently a highest-priced 16/1.

Aso returned from 13 months off the track with a decisive victory at Newbury in November which sparked a golden spell of form for Venetia Williams. Raised 8lb, he proved it was no fluke when, like Frodon, he won from the front at Cheltenham on New Year’s Day. His mark at the time was 158. Having already run a big race in the Ryanair when third to Un De Sceaux in 2017, he is another who looks a revitalised beast. Even with 6lb still to find with Frodon on official ratings, 20/1 looks value for a horse who looks more than set to challenge.

The widest open of the Cheltenham showpieces is certainly the Stayers Hurdle with last year’s hero Penhill at the head of the market even though its likely we won’t see him until the Festival itself. Behind him, Apple’s Jade and Supasundae have other engagements lined up and so we fall on Emma Lavelle’s Paisley Park.

There will be some concern that he finished only thirteenth in last season’s Albert Bartlett behind Kilbricken Storm, but he has racked up three successive victories this season, the first two in handicap company. To cement his reputation to the doubters, he won the JLT Hurdle (registered as the Long Walk) at Ascot for his first Grade One success, making him the spearhead of the British assault.

Ultimately, he looks a different prospect this season, so the Albert Bartlett showing can be put down to anomaly. Much like Sam Spinner last season, his form is the one to surpass this and 11/1 will be a price to keep an eye on as the Festival nears.

Finally, I’m putting my head on the line, ready to be jeered into submission depending on the result come Saturday. Elegant Escape will win the Gold Cup.

Now, I’m not normally one for trends. Nevertheless, Elegant Escape fits gloriously into an ultra-successful category of Gold Cup types. He is the fourth horse since 1994 to win the Welsh Grand National off a weight of 11st 6lb. The previous three have all gone on to win Cheltenham’s Blue Riband (Master Oats ’94, Synchronized ’10 and Native River ’16).

Having finished a gallant third in last season’s RSA and runner-up in the Ladbrokes Trophy, he has rock solid form in the book and is shaping better than ever this season. He has guts, bottomless stamina and emerging quality, all of which bode well for the big one. With the favourite yet to show this season and a number of the pretenders falling below par this season, Elegant Escape’s price of 33/1 will look even more generous if he wins this weekend’s Cotswold Chase (less so if he’s well beaten).

The six-piece would certainly pay off as an accumulator at least.



Boxing Day at Kempton

I haven’t done one of these for a while but, as it’s Christmas, I’m previewing the entire card at Kempton to come up with a few selections.

The opening novices’ hurdle (12:50) is as open as they come, a theme which the rest of the day follows. Didtheyleaveyououto and Thomas Darby had little between them when they met last month and the latter is now 3lb better off but THE BIG BITE is two from two over hurdles thus far and is already rated at least 6lb superior to them both. He won very easily at Haydock latest and would benefit from any rain which may fall before Wednesday. Mister Fisher and Rouge Vif can also be considered as likely improvers.

  1. The Big Bite
  2. Thomas Darby
  3. Didtheyleaveyoutto

(1:20) This novices’ handicap was won last year by the progressive Mister Whitaker and it pays to have recent winning form in the book. As such, LOUGH DERG SPIRIT, who has won his only race over fences looks to hold the key for Nicky Henderson. He was among the antepost favourites for the 2017 Supreme and faced some very tough assignments towards the end of last season over hurdles when finishing midfield in handicaps won by Kalashnikov, Blow By Blow and Soul Emotion, all of whom have gone on to bigger and better things. He won well enough at Wetherby on his chasing bow to suggest 136 is a mark keeping him onside. Dell Oro may have bumped into a useful opponent on his fencing debut while Vivas has already won thrice over fences and could spring a surprise.

  1. Lough Derg Spirit
  2. Dell Oro
  3. Vivas

(1:55) Named after Kauto Star, this novice chase looks set to live up to the name of Paul Nicholls’ quintuple King George winner. Santini could be a monster in waiting and the form of his first run over fences has worked out improbably well. Then again, arguably more impressive was TOPOFTHEGAME’s second in a hot race won by Defi Du Deuil when left 20 lengths at the start upon whipping round. The step up in trip will suit this giant horse. Both Bags Groove and The Worlds End jumped superbly during recent victories and if the rain stays away both will shorten while the mare La Bague Au Roi looks the most exposed of the likely candidates despite her 7lb allowance.

