Qipco British Champions Day reflections
Soft ground specialists to the fore in championship races
Ground conditions undoubtedly played a major role in the results on Champions Day, writes Dominic Gardiner-Hill…
That point was highlighted in the two championship races I assessed, the QEII and the Champion Stakes, where a combined total of 18 of the 24 runners (75%) ran below their pre-race marks.
The QEII is the more difficult of the two to rate with confidence at this stage and this is reflected in the figures submitted by my colleagues on the World Rankings Committee where there are currently three different levels on the race. At this stage (hopefully there may be further evidence forthcoming before the end of the year as to the worth of the form) I have taken the view that soft-ground loving winner The Revenant has reproduced his pre-race mark of 119, runner-up Roseman (a convincing winner on heavy ground at Newmarket at the end of last year) has improved from 114 to 118, Palace Pier (third, pre-race 126) just hasn’t run his race and surprise package Sir Busker, who has been beaten in his last four handicaps off marks ranging from 102 to 111, has run to the latter rating despite hanging left to the rail.
This level suggests that Veracious in fifth has run to 106, 2 lb below the mark I had her running to under similar conditions last year when fourth in the race, which is no great surprise as she doesn’t appear to be quite the same filly this season. From a historical perspective, a performance of 119 also leaves The Revenant a pound behind King of Change who beat him convincingly enough in last year’s renewal.
The Champion Stakes looks a little more straightforward to assess despite the fact that leading candidates Mishriff (121), Japan (121) and Lord North (123) trailed home in the last three places in the ten-runner field. Soft ground specialists Addeybb and Skalleti fought out the finish, producing career bests for both. I have raised Addeybb 3lbs to a new mark of 125, whilst the progressive runner-up improves from 116 to 121. It was unfortunate that Magical (third, 121) didn’t really get the run of the race and finished best of all in running the fastest final furlong. I suspect she would have finished second had things dropped more kindly for her but doubt she would have beaten the deserved winner.
Sprint glory for progressive Glen Shiel
Whilst Battaash has again firmly stamped himself the outstanding 5f sprinter this season, the 6f division has had a much more open look to it, writes Stewart Copeland…
The Group 1 Qipco British Champions Sprint was realistically the final chance for the contenders to firmly stake their claim to be the top player in that division, but it was not to be. Instead it produced the fifth different winner at that level in Britain this season (sixth when the Prix Maurice de Gheest in France is included).
Oxted and Dream of Dreams lined up with the most pressing claims to bolster their case to head the division, being the only two in the sixteen-strong field successful over 6f at Group 1 level this season. They both came into the race rated 120, courtesy of Oxted’s win in Newmarket’s July Cup and Dream of Dreams success in the Sprint Cup at Haydock.
However, both were usurped on the day by the six-year-old gelding Glen Shiel, who has been a revelation this season since being dropped back to 6f. It was not just a first success for him at Group 1 level, but also landmark victory for his jockey Hollie Doyle and trainer Archie Watson.
Glen Shiel produced a gutsy front running effort at Ascot, rallying gamely after being headed by Oxted over a furlong out. This success firmly franked the much-improved form he produced when runner-up to Dream of Dreams in the Sprint Cup, with both performances now rated at 117.
At the line his closest challenger, a mere nose behind, was the admirable and evergreen veteran Brando. His form this season had been somewhat underwhelming by the standards he had set previously, but he was back to his best at Ascot. That means a rating of 116, the fifth year in a row he has achieved that standard, which speaks volumes for his toughness and enthusiasm for the game.
As for Oxted and Dream of Dreams, both arguably raced too freely – particularly the latter – and it’s fair to conclude that helped neither get home in the testing conditions. They both remain on 120, and with Space Blues also achieving that figure in the Prix Maurice de Gheest, it remains very tight at the top in the 6f division in Europe this year.
Trueshan relishes staying test in Long Distance Cup
In handicapping there is no such thing as being right. There is only being reasonable on the evidence available at the time, writes Matthew Tester…
The Qipco British Champions Long Distance Cup is a great example of this as there is so little solid foundation on which to build the ratings. Trueshan was rated 109 pre-race but could reasonably now be as high as 123, or even 127, having won by a wide margin. But how likely is it that for one run on deep ground he is suddenly one of the all-time great stayers?
The first four were each stepping up significantly in trip. Trueshan seemed to relish it but perhaps Fujaira Prince in third did not as he came back to the chasing pack in the final furlong. Search For A Song finished well from the back for second, but she beat Fujaira Prince and Sovereign less easily here than when they all met in the Irish St Leger last month. Morando in fourth had been rated as high as 118 in the past but hadn’t run to more than 109 in his three previous starts this year. Fifth-placed Sovereign’s only highly rated run this year had been when second to Enable in the King George; but it was only a three-runner race and Japan in third clearly had an off day. So, as you can see, there is not an obvious solid starting point when it comes to rating the Long Distance Cup.
Mathematically, Trueshan could have run as high as 127 going through the rating and the weight of Search For A Song (116 in Ireland), but that definitely feels like too big a leap of faith at this stage. For the moment, I have taken the position that Morando has run to the same level as his recent performances. That brings Trueshan a 9lbs rise in the ratings to 118. It is one pound below what Kew Gardens earned last year but ahead of the two winning performances before that – Stradivarius and Order Of St George. It makes Trueshan a real contender for the stayers’ crown next year as long as he can reproduce this form on less deep ground.
On his day Stradivarius is the best stayer we have seen for many years. This was clearly not his day, however. Nor was it his day in the Arc. Both races were run on ground more testing than the going on which he won any of his three Ascot Gold Cups. I am delighted that he stays in training and will have the opportunity to put things right next season, when I am confident that his programme will be aimed at staying races (three of his five previous starts had been over 12f). His rating is unchanged at 125.
Twelve months ago, we were looking forward to a season of rematches between Stradivarius and Kew Gardens who had beat him by a nose in this race last year. Kew Gardens never ran again and has been retired. Now Stradivarius stays in training we are looking forward to 2021 clashes with Trueshan. Bring it on.