Star APPRENTICE jockey Nicola Currie retains the ride on RAISING SAND, who is one of the leading players in the Balmoral Handicap that closes QIPCO Champions Day at Ascot.
Tomorrow’s (Saturday) contest boasts prize-money of £250,000, making it the richest mile handicap in Europe. And Lambourn trainer Jamie Osborne believes Currie’s 3lb apprentices’ allowance, which she is close to losing by virtue of her success this season, could be invaluable after the combination tasted victory in the Bet With Ascot Challenge Cup at the same course earlier this month.
He is 1lb well-in even with a 6lb penalty and is equally effective over this longer trip. Virtually all his best efforts have come at this course, with two of his three wins coming over a mile making him a worthy favourite with Carrigill’s at 9/2.
The forecasted soft going is music to the ears of connections of CRACKSMAN in the Champion Stakes, not least because it isn't ideal for his stablemate ROARING LION.
His performances as a juvenile clearly underline he handles good to soft but his prodigious progress in the second half of the season has come on quick ground, and any rain could well see the Lion diverted to The Breeders’ Cup.
I’m in no rush to back CRACKSMAN at around 11/8. We haven’t seen him since Royal Ascot and connections are talking about trying him in headgear at the weekend having worked him in cheek pieces last Saturday morning, so that is an unknown.
That leads me to CRYSTAL OCEAN as the field lacks a great deal of Group 1 depth and if you believe the official handicapper he is rated 129 to ROARING LION’S 127 and CRACKSMAN’S 125. He has won on soft and bypassed Longchamp for this after chasing home dual Arc winner Enable at Kempton where he wasn’t given a hard race.
Trainer John Gosden may choose to split his pair however, and ROARING LION also has the option of the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes, in which he is third favourite in some lists (and second, in others) behind Moulin winner RECOLETOS and the supplemented Middleham trained LAURENS, who has won four Group 1 races this year.
I’m waiting to see where William Haggas places ADDEYBB if he runs at all. He is in both the QEII and Champion Stakes and I’ll have an each-way bet on him in whichever race he turns up in. He’s a horse I’ve followed all season and was disappointed that he didn’t run in Paris earlier this month.
The ground at Ascot will be ideal and the QEII over a mile is the most obvious destination for which he’s 6/1, but I wouldn’t be afraid to run in the Champion Stakes over an extra couple of furlongs just in case the headgear doesn’t light CRACKSMAN up in that one.
I wouldn’t be afraid of one horse, especially after CRACKSMAN’S laboured second place effort in the Prince of Wales’s Stakes, and ADDEYBB is a cracking price of 16/1 for tomorrow’s (Saturday) British Champions Day feature.
STRADIVARIUS may be the stand out stayer but could only finish third in the Long Distance Cup on soft ground last season, so the weekend downpours were a big negative for him in his bid to continue his winning run in the 2m Group 2.
Aidan O’Brien has five in the race including impressive Irish St Leger winner FLAG OF HONOUR.
There are no such ground worries for THE TIN MAN in the Champions Sprint, as he has an excellent record here – with course form figures of 1481154 – and that includes a win in this very race in 2016.
He also comes here fresh from another Group 1 victory in the Sprint Cup at Haydock on heavy ground and he looks a very solid 3/1 chance ahead of Ayr Gold Cup dead-heater, and soft-ground performer SON OF REST.
St Leger runner-up LAH TI DAR is another short-priced favourite at 11/8 with Carrigill’s in the Fillies and Mares, and her task has been made much easier following the sudden retirement of mud lark Bateel.