  1. Topofthegame
  2. Santini
  3. The Worlds End

(2:30) A BUVEUR D’AIR defeat in the Christmas Hurdle would be the shock of the season but that almost certainly won’t happen. Verdana Blue has proven that she’s a useful stablemate but the best bet could be to go Global Citizen each way as he’s achieved form of second, first despite pulling the arms off his rider on both occasions. If he settles, even in this field, he could prove he has the heart for this level though he will be significantly inferior to the dual champion hurdler.

(3:05) If Might Bite had even shown an ounce of his ability on comeback in the Betfair Chase, he’d be an easy option in what is the most puzzling of championships. His Haydock flop makes him too difficult to side with despite being the defending title holder here. Native River could find this on the quick side though he is a doughty battler and he will likely give punters a run for their money. That said, his run here as a novice doesn’t inspire confidence so both heart and head side minutely with THISTLECRACK. He won this as a novice two seasons back and though he’s had just three runs over fences since, his third in the Betfair inspired huge confidence that he retains his swagger, especially as he’s capable of jumping far better. Kempton’s flat track evidently suits him and he will stay better than young pretender Waiting Patiently. Ruth Jefferson’s star is undefeated over obstacles but he is having his first run in over ten months and he is thrown right in the deep end. Politologue’s connections are remarkably bullish for their grey’s first run over three miles but he gave weight and a length to subsequent Grade Two winner Charbel when winning at Ascot last month and he has a fair shout. A mention to Double Shuffle at 33/1 as he surprised us all with a huge run last season and horses for courses have performed particularly well so far this season – he could again.

  1. Thistlecrack     2. Politologue    3.Might Bite

(3:40) Although Ballyandy may well be suited on his return to hurdles ERICK LE ROUGE has been in top form recently and can continue his winning run with 7lb claimer Chester Williams likely to be a benefit. Stowaway Magic is a potential danger as well.

  1. Erick Le Rouge
  2. Ballyandy
  3. Stowaway Magic

Big Races, Small Fields

The Betfair Chase on Saturday was a joy to behold. Five of England’s top staying chasers not only went to post, but had a chance turning into the final straight with Haydock specialist Bristol De Mai tanking to victory from Gold Cup hero Native River.

It was no doubt the highlight of the season so far in Britain and Ireland but for the biggest Grade One this side of Christmas, why were only five horse entered? Is there a dearth of quality among the top rank of there-milers?

I’d suggest not. Not a single novice from last season took their chance at Haydock while the likes of Definitly Red, the Charlie Hall winner, Double Shuffle and Tea For Two, among others, were all absent for reasons which don’t involve injury. Furthermore, there wasn’t a single challenging raider from Ireland.

The problem of small fields in big races exists in the Emerald Isle too, however and arguably to an even greater extent. The recent Morgiana Hurdle, which initially looked set to provide a stellar field, consisted of just four runners, won by Sharjah, a horse who should lack the quality for that level. Three of those four were trained by Willie Mullins and the fourth, Tombstone, had no realistic chance anyway.

Looking ahead to the weekend, both the Ladbrokes Trophy and Fighting Fifth at Newbury and Newcastle respectively, possess fields which could yet implode. The former is down to thirteen runners, the smallest field for the race this century and ludicrously low for such a massive handicap. The latter is reliant on Samcro’s participation which we’ve learnt to take with a pinch of salt. Whether he runs or not, the race looks stronger than average but another five-runner Grade One without him would be a disappointment once more.

Either race could yet shrink significantly further, trainers regularly expressing concerns about suitable ground. National Hunt horses traditionally prefer a bit of cut yet “good” ground is often seen as too quick nowadays. Surely the mere definition of “good” ground is that it is the soundest and most appropriate surface for horses to race on. Either this definition needs changing or the rules require an update with regards non-runners. “Good” ground should not be taken as an excuse for a horse’s absence.

However, particularly with the pressure of mega-rich owners desperate to see their horses win whenever they run, it is understandable that a trainer may want to be absolutely certain conditions are in their favour. Similarly, it is not simply an affliction that affects the top of the game.

A recent example of tiny fields at a run-of-the-mill meeting, and a deeply concerning one at that, occurred at Kempton earlier in the week when just nine runners lined up across the opening three races. For a track whose closure has been threatened, this can only ramp up the pace. Kempton is an historic racecourse but it seems that the sport it calls family is not too willing to save it.

