2018 Qipco Ascot Champion Stakes: Odds and Betting Preview
As the curtain is about to close on the British flat season, and the National Hunt is about to take over, there is one final major meeting on the level at Ascot racecourse this Saturday afternoon – including four Group 1 races.
The jewel in the crown of Saturday’s action is the Champions Stakes, raced over one mile and two furlongs (2000m) with a start time of 15:50 GMT. 14 runners are still intended to take part at the five day declaration stage, but that amount is likely to be reduced further, due to the expected soft ground conditions at the Berkshire venue.
Information and History
The Champion Stakes is a race open to horses of both sexes, aged three years and over. Three-year-old males must carry 9st 1lbs, with four-year-olds and upwards having the burden of an extra four pounds. The added weight applies for the four-year-old females, over their younger generation, but the fillies and mares have the benefit of carrying three pounds less than the males. For example, a 3 yo colt carries 9st 1lb, while a 3 yo filly carries 8st 12lbs.
This race was established back in 1877 and it was originally held at Newmarket racecourse. By the end of the century it had been won by five Classic winners. The present system of race grading was introduced in 1971, and the Champion Stakes was classed at the highest level, Group 1.
The Champion Stakes was transferred to Ascot in 2011. It became part of a newly created fixture called British Champions Day. It now serves as the middle-distance final of the British Champions Series. With a prize fund of £1,300,000, the Champion Stakes was Britain’s richest horse race back in 2011, but has since been superseded by The Derby.
Cracksman, trained by John Gosden and ridden by Frankie Dettori claimed the spoils in this race last year, and the trio are back again this time around to try and double up on their success. Several other high profile horse and trainer combinations are bidding to foil the Gosden team but will they succeed? Read on for our thoughts on the big race.
Double Bid for Cracksman
A run of five consecutive victories for the four-year-old was stopped at Royal Ascot by Sir Michael Stoute’s Poets Word, but that should not discourage punters in his return this weekend. The key issue for Cracksman is the going conditions – he loves softer conditions, and while he acts on a firmer surface, he improves greatly for give underfoot.
The bookmakers have already latched onto this by having the Gosden star at just 10/11 BetFred. Most layers are shorter than this, and it is likely that the mount of Frankie Dettori will go off even shorter on Saturday afternoon.
Cracksman has had an intended path of taking in further races after the Royal meeting this season, but his trainer has decided to save his horse for this day – a very big day in the racing calendar, and it will take an almighty performance, or a distinct drop in form for Cracksman to be beaten, I feel.
On official form figures, the Sir Michael Stoute-trained Crystal Ocean has four pounds in hand on Cracksman, which would suggest that the four-year-old has a huge chance against his rival – and the best price of 11/4 from 188Bet is, at this stage, a definite backable option, for those who cannot bare to back odds-on shots.
Crystal Ocean finished over three lengths behind another Gosden stable star in Enable, after giving the filly eight pounds on his last appearance at the racecourse, and was raised an eye-watering seven pounds by the official handicapper on the back of the performance. After being campaigned over longer distances, Crystal Ocean is back to ten furlongs for this race, and has no concerns with the softer conditions.
This horse looks to be the main rival to the favourite in this race, and he is of some value because he will have no stamina issues at the end of the race.
Lion a Game Time Decision
John Gosden has three potential runners in the Champion Stakes – Cracksman, Monarchs Glen and Roaring Lion, who could take his chance, or may also drop back to one mile for the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes earlier in the day. It is obvious to say that if you wish to back Roaring Lion, then hold your bets until the decision has been made on which race, he will contend.
A generally available 6/1 chance, Roaring Lion has thrived on his racing this year and has shown a mile and a quarter to be his optimum trip on his past three starts – reeling off successive Group 1 wins in the Coral-Eclipse, Juddmonte International Stakes and QIPCO Irish Champion Stakes. The popular grey, also won the Group 2 Betfred Dante Stakes at York in May in between finishing fifth in the QIPCO 2000 Guineas and third in the Investec Derby.
With the advantage of the weight-for-age allowance, Roaring Lion could be a major player if he takes his chance, but hold your bets first.
Others of Note
Aidan O’Brien has five potential runners before the final declarations are announced on Thursday. Capri looks to be his most solid option following a solid fifth placed effort behind Enable in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe at Longchamp almost two weeks ago, but it is far from certain that the four-year-old can repeat his solid effort so soon afterwards. Capri is at 7/1 with BETDAQ, and he looks to be an each-way option in the race.
One to consider at a bigger price would be the William Haggas’ trained, Addeybb at the widely available 16/1. The vastly improved four-year-old took the Lincoln Handicap at Doncaster in March and the Group 2 Mile at Sandown in April. He has the conditions to suit, is an intended runner and looks good each-way value at 16/1.
Cracksman is the horse they all have to beat in this race. He has lots in his favour and will have been trained to the minute for this race. He is a short price to win, but even though Crystal Ocean has official form figures in his favour, I believe that the Gosden colt will repeat his victory from last year.
Addeybb is my kind of each-way value in this race, provided it does not reduce to less than eight runners on Saturday afternoon. The Haggas horse has shown significant improvement this season, and will relish the conditions. He can run well at big odds.
- Cracksman to win the Champion Stakes at 10/11 with Betfred