There was much froth produced about moving the Arc due to the heavy ground that seems to be the norm. It’s something that’s been occasionally said about Champions Day. Now neither the Arc nor Champions Day are going to be moved from their slots in the racing calendar. Unlike Longchamp, Ascot does have the option of switching races on to the inner jumps track. However, that would only come into play if the meeting was in danger of being abandoned and rightly so.
Since the first Champions Day in 2011 seven of the fixtures have gone off on soft (6) and heavy (1). However, this year although the ground is presently being described as good to soft, soft in places on the straight course and soft, good to soft in places on the round track. The rest of the week is due to be mainly dry. Of course, this isn’t June so the going won’t end up being quick by Saturday but it will be much nicer than in recent seasons.
Inside today’s main piece I look forward to Champions Day. Plus, I have a selection from Wetherby.
Trevor Hemmings RIP
Racing lost another famous owner yesterday with death of Trever Hemmings at the age of 86. Hemmings was an old school National Hunt owner with his love for staying chasers, I’m not sure there are many of them left. His three wins in the Grand National remain his biggest successes but he also had Albertas Run who won three races at the Cheltenham Festival.
The Covid-19 pandemic had a big impact on his operation and his string was cut back substantially last season. That said he still had 24 winners, including Cloth Cap who was a runaway winner of the Ladbroke Trophy and Vintage Clouds who gave him a final Cheltenham Festival winner.
Those famous green, yellow, and white quartered silks were a regular sight at jumps courses through the winter. It will be sad if they don’t continue to be seen for years to come. His exit from the sport is a great loss to National Hunt racing.
Champions Day will see five equine Champions crowned. Six if you include the flat jockey’s championship. It’s not impossible that William Buick will still be in with chance of his first jockey’s Championship. Although Osin Murphy is still long odds-on to retain his crown.
Buick has been one of the most improved jockeys in the last couple of seasons. However, Murphy, the ‘flawed’ genius, has that extra bit of box office about him. I see it as a big plus when either is up on a horse I like. Tom Marquand isn’t far behind either of them and will get better but Murphy & Buick are clearly the best two around. Interestingly if you look at the pair’s record in Group races this year. Buick is 7 winners from 20 rides 35% +10.13 10 placed 50%. Compare that to Murphy who is 1 winner from 16 rides 6% 5 placed 31%. Next season Murphy will be hoping to get on some quality.
I have to say I am slightly underwhelmed by this year’s Champions Day. The only race that really is getting me excited is the Queen Elisabeth II Stakes and much the anticipated showdown between Palace Pier and Baaeed.
Something for the Weekend – Part 1
Over the next two days. I’m going to preview one race from Champions Day. Today it’s the Champion Sprint (2:00).
The Champion Sprint picture is cloudy and had been made cloudier by Starman’s retirement. The July Cup winner suffered a recent setback in training and will now take up stallion duties. That mean’s all the Group 1 winners over 6f this season won’t be lining up in this year’s race.
Looking at three of the key race trends:
Of the last ten winners of the Champions Sprint six of them had finished runner-up on their previous start – 6 winners from 22 runners 27% +61.50 9 placed 41%. Among the 22 declared runners there are just two horses who finished second on their last start Minzaal & Twlight Spinner.
One negative trend is those horses with 0 to 2 wins at distance. Those qualifiers have produced 1 winner from 61 runners -50 6 placed 10%.
Another poor performing trend is those horse’s not drawn between stall 3 and 14. They have produced 0 winners 37 runners 2 placed 5%.
Art Power is a previous C&D winner. He also finished a length 4th of 16 in this race 12 months ago. And, a 1 ¾ length 3rd of 12 in the Diamond Jubilee at Royal Ascot. Add in his 4th placed effort in the July Cup and his 1 ¾ length 5th of 11th in the Haydock Sprint Cup and you have a horse who is just below Group 1 level. That said he may not need to be a Group 1 horse to win this year’s renewal. The 4-year-old easily beat Twilight Spinner in a Group 3 at the Curragh 3 weeks ago.
Dragon Symbol has been on the go since March. The 3-year-old was first past the post in the Group 1 Commonwealth Cup over C&D and a 1 ¼ length 2nd of 19 behind Starman in the July Cup. Has run over the minimum trip on his last three starts finishing a close-up 3rd in the Nunthorpe and 4th in the Flying Five at the Curragh. He wouldn’t be winning a Group 1 out of turn and you can’t knock his consistency.
Others to note:
One place and ¾ length behind Dragon Symbol in the Flying Five was Rohaan. That was a return to form by the 3-year-old after two underwhelming runs since his win in the Wokingham Handicap over C&D. A fast pace and an easy surface would see him go close. Gustavus Weston was back in 6th that day and could get into the money.
Vadream has been supplemented for the race after her win in a Group 3 over C&D 14-days ago. The C&D is a plus for the filly and she can’t be ruled out given her present form.
The old boy Brando was only beaten a nose in this race 12 months ago and can never be ruled out and is another with each way claims in an open race.
Minzaal last season’s Gimcrack winner showed he retains plenty of ability when returning from 12 months off the track when a length 2nd of 8 to Tis Marvellous in listed race here over 5f two weeks ago. He should strip fitter for that run and a return to 6f is a positive. Needs to improve plenty on that run to win but it can be argued that’s he’s yet to show his hand in what looks a field of ‘exposed’ sprinters.
Today’s flat action looks fairly run of the mill stuff. However, there is Graded action over jumps at Punchestown this afternoon and Wetherby hosts its first jumps card of winter season. It's the Wetherby card that provides today's selection.
3:23 – Road Warrior completed the hat trick when winning at Sedgefield in April. Up 8lb and in a better race here but the 7-year-old could be capable of better and seems likely to get an uncontested lead.
3:58 – Flight Deck a respectable 3½ lengths 4th of 15 at Ascot when last seen in action 235-days ago. He’s won off a lay off in the past so fitness shouldn’t be an issue. Just the one start over 3m and looks capable of winning a staying handicap hurdle off his present mark. Although he may prefer an easier surface.
4:33 – Ballyvic Boru won this race in 2019 and won over C&D last season off 3lb higher. He was a fortunate winner on the latter occasion as Some Reign had looked set to win when falling at the last. The latter re-opposes on 12lb worse terms today but does go well fresh and is arguably the more consistent of the pair.
3:23 – Road Warrior – 7/2 – Gen
Good luck with your Wednesday bets
John Burke is the tipster behind the long standing Victor Value service you can join him here – https://victorvalue.uk