Champions’ Day Verdict

October 16th, 2016 | Marten's Current Racing Diary

Champions’ Day at Ascot yesterday lived up to its name, with a host of Group 1 and Classic winners clashing.

I had a feeling beforehand that things would not all go Aidan O’Brien’s way and the defeat of Order Of St George was an early setback for the yard. I have to say that I have never been entirely convinced about the four-year-old despite his fine record at the highest level.

He tends to become quite edgy before a race – he was in a muck sweat again yesterday – and having run so well 13 days earlier to finish third in the Arc this was, probably, a bridge too far for him. Having been keen to oppose him I was not sure what would win but Sheikhzayedroad had valid claims on the book and this victory was well deserved.

I did not have a firm view either on the Champions Sprint. The horse that most interested me was Librisa Breeze even though I was certain this six furlongs would prove too sharp for him. Even so, nothing was travelling better at halfway but after making headway his run petered out approaching the final furlong. He will be competing in Group class races next season, more likely over seven furlongs than six.

The day’s most impressive winner to the eye was Journey, who quickened on the bridle to beat Speedy Boarding in the Fillies & Mares race. John Gosden had brought the filly to her peak in perfect timing for this race. Seventh Heaven, who never really showed, was clearly not at her best.

I was impressed that Minding proved able to land the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes back at a mile. This came at the end of a busy season that had started with the 1,000 Guineas in May, since when she had run five times including her victory in the Oaks and Nassau Stakes. I thought a mile on good ground could find her out, but she is clearly every bit as special as they believed she was and I expect we may be seeing more of her next season. Galileo Gold was keen early and ran like a colt that was over the top.

The Champion Stakes was all about Almanzor but I was very taken with the way Jack Hobbs stayed on into third. This was his first appearance since sustaining a stress fracture to his pelvis in May and it was over a trip short of his best. He is a fresh horse and is one to stay with now that he is back in full training.

I was bitterly disappointed with GM Hopkins in the closing Balmoral Handicap. Ryan Moore had been very keen to ride the five-year-old after his unfortunate run in the Cambridgeshire but he was held up in arrears and never put into the race. I am not sure what the excuse was afterwards – it may have been the going – but to my eyes there was plenty of horse left at the finish. I will be interested if he runs again this season, especially on easier ground.

Bye for now