The Big Match-Ups: British Champions Day At Ascot

Tomorrow will be a potentially record-breaking day for Irish trainer Aidan O’Brien at the QIPCO British Champions Day at Ascot.

O’Brien is one winner short of the world record for Group One wins in a year and is poised to equal, if not better Bobby Frankel’s tally of 25 which has stood since 2003.

Currently sitting on 24 winners at the highest level for the year, O’Brien has every chance of doing that with the likes of Churchill, Caravaggio, Highland Reel and Order of St George all set to feature and it would be quite fitting should that record be achieved at British Champions Day.

Now in its seventh year, British Champions Day is the richest race day in the British horseracing calendar with more than £4.3m in prize money on offer. It brings to a close the season’s QIPCO British Champions Series and the day’s six race card will feature the end-of-season championship races for ten-furlong horses (The Champion Stakes), milers (The Queen Elizabeth II Stakes), sprinters (six furlongs), long distance horses (two miles) and fillies and mares (one mile and four furlongs).

With that comes a stellar field of top horses for what promises to be a fascinating day’s racing at Ascot, even if the predicted ‘weather bomb’ of heavy rain and winds may try and dampen the spirits of an expected full house at the Berkshire course.

Here’s a rundown of the key match-ups across the six race card.

1:25 Long Distance Cup – rematch of Big Orange and Order Of St George

What a race and line-up to get things underway as Big Orange and arch-rival Order Of St George are set for a rematch after Big Orange came out on top by just a short head in the Gold Cup at Royal Ascot in June.

Big Orange v Order Of St George

Order of St George has two victories since and was fourth in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, whilst Big Orange (who missed Arc weekend) suffered defeat at Glorious Goodwood by Stradivarius, who went on to be third in the St Leger and also races here.

Another contender here, the David-Elsworth-trained Desert Skyline was third in that Goodwood race but won the Doncaster Cup and has champion jockey-in-waiting De Sousa, at the helm.

Add in Sir Michael Stoute’s Dartmouth, who is owned by HM The Queen, and David Simcock’s Sheikhzayedroad, it has all the prospects of a superb opening encounter in this two mile encounter.

Prediction: Big Orange

2:00 Sprint Stakes – a classic in the making

This Group One encounter over six furlongs is one to savour and also has the makings of a classic.

Caravaggio – one of 11 Group One-race runners on the card for O’Brien and four horses saddled in this race alone – defeated Harry Angel at Royal Ascot. The latter gained revenge in the July Cup before following up in style in the Haydock Sprint Cup and is improving all the time, and these two horses could well lead the way.

However, The Tin Man loves Ascot and aims to defends the title he won a year ago, but also watch out for the Andrew Balding-trained Donjuan Triumphant and Quiet Reflection

Prediction: The Tin Man

2:40 Fillies and Mares Stakes – Hydrangea set to blossom

O’Brien’s Hydrangea is the stand-out prospect for this encounter, and with jockey Ryan Moore pulling the strings should have the stamina for the trip over one mile and four furlongs.

The Irish trainer also saddles Wild Irish Rose with Seamie Heffernan on board, whilst John Gosden enters three horses in the shape of Coronet, Black Princess and Journey, the latter with jockey Frankie Dettori at the helm

Prediction: Hydrangea

3:15 Queen Elizabeth II Stakes – Battle Royale

The O’Brien/Moore combination will have high hopes for dual Classic winner Churchill in this Group One chase over a mile, and will come up against stablemates Lancaster Bomber and Sir John Lavery, and more so with prolific Group One winner Ribchester, trained by Richard Fahey.

French-trained horses have enjoyed significant success on QIPCO British Champions Day with four winners to date, though a first success on the day still eludes trainer Andre Fabre, who fields Al Wukait, who was third in the Newmarket Guineas

The Andrew Balding-trained Beat The Bank, set to be ridden by Jim Crowley, has only been beaten once in six starts and could run matters close if not spring a surprise.

Prediction: Ribchester

3:50 Champion Stakes – Race of the Day

Again, another race which as all the makings of a classic battle as O’Brien’s Highland Reel (to be ridden by Moore) and Cliffs Of Moher (by Heffernan) go in the Champion Stakes against John Gosden’s hugely impressive Cracksman (to be ridden by Dettori)

Ulysses, trained by Sir Michael Stoute, will miss the big race, so instead the veteran trainer will rely upon Poet’s Word who impressed many when coming second in the Irish Champion Stakes.

Richard Hannon saddles Barney Roy, who likewise has every chance, and especially after coming runner-up to Churchill in the 2,000 Guineas before gaining revenge in the St James’s Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot.

But then there is French Derby winner, Brametot, trained by last year’s Champion Stakes winner Jean-Claude Rouget. The horse has been primed for the big race and the drop back in trip should be well-suited as they seek to win back-to-back renewals of Europe’s richest mile and a quarter race.

Prediction: really too close to call, but will go with Cracksman

4:30 – Balmoral Handicap – a great finish to a great day

A strong field of 20 are to compete in the last showdown of the day in which Zabeel Prince, Lord Glitters and The Grape Escape head the likely prospects in this one mile chase.

The Roger Varian-trained Zabeel Prince is a decent stayer over this distance and will have the experience of jockey Andrea Atzeni for company, but David O’Meara’s Lord Glitters will equally be in contention especially after his run in the Challenge Cup last Saturday, along with Richard Hannon’s The Grape Escape.

Richard Fahey’s Gabrial is worth considering and experience with running in the QEII and the Champion Stakes in the last two Champions Days.

Prediction: Lord Glitters

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