The King George on Boxing Day will no doubt raise the alarm once more and the race is set up to be an intriguing affair whatever the size of the field. It would nevertheless be fabulous if we had a double-figure field. For that, we may need a couple of windmill-touting hopefuls but Double Shuffle was a 50/1 second last year and Tea For Two not much lower in the market in third. Shocks are possible even with the highest prizes at stake.

Nowadays, those highest prizes are under exclusive ownership of Cheltenham racecourse. As much as I love the Festival in March, and it is a truly wonderful time of year, perhaps it has become too mighty. There has rarely been any issue attracting horses to run at Prestbury Park (Footpad scared away the opposition in the Arkle this year and the Ryanair is a reserve race for horses unsure of their chances in the Champion Chase or Gold Cup so their smaller line-ups are understandable), nor will there be in a few months time. There is too much prestige to the point where the general rhetoric about race fitness, even as early as November, is that a horse’s ultimate aim is to be fully equipped for Cheltenham. Anything gained in the interim is a bonus.

Grade One status is not the same as Cheltenham status. Whoever wins the Fighting Fifth, whether that be Buveur D’Air, Samcro or Summerville Boy (or one of the other three, for as I’ve stated, shocks are possible) the celebrations will only be supplemented by claiming the Champion Hurdle. If anything, defeat in the latter would be made even more bitter with victory on Saturday. The higher you rise, the further you fall.

How the BHA could lessen the appeal of Cheltenham I do not know, although Brexit could well make the Irish opposition less prevalent in future years. Until then, we may have to accept smaller fields for the purpose of both quantity and quality come the Festival. It is an investment that pays rich dividends once a year but for most spectators it is worth it.

For now we are all left to question, as Ed Chamberlain just has through my headphones, “where are all the runners?”

Is the 2016 Supreme Novices’ Hurdle the greatest race ever run at the Cheltenham Festival?

There have been some classic contests at Cheltenham down the years, some standing out in particular due to the appearance of multiple champion horses at once. The Champion Hurdles of the late 1970s, featuring Night Nurse and Monksfield, the two highest rated hurdlers ever, stand out, while in 1964, Arkle defeated Mill House in the Gold Cup, both of whom would subsequently rank as the leading duo in the history of staying chasers.

Champion Hurdles and Gold Cups are supposed to throw the best together, however. Sometimes, by sheer coincidence, the same generation of novices throw up an exceptional number who are capable of shock and awe.

The 2012 Arkle comes close as a contest of this nature. Not only was it won by the most glamorous 2-mile chaser ever in Sprinter Sacre but in behind, from second downwards, were Cue Card, one of the most popular and successful heroes of his generation, Menorah, who would win a Grade One the following month before adding four straight Oaksey Chases at Sandown to a long-lasting career, and Al Ferof, who had already won the Supreme and Henry VIII over obstacles before serially winning thereafter. Yet even this form pales in comparison to the 2016 Supreme Novices.

The winner needs no introduction. Altior is still unbeaten over obstacles, subsequently winning the Arkle in 2017 and the Champion Chase in 2018, jumping and bursting to life with an imperial excellence and elegance that has seen him go unmatched since this victory. For a record-breaking race you need a record-breaking winner for which Altior delivers the goods.

The runner-up, Min, chased him home in this year’s Champion Chase but up to that point, he’d only ever been beaten past the post by Altior (Simply Ned was only awarded victory against him in the stewards’ room post-race). He can also claim to be a Group One winner and has a chase rating of 167 which would usually see him clear of reasonable opposition.

Behind this duo, trailed in Buveur D’Air. Only good enough for third behind two novices he has won the last two Champion Hurdles in open company. He may not even have had to improve but has gone undefeated over hurdles since defeat two years ago. No more needs saying.

Further back, Tombstone is a former conqueror of Champion Hurdler Jezki at Grade Two level while Charbel won a handicap chase off 154 recently, suggesting he has a significant touch of class. Yet it is in seventh, eighth, ninth and 13th where more subsequent stars lay in wait.

The first of those, Supasundae, is now an Irish and Punchestown Champion hurdler at the highest level, defeating the “Machine” Faugheen in the first of those. He has also been a winner at the Cheltenham Festival having lifted the Coral Cup in 2017. Top class once more.

Just below him came Petit Mouchoir. Third in the 2017 Champion Hurdle he had previously won two Grade Ones in Ireland, beating the mighty Footpad in the latter of those. He has embarked on a career over fences but could continue to be hugely successful in either discipline.

