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A striking occasion

Controversial new rules overshadow stellar Champions Day card

Alex Hammond Posted 14th October 2011 view comments

The inaugural running of British Champions Day takes place at Ascot on Saturday.

There is a magnificent cast including the mighty Frankel who is hot favourite for the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes.

Sadly, the whip issues are overshadowing what promises to be a spectacular event and I hope that the problems are ironed out sooner rather than later.

Party line: Frankel is odds-on favourite - but can Excelebration turn up the heat?

Party line: Frankel is odds-on favourite - but can Excelebration turn up the heat?

Our sport is desperate to attract a wider audience and it is doing just that at the moment, but for all the wrong reasons. It's disappointing and upsetting to hear all the negative publicity surrounding our amazing sport so let's hope for a satisfactory conclusion before it's scarred permanently.

Times Up fancied to shake up old guard in staying ranks

The Long Distance Cup is the first race on the card. It's a Group 3 over two miles and Opinion Poll is Sky Bet's 7/4 favourite. The Mahmood Al Zarooni trained five-year-old is a class act with wins in the Goodwood Cup and the Lonsdale Cup and he was second on his latest start in the Doncaster Cup to Saddler's Rock.

Fame and Glory is next best at 11/4 for Aidan O'Brien. He has blotted his copybook of late getting turned over in the Irish Leger trial and then the real thing. The horse I'm keen to give a chance on is John Dunlop's Times Up who looks the value at 7/2.

He's a horse I've followed of late and I was impressed with him on his first try at this trip in the Jockey Club Rose Bowl at Newmarket last time out. He is a progressive stayer and the sort his trainer excels with and with doubts over the recent form of the top two in the market I'm sticking with him again. He is stepping back up in class, but I think there is more to come from him and the good ground will suit him fine.

Moonlight Cloud to take measure of Fanshawe sprinters

From the stayers to the speedballs in the next, the Group 2 Sprint Stakes over six furlongs. James Fanshawe's Deacon Blues is the worthy favourite at 9/4 with Sky Bet. He has won his last four starts including the Wokingham Handicap followed up with wins in three Group 3s.

This is another step up in grade for the four-year-old but he couldn't come here in better heart - Johnny Murtagh, who has been on board for two of those victories, takes the ride again. It's worth noting all his wins have come on softish ground and that could be the only negative.

It's great to see Moonlight Cloud (3/1) and Whizz Kid (12/1) come over from France. Freddy Head's Moonlight Cloud has her first run at this trip having done all her recent winning over further. She beat a smart field in the Prix Maurice de Gheest at Deauville last time out over six-and-a-half furlongs.

James Fanshawe's Society Rock was second to Moonlight Cloud at Deauville last time out giving weight away to the three-year-old filly - he is an 11/2 chance.

They are closer in the weights in this race but the French filly is still getting 4lbs off Society Rock. She had the option of running in the Abbaye (for which she was ante-post favourite) but connections chose to take this route instead and I think they will get their reward.

Crystal Capella to sparkle in Fillies and Mares contest

The Fillies and Mares Stakes is a Group 2 over a mile and a half. This looks like a closely matched contest. Henry Cecil's Vita Nova heads the market at 5/2. She has been incredibly consistent finishing second on her last three starts but I'm concerned that there isn't enough cut in the ground for this big filly who will stay in training next year.

Ferdoos is her closest rival in the market at 7/2. Roger Varian's lightly raced four-year-old beat Vita Nova on her only start this season in the Listed Pinnacle Stakes at Haydock back in May, although the second was unlucky there as her saddle slipped. Ferdoos hasn't been seen on a racecourse since then as she suffered a setback, but after a summer break she is back on form and can continue her progression.

Oaks winner Dancing Rain (5/1) will be reunited with Johnny Murtagh after winning the German Oaks under Kieren Fallon last time out in August - she has the widest draw of all here. Crystal Capella is a 7/1 chance and will suit the drop back from Group 1 company.

I'll definitely have Sir Michael Stoute's Princess of Wales's Stakes winner on my shortlist providing the ground doesn't get too quick. Banimpire has been a brilliant servant for Jim Bolger this year and is an 8/1 chance. She is a tough performer and can run into a place. Ferdoos is a filly I have a huge amount of respect for and she is still progressing, but I'm going with Crystal Capella here.

Wonder horse Frankel can stretch unbeaten sequence

The Queen Elizabeth II Stakes is all about one horse. Superstar Frankel is 1/3 favourite for this one mile Group 1 and I can't see him getting beaten. He has won all his eight races to date and keeps getting more and more impressive. Cecil feels his star three-year-old is still improving which leaves little hope for his seven rivals.

Excelebration (11/2) has taken on Frankel twice and not been disgraced on either occasion; I don't think he'll beat him though. Immortal Verse is also an 11/2 chance for France. Robert Collet's filly has won her last three including defeat of Goldikova in the Jacques le Marois last time out. She is probably the best filly over a mile in Europe.

With Frankel the most likely winner, but a very short price, I think the bet to be had in this race is Excelebration in the market without favourite Frankel - 6/4 with Sky Bet. If that's not your thing and you like betting on winning distances, then Frankel is 4/1 to win by up to and including two lengths and if you think he will run away with the race he is 5/1 to win by more than eight lengths.

Godolphin dark horse taken to spring surprise

The Champion Stakes is the other Group 1 on the card and Ryan Moore will be hoping he can cement his position as number one jockey to Aidan O'Brien with a win on So You Think who is 9/4 favourite for the mile-and-a-quarter contest. He was fourth in the Arc two weeks ago and the drop back to this trip is more in his favour, if he replicates that form he will be hard to beat. He hasn't quite lived up to his Southern Hemisphere superstar billing, but he is a tough high class performer.

John Gosden's King George winner Nathaniel is 13/2 but has a wide draw to overcome (10 of 12). Midday is 7/1 and Sir Henry Cecil's dual Champion Stakes winner Twice Over (8/1) is back for more. Dubai Prince is one to be wary of and is an 8/1 chance for Mahmood Al Zarooni and Frankie Dettori.

Kieren Fallon rode Dubai Prince for his comeback win but he is back on board Green Destiny in this (18/1). He rode Green Destiny to win the Arc Trial at Newbury last time. Fallon has talked up the chances of the former but says Green Destiny is his best ride of the day. Dubai Prince has only run three times and won all three and he could be the biggest danger to the favourite.

Snow Fairy is a smashing mare and is 8/1.

She ran a magnificent race to be third in the Arc and is turned out again by trainer Ed Dunlop - she's effective at both 10 and 12 furlongs. So You Think has obvious claims in a top class race, but in the interest of finding a bit of value I'm going with Dubai Prince to keep improving, although he has an even wider draw to overcome than Nathaniel.

Sky Bet have plenty of specials available too, check out their new app or the website for the latest. Ryan Moore to ride a double at 18/1 looks pretty tempting to me with rides on a few fancied horses including So You Think.

Champions Day Selections

Times Up, Long Distance Cup, Ascot @ 7/2 with Sky Bet

Moonlight Cloud, Sprint Stakes, Ascot @ 3/1 with Sky Bet

Crystal Capella, Fillies and Mares Stakes, Ascot @ 7/1 with Sky Bet

Dubai Prince, Champion Stakes, Ascot @ 8/1 with Sky Bet

Special bets

Ryan Moore to ride a double @ 18/1 with Sky Bet

Excelebration, Queen Elizabeth II Stakes @ 6/4 with Sky Bet (betting without the favourite)

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