Champions Day. Finally British flat racing has a season ending showpiece it can be proud of and the sixth year of this event looks to be every bit as good, if not better than the previous five.
By the end of Saturday’s action, we will have crowned the Champion Stayer, Sprinter, Miler, Filly or Mare and Champion middle distance horse.
The races will play host to this year’s English and Irish 1000 and 2000 guineas winners, the Oaks winner, French Derby winner, Prince of Wales winner, St James Palace winner, the Ascot Gold Cup winner, Arc de Triomphe winner, Sprint Cup winner…….I think you get the picture by now!
The QEII stakes will see this year’s top miler decided and what a cracker it promises to be. Ribchester and Galileo Gold lock horns for the fourth time, current score being 2-1 to the English 2000 guineas victor but Ribchester is improving faster than almost any horse in the country and I think will be a tough nut to crack in his attempt to build on his last time out Group 1 Jacques Le Marois success in France.
I expect his biggest challenge to come from super filly Minding. She is aiming for her seventh Group 1 success and it was a fine effort to finish third to subsequent Arc victor Found and Champion Stakes favourite Almanzor at Leopardstown last time.
Forty five minutes later the Champion Stakes shall be run. This will decide the best middle distance horse in Europe.
The aforementioned Found looks to overturn the Irish Champion Stakes form with French derby winner Almanzor. Her victory in France two weeks ago in the Arc showed her tough season has had no ill effects but I expect her conqueror last month to uphold the form.
Almanzor has been campaigned sparingly by Jean-Claude Rouget and it has reaped dividends winning his last four. His jockey Christophe Soumillon has a rocky relationship with Ascot, following his whip ban when landing the inaugural Champion Stakes back in 2011 and his gestures when winning the King George in 2006.
I expect him to be equally vocal and expressive should he be first past the jam stick on Almaznor this weekend.
In the other races on the card I think Quest For More may be value in the Stayers contest (1.25pm) Quiet Reflection can cap a stellar year for herself and the fairer sex by landing the sprint honours (2.00pm) and Zhukova can strike in the Fillies & Mares for the English and Irish Derby winning connections.
Finally, as we’re discussing Champions I must congratulate the newly crowned Champion Jockey Jim Crowley. Both himself and the man he deposes Silvestre De Sousa have had an epic battle for winners in the last few weeks but it will be a new name on the trophy this Saturday as Crowley will be awarded his prize at Ascot ahead of the Champions Day extravaganza.