In ninth was North Hill Harvey, a horse who beat the highly promising Sceau Royal over fences at Cheltenham as well as winning the Greatwood handicap hurdle and a Grade Two novice chase to boot. He tragically lost his life when running in the Grand Annual at this year’s festival, a crying shame as he had the potential to reach the top over the larger obstacles.

Last but not least, in 13th came Bellshill, who hadn’t the pace to cope with Altior and co but proved his stamina and ability when landing the small matter of the Punchestown Gold Cup back in April.

Looking back, it really was a stunning line-up for the curtain raiser. Even those who have gone on to achieve less have proven more than effective. All of Mister Miyagi, William H Bonney, Holly Bush Henry, Penglai Pavillion and Silver Concorde have won at least one race since, all of which were of a decent standard.

The final comparison must be made with this year’s event. In producing a late burst to collar Kalashnikov, Summerville Boy earned an RPR (Racing Post Rating) of 156. In finishing third to stablemate Altior, Buveur D’Air achieved an RPR of 157, the winner reaching a supposed mark of 166, almost unheard of for a novice. All 14 who contested 2016’s running achieved a better rating than those who finished 10th or below this year (19 runners).

Between them, the Supreme class of 2016 have won a staggering 56 races since Altior first stormed up the Cheltenham hill. It’s a phenomenal record that looks set to grow and grow during this season and beyond.

If there’s been a race at Cheltenham that betters it in quality, I’d love to see it.

Winx: Unbelievable, Untouchable and at last, an Undisputed Champion

Arsenal’s Invincibles are, rightly, considered to have achieved a status of immortality having gone the 2003/04 season undefeated. Winx, likewise, rose into another realm of greatness after her 29th successive victory in the Cox Plate, a race she was winning for the fourth straight year. But why has it taken so long for her to be accepted as a sporting goddess?

It is difficult for any horse anywhere in the world to string together a run of successes at the top level. A glance at the form of some of the UK’s greats of recent years highlights that. Cracksman has so often looked imperious and yet even he has been beaten this year, behind Poet’s Word in the Prince of Wales’ Stakes. Enable is, to all intents and purpose, our Winx, an elegant but ruthless champion. Yet she has lost within the space of the last two seasons, far more recently than Australia’s equivalent.

So to end up with an unbeaten run stretching back over three-and-a-half years, encompassing 22 Group Ones, the last ten of which have been won in an unbroken sequence, is a feat unworthy of entertaining discussion. Yet, there has been one and one that continues to be hotly debated.

It is worth putting in context with the aforementioned Arsenal team’s achievements. They went 38 games unbeaten at the top level although their only genuine opposition that season were Manchester United, who they came within a width of a crossbar of losing to. Nevertheless, their feat is incredible and no experts deny this. However, in football, unlike in racing, going undefeated does not insist upon victory. To wit, Arsenal drew twelve of their thirty-eight games. Winx, of course, has relied purely upon passing the post in front. No ties, nothing comparable.

The most important thing about Winx’s run is that she has garnered a following that extends far beyond racing fans and experts. Enable is special but her charms do not yet include those of marketability that Winx possesses. Indeed, not since Frankel and Kauto Star passed into retirement in 2011-12, has there been a horse who has captured a significant part of the public’s imagination.

Whereas celebrations at Longchamp were for a champion, those at Moonee Valley yesterday were for an adopted daughter of the Australian nation. Their prodigy not only put on a show but proved a point to a number of her doubters, including a number of the English media. And if there’s anything Australians love more than anything else, its a sporting victory over the sceptical Poms.

The form, in my opinion, can no longer be crabbed either. True, in terms of ratings, European horses have been stronger than their Australian counterparts for the last few years and they have even started to dominate the Southern Hemisphere’s big prizes. But in beating Benbatl, a horse known to be a good traveller, with Group One victories in Germany, Dubai and in Caulfield’s Ladbrokes Stakes, she has defeated one of the UK’s globetrotting superstars.

Realistically, exporting Enable or Cracksman was never on the cards. That should not detract from the performances of the Gosden duo, nor the near excessive streak of Winx. They live at opposing poles and the excuse of travel would be all too easy a backboard for the trainer of whomever lost the battle.

I think Winx would win. In a match over 1m2f, I have seen nothing that would dissuade me from that opinion. It needn’t matter though. She is a great and whatever occurs from this day forward, she has nothing left to prove.

