John Gosden's ten strong team among a glittering cast set for British Champions Day at Ascot
Champion Trainer John Gosden’s powerful squad are among a glittering cast set for the ninth edition of QIPCO British Champions Day at Ascot tomorrow.
Gosden’s team of ten, includes the favourites for three of races on the day, Stradivarius (QIPCO British Champions Long Distance Cup), Star Catcher(QIPCO British Champions Fillies and Mares) and Lord North (Balmoral Handicap) and are among 84 runners, with no fewer than 22 Group 1 winners standing their ground for Britain’s richest raceday.
Gosden enjoyed an impressive treble on the day last year when Cracksman (QIPCO Champion Stakes), Roaring Lion (Queen Elizabeth II Stakes) and Stradivarius (Long Distance Cup) all justified favouritism.
Stradivarius is set to defend his crown in the QIPCO British Champions Long Distance Cup. The outstanding stayer, owned and bred by Bjorn Nielsen, has not lost for two years and extended his winning sequence to ten under Frankie Dettori with an easy success in the Magners Rosé Doncaster Cup last month.
Gosden said: “He’s been in very good form since the Doncaster Cup. He breezed on Wednesday morning and worked on Saturday, and Frankie was very happy with him.
“I have made it clear that I will be walking the inner flat track in the morning, which I did last year for him. I shall then discuss everything with Mr Nielsen (owner). Last year we discussed it and decided to run and I hope that it’s the same this year.”
He added: “Horses like him who can travel so well and then quicken up are rare, and it’s what make them a class apart. To do it at the end of these long races is a great attribute.”
Gosden has a second string to his bow in the QIPCO British Long Distance Cup in the shape of the lightly-raced Royal Line, who was a fluent winner of the Group 3 Sun Racing September Stakes at Kempton last month.
“He won on the all-weather last time but is a horse who loves soft ground, so no doubt he would not be too concerned by conditions underfoot,” Gosden said.
“Stamina-wise he is going into unknown territory, there’s no doubt about that. We haven’t run him over that far but he finishes his races out strong over a mile-and-a-half and gives the impression [he will stay].”
Gosden scooped the QIPCO British Champions Fillies & Mares Stakes with Journey in 2016 and was responsible for the second and third-placed horses last year. This time he launches a three-pronged attack with Star Catcher, Anapurna and Sparkle Roll all taking their chances.
Star Catcher has reeled off successive wins in the Ribblesdale Stakes, Kerrygold Irish Oaks and Qatar Prix Vermeille, while Anapurna, a daughter of Frankel who will be having her final race, won the Investec Oaks in June and secured another Group 1 prize when winning the Qatar Prix de Royallieu at Longchamp this month. Sparkle Roll, third to Star Catcher in the Ribblesdale, is part-owned by the raceday sponsors.
“Anapurna had a rough trip in the Vermeille and showed great courage in the Prix de Royallieu,” Gosden said. “You don’t normally come back that quickly but in fairness she’s had a lot of the summer off. She had a big holiday from the Oaks through to the Vermeille, then the Royallieu.
Star Catcher will be partnered by Frankie Dettori. Gosden said, “I think it was a difficult choice for Frankie. He had great difficulty choosing going into the Royallieu where one got the run of the race and one did not. And he found it a difficult choice again for Saturday, he really did, but he’s sticking with the filly who has had the longer time between her races.”
Gosden has won the past two runnings of the QIPCO-sponsored Queen Elizabeth II Stakes with Persuasive and Roaring Lion and this time relies on King Of Comedy. The Kingman colt was touched off in the St James’s Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot in June before being beaten under two lengths in the Juddmonte International at York. However, on his latest startat Newmarket, he was no match for the Saeed bin Suroor-trained Benbatl, who is a big fancyfor Saturday's renewal.
"I think he will take all the beating again," said Gosden, " but we’re running under somewhat different conditions. If we handle that ground then I think King Of Comedy will run a big race.”
Gosden won last year's QIPCO Champion Stakes with Cracksman and this yearhas declared Mehdaayih,and Coronet, placed in the past two renewals of the QIPCO British Champions Fillies and Mares Stakes and winner of Group 1 races in France on her last two starts.
Lord North who landed the bet365 Cambridgeshire in commanding style at Newmarket last month is a leading fancy for the Gosden team in the Balmoral Handicap but will have to overcome a 12lb rise in the ratings if he is emulate Bronze Angel, who pulled off the Cambridgeshire and Balmoral double in 2014. The Clarehaven trainer also saddles Kick On, who carries the colours of Qatar Racing Limited.
“This is Lord North’s last chance in a big handicap and so we will give it a go,” Gosden said. “Kick On won a Group 3 last time out and he’s a real genuine horse who deserves to run in a race like this.”
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More by this authorAlison Hayes