Roaring Lion after winning the Irish Champion Stakes (Ire-G1) (c) photo courtesy of Leopardstown Racecoure via Twitter
by Dick Powell
Heavy rain has hit the Ascot area and the turf conditions are supposed to be soft with heavy spots on the round course. A number of decisions have been made due to the weather and we have to leave it up to the trainer’s expertise whether to run or not. The Breeders’ Cup, in two weeks, gives them an option to pass and show up at Churchill Downs.
The first of the four major races is in Race 2 – the British Champion Sprint Stakes (Eng-G1). It drew a field of 14 for the straight run down the Ascot homestretch going six furlongs. The starting gates will be in the center of the course and it will be interesting to see what side of the course the riders feel has the best footing.
BRANDO (#2) (8-1) draws post 14 and is having a good year but not finding the winner’s circle. He has been second in Duke of York Stakes (Eng-G2) behind HARRY ANGEL (#5) (5-1), then was second two starts later in the July Cup (Eng-G1) behind Coolmore’s U S Navy Flag. After a poor race in Deauville on good ground, he was an excellent second behind THE TIN MAN (#12) (5-2) at Haydock in the Sprint Cup (Eng-G1) that was run over similar ground to what they will see on Saturday.
Exacta: #5, #12 with #2
Race 3 is the British Champions Fillies & Mares Stakes (Eng-G1) going 1 1/2 miles. The heavy favorite will be LAH TI DAR (#8) (6-5), who won her first three career starts by wide margins then came back with a terrific second in the St. Leger (Eng-G1) against males going longer when she went off as the favorite. Her pedigree has been in the news lately, with a yearling full brother selling for around $4 million last week. John Gosden and Frankie Dettori are a tough combination in big races and she gets five pounds from her older rivals and equal to the other three-year-old fillies in here.
Aidan O’Brien has entered six sophomore fillies, all by Galileo, but the one I think who can get into the mix at a long price on heavy ground is BROADWAY (#5) (50-1). She was only beaten a length behind Grade 1 winner Deauville in the Royal Whip (Ire-G3) going 10 furlongs on yielding ground at The Curragh, then won the Denny Cordell Lavarack & Lanwades Stud Fillies (Ire-G3) on heavy ground last out at Gowran Park. If this turns into a slugfest in the mud, the half-sister to Arc de Triomphe (Fr-G1) winner Danedream could surprise.
Exacta Box: #5, #8
Race 4 is the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes (Eng-G1) going a mile. John Gosden was going to run ROARING LION (#11) (2-1) in a later race at 1 1/4 miles but, with the turf being softened up, he turns him back to a mile, which will still test the colt’s stamina. The 2-1 favorite just missed in last year’s Racing Post Trophy (Eng-G1) going this distance and he was only beaten just over two lengths when fifth in the one-mile 2000 Guineas (Eng-G1) two races before running third in the 1 1/2-mile Epsom Derby (Eng-G1). Oishin Murphy is going to have to get him to find the best part of the track and use the son of Kitten’s Joy to best advantage.
LAURENS (#15) (6-1) has won four Group 1s this year. She has handled soft ground on many occasions and even won the Prix de Diane (French Oaks) (Fr-G1) going longer than 1 1/4 miles, which shows the stamina is there for a testing mile. This is her first start against males but this is Europe, after all.
Race 5 is the Champion Stakes (Eng-G1) and it has attracted a field of eight going 1 1/4 miles. CRACKSMAN (#2) (4-5) is supposed to relish the heavy ground like he did last year when he romped in this race by seven lengths. Gosden adds blinkers to try to get him to focus but I don’t think he is as good as he was last year.
CRYSTAL OCEAN (#3) (5-2) just missed winning the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes (Eng-G1) here going 1 1/2 miles on firmer ground in late July, then was a good second on the Polytrack at Kempton where the colt by Sea the Stars ran into none other than repeat Arc winner Enable. Michael Stoute is always tough at the end of the year as it seems that he leaves a bit of gas in the tank.
Exacta Box: #2, #3
Race 6 is not a group race but a handicap with 20 runners going a mile. With over 16 runners in a handicap, the place price pays down four spots so you could run fourth and still cash. With the big wide open field and handicap conditions, it is anyone’s race.
SOUTH SEAS (#10) (15-1) was a good two-year-old two years ago and seems to be rounding into form lately. He was second last out on soft turf and gets Oishin Murphy back aboard for Andrew Balding. The son of soft-ground-loving Lope de Vega draws in the middle and all he has to do is finish in the top four.