There are several heavy favorites in the five group stakes on British Champions Day at Ascot on Saturday, and there is a strong possibility all might win. However, the depth of the fields and the soft-to-heavy course conditions might be enough to generate a mild surprise or two.
Here’s a look at how we see the action shaping up in four of the events.
Race 1 — British Champions Long Distance Cup (G2) — 8:20 a.m. ET
The dominant stayer of recent seasons, #7 STRADIVARIUS (4-5), is the most likely winner for obvious reasons. Although he lost this last year at short odds, there isn’t exactly a rival the equivalent of Kew Gardens in this lineup.
Nonetheless, #4 MORANDO (15-1) offers some appeal. The 7-year-old veteran captured the Ormonde (G3) by eight lengths over a short Kew Gardens last year on testing ground and later scored in the Cumberland Lodge (G3) over this course. Although he hasn’t gone this far before, he appears to have plenty of stamina to see it out and is seemingly rounding into his best form after a couple recent preps.
Verdict: Morando is interesting as an each-way play as well as an exacta box partner with Stradivarius.
Race 3 — British Champions Fillies & Mares Stakes (G1) — 9:30 a.m. ET
Although she hasn’t faced any world-beaters in a pair of starts this term, #1 ANTONIA DE VEGA (9-2) won both of them and is relatively fresh and ready to take a step back up into group company.
Beaten a mere four lengths by Star Catcher in this race last year when returning from a four-month break, she’s won five of eight starts altogether and seems to have more room for improvement. Trainer Ralph Beckett thinks the softer the conditions the better for her.
Verdict: We’ll back Antonia De Vega to win.
Race 4 — Queen Elizabeth II Stakes (G1) — 10:05 a.m. ET
Trainer John Gosden appears to have the goods with early odds-on favorite #12 PALACE PIER (3-5), who’s undefeated from five starts including the St James’s Palace (G1) and Prix Jacques le Marois (G1).
Gosden’s other entry is the filly #11 NAZEEF (12-1). If you ignore her attempts at 1 1/4 miles over the summer, she’d be sitting on seven-race win streak. Though she’s had some close calls against relatively inferior company in the Duke of Cambridge (G2) and Falmouth (G1), she was more assertive last out in the Sun Chariot (G1) and is obviously a natural miler.
#2 CIRCUS MAXIMUS (10-1) is 2-for-2 over this course in the 2019 St James’s Palace and in the Queen Anne (G1) in June, both over soft ground. While perhaps not good enough to like for the win given his style, he’s probably capable of more than what we’ve seen in recent outings in France.
Verdict: We’ll play exactas of Palace Pier over Nazeef and Circus Maximus.
Race 5 — Champion Stakes (G1) — 10:40 a.m. ET
It’s hard to find fault with #8 MAGICAL (9-5), who won this race last year at odds of even-money overseas and 4-5 in the pari-mutuel. If she stays anywhere near her projected odds, she might be worth a win bet.
The likely third and fourth choices are worth using underneath in exactas. #1 ADDEYBB (8-1), a close second to Magical in this race last year, gets his preferred ground conditions again and is hard to knock. His Prince of Wales’s (G1) conqueror, #5 LORD NORTH (6-1), need only run back to that Royal meeting performance to make a good showing. He, too, handles soft ground extremely well.
Verdict: We’ll play exactas of Magical over Addeybb and Lord North, with a win bet on Magical at 8-5 or higher.