British Champions Day

John Gosden runs no fewer than four hotly fancied favourites on the final showpiece of the flat racing year. I preview all six races on the card with Gosden only responsible for two winners:

Long Distance Cup:

STRADIVARIUS has been close to unstoppable all season in trips beyond two miles. Crucially, however, he has a spot of class to go with his stamina and his mark of 120 does not do his ability justice. Flag Of Honour is rightfully considered a danger as he has improved markedly for stepping up in distance but the selection is a different animal to any he’s faced so far. Thomas Hobson’s victory in the Doncaster Cup should see him run on for minor honours.

  1. Stradivarius
  2. Flag Of Honour
  3. Thomas Hobson

Champions Sprint:

Victory in this last year ensures respect must be given to Librisa Breeze with the ground as soft as he’s received all season. Nevertehless, his form this season makes him too much of a gamble and based on his Sprint Cup success the sensible option is THE TIN MAN. He won this in 2016 and also put up a good account last year. Even if the ground were to remain soft, he won in good style on heavy at Haydock latest and he ticks more boxes than the rest. Harry Angel is probably the most talented but is 0/5 at Ascot and recent form is a big negative but Brando has regularly shown up well in Group One company for two seasons now and shouldn’t be far away. It is also worth keeping an eye on Limato who almost always avoids soft ground but remains in the race currently. If he goes at all well, a place is a possibility.

  1. The Tin Man
  2. Brando
  3. Librisa Breeze

Fillies and Mares:

Lah Ti Dar’s previous two starts have been incredibly impressive. Second in the St Leger when under pressure early, she battled on boldly to be beaten only by a good horse in Kew Gardens and she’d won by ten lengths in Listed company prior to that. However, the forgotten piece of form might be CORONET’s second to Sea Of Class in the Yorkshire Oaks. She was making strong late headway on William Haggas’ filly after a modestly run contest which, had the pace been stronger, might have allowed her to get nearer to the winner. Sea Of Class’ subsequent effort in the Arc shows that to be top form. Magical was tenth in the Arc but given that was her first try at 1m4f in such stellar company, she could go a lot better here.

  1. Coronet
  2. Lah Ti Dar
  3. Magical

Queen Elizabeth II:

After three successive Group One triumphs over 1m2f the only reason I can think of that Roaring Lion has been dropped in trip is because stablemate Cracksman must run in the Champion Stakes. The Gosden grey has been this season’s most impressive improver and a strongly run mile could suit but the ground and trip remain a worry. It may pay to side instead with ADDEYBB. He was only eighth on ground much too quick in the Lockinge but had romped home in the Lincoln and a Group Two at Ascot on his favoured soft ground before that. his Lincoln success came after a layoff so the gap between today and his last run in May should prove no issue. Lord Glitters is another to consider as he’s also sound enough on soft and has been knocking on the door all season while both Laurens and Century Dream look good each-way prospects.

  1. Addeybb
  2. Lord Glitters
  3. Roaring Lion

Champion Stakes:

Cracksman deserves to go out with a bang as he’s been a fine horse but though he won this with the freedom of Berkshire last year, he’s unlikely to dominate as he did that day. Similarly, on the form of his previous two starts, his status at odds-on must be questioned and one of CRYSTAL OCEAN and Capri can capitalise with a slight preference for the former. He was giving Enable eight pounds when brushed aside at Kempton but that’s never going to equate to bad form and his second to Poet’s Word at King George was one of the standout races of the season. He won’t by ideally suited by the drop back to 1m2f but the ground will help make this more of a staying challenge than it appears. Capri must also be considered as his Arc fifth is another quality piece of form and he has similar credentials to the selection. However, his Longchamp exploits came less than two weeks ago and that may tell. The rest should be watching on.

  1. Crystal Ocean
  2. Capri
  3. Cracksman

Balmoral Handicap:

It is fitting that the day ends with a competitive betting heat and this is where my second Gosden horse comes home in the shape of ARGENTELLO. His latest win came only four days ago but he was authoritative without seemingly having to engage top gear and a 6lb penalty can be dealt with as he looks a horse to improve sufficiently. Via Via was third in the Cambridgeshire, an excellent performance, and can go close again. Kynren and Sharja Bridge have promised a big run all season and Raising Sand has an excellent record at Ascot so many have solid claims.

  1. Argentello
  2. Via Via
  3. Kynren