This weekend Ascot stages the richest card in the British racing – the British Champions Day.
For many it draws the curtain on the flat racing season proper and like previous years the ground will be on the testing side.
Our horse racing betting expert looks at the two feature races – the Fillies & Mares Stakes and the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes – and gives you his best tips ahead of the races.
British Champions Fillies & Mares Stakes
The market for this year’s Group 1 British Champions Fillies & Mares stakes is likely to be headed by John Gosden’s Lah Ti Dar, who will be having just the fifth run of her life.
The daughter of Dar Re Mi comes into this on the back of the first defeat of her career in the St Leger at Doncaster, where a lack of experience probably cost her, as she ran free for much of the race and in the end was beaten by the thorough stayer Kew Gardens.
She is clearly very talented and comes from a seriously good family and her win, after an 109 day lay-off, in a Listed contest at York, where she blitzed the field by 10 lengths demonstrated that.
Her defeat at Doncaster probably stretched her stamina slightly and she’ll be much more at home over this 1m2f trip, but there must be doubts about the ground, given this will be the softest she’s ever encountered.
She’s clearly the one to beat and could easily be far too good for these, but Gosden’s filly is pretty short at 5/4 and given those nagging doubts, I’m prepared to take a chance on her stablemate CORONET at 5/1 with Grosvenorsport.com.
The four-year-old has had another consistent campaign, finishing in the first three on all four of her starts and some of her form is arguably stronger than Lah Ti Dar’s.
Her second-placed finishes behind Waldgeist at Saint-Cloud and to Sea Of Class at York are particularly notable given those horses finished fourth and second in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe earlier this month.
She ran well in the race twelve months ago and with this year’s renewal always the target, Olivier Peslier’s ride should go well again and she looks worth supporting at 5/1.
Queen Elizabeth II Stakes
The heavy rain which hit Ascot earlier this week has meant that connections of Roaring Lion have rerouted the son of Kitten’s Joy from the 1m2f Champion Stakes to the 1m Queen Elizabeth Stakes earlier on the card.
John Gosden’s three-year-old has been installed as the 9/4 favourite for this and based on his recent performances it’s not hard to see why. He’s seeking his fourth consecutive Group 1 win, after successes at Sandown, York and most recently at Leopardstown.
His near four length win at York in the Juddmonte International was particularly impressive where he beat one of the strongest fields of the season so far and he is the rightful favourite for this.
However, this will be by far the softest ground he has ever run on and the step back in trip isn’t ideal, considering all his wins this season have been over 1m2f.
You also must question that with this being his eight start of the season, will he be quite at his peak?
Both of these factors could leave Roaring Lion a touch vulnerable against some experienced operators at this distance, most notably the French raider RECOLETOS.
French horses took the race in 2015 and 2016 and the Carlos Laffon-Parias-trained runner can make it three wins in five years.
Since running in the Champion Stakes a year ago, the four-year-old has largely been campaigned over this mile trip and he’s enjoyed plenty of success as a result.
His two Group One wins are some of the strongest pieces of form in the race, as is his clear second to wonder mare Alpha Centauri in the Prix Jacques le Marois at Deauville in August.
Conditions too look well in the son of Whipper’s favour, with plenty of his best performances coming on soft ground and I’m expecting another big run.