On heavy ground following a deluge of rain around Berkshire in recent days, a very wet and muddy Champions Day at Ascot is now coming together although who takes part and on what strip of ground is as yet unresolved.
Clerk of the Course Chris Stickels this week said the Ascot turf is the wettest he’s ever seen it, something that has set tongues wagging and social media platforms being fired up as many still think this day should be run at Newmarket instead.
A decision will be made as early as Wednesday on whether three races including the Champion Stakes that are set to be run on the round course will be moved to the inner track, or the “hurdles track” for better ground.
Currently the straight course is heavy and the round course is heavy, waterlogged in places which makes it sound almost unraceable, although with no significant rain forecast until Friday things may yet improve.
Haggas Gelding Favoured on Heavy Ground
Naturally some horses love this weather, just as the brilliant Cracksman did when landing the last two Champions Stakes, and it looks like being the case with William Haggas’ quartet of intended runners, all of whom want it soft and none more so than Royal Ascot winner Addeybb.
The former Lincoln champ has excelled on soft ground in the past, getting lucky according to Haggas when the rain fell at the Royal meeting before scoring again in heavy conditions in the Rose of Lancaster Stakes at Haydock.
Haggas has been honest enough to say that Addeybb is probably not true Group 1 class, but he will handle conditions better than most and that has seen him top the betting ahead of Magical, Japan and Coronet.
Strad Not a Certain Starter
Having won exactly the same races as last year; the Yorkshire Cup, Ascot Gold Cup, Goodwood Cup and Lonsdale Stakes to win consecutive Stayer’s Million bonuses, the brilliant Stradivarius is attempting to finish on a high once again in the Long Distance Cup but this time his participation is not certain.
Trainer John Gosden intends to walk the course before making a decision, given that much like stablemate Enable it has been commented that this ground could blunt the devastating turn of foot he displays and thus make him vulnerable.
Gosden actually has the second-favourite in the race in the shape of the well-backed Royal Line who seems to excel at this time of year having taken the November Handicap at Doncaster last term, while Kew Gardens and old foe Dee Ex Bee are also shortlisted for the event.
Ben in a Battle for QEII Honours
Despite recording his best performance ever in the Joel Stakes, Godolphin’s Benbatl now does not look like going off favourite for the QEII.
French raider The Revenant is a confirmed heavy ground horse and has been entered this week making him the one for money, but while as a three-year-old he has more to give it must be pointed out that as well as he’s run at the top level on this ground he has actually been beaten each time on it so caution is advised.
Advertise and Hello Youmzain head the market for the Champions Sprint over six furlongs and John Gosden has the favourite in the closing Balmoral Handicap in the shape of Cambridgeshire winner Lord North.
Gosden also has a very enviable hand in the Champion Fillies & Mares race with Royal Ascot, Irish Oaks and Prix Vermeille winner Star Catcher heading the betting ahead of Epsom Oaks and Prix de Royallieu winner Anapurna.
The latter is having her final race before being retired and both horses should handle the ground fine so it will be fascinating to see who Frankie Dettori chooses to ride.