ROARING LION (3.15) can prove king of the betting jungle on a glittering Champions Day at Ascot.
John Gosden has plumped for the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes as his chosen target and although the prevailing soft ground poses a question, Roaring Lion can polish off the season in style after landing the Coral-Eclipse at Sandown, Juddmonte International Stakes at York and the Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardstown.
If the deep surface does blunt his speed, the door would be open for either French raider Recoletos or the admirable Laurens to step forward.
Recoletos is a son of mudlark Whipper and found the 1m 2f trip just beyond him here 12 months ago when fading into fourth behind Cracksman in the Qipco Champion Stakes. He ran well behind Alpha Centauri at Deauville and edged out Wind Chimes in the Prix Moulin.
French Oaks winner Laurens got the better of Happily in the Sun Chariot Stakes at Newmarket and looks sure to be involved. Lord Glitters, another son of Whipper, also enters the equation given his penchant for soft ground.
CRACKSMAN (3.50) missed the Prix de L’Arc de Triomphe due to the ground but the rain has come in time for Gosden to give him the green light to defend his Qipco Champions Stakes crown.
The son of Frankel was at his imperious best 12 months ago as he pulverised his rivals but things haven’t gone quite so smoothly in 2018. Cracksman made a perfect reintroduction in the Prix Ganay but after a workmanlike victory in the Coronation Stakes at Epsom his wonderful unbeaten sequence was ended comprehensively by Poets Word at Royal Ascot.
Gallop reports suggest Cracksman is back in good order and Gosden reaches for first-time blinkers – a ploy he has used successfully in the past to aid the concentration level of some older horses.
LAH TI DAR (2.40) surrendered her unbeaten record in the William Hill St Leger but still emerged with huge credit. Kew Gardens stole a vital couple of lengths down the straight and the still inexperienced Lah Ti Dar was just unable to bridge the gap.
She has oozed class and although Aidan O’Brien, who saddled last year’s winner Hydrangea, goes into battle with a sizzling sextet headed by Magical, classy Lah Ti Dar should be the darling of her fan club by landing this fillies and mares contest.
STRADIVARIUS (1.25) is an obvious starting point in the Long Distance Cup. The four-year-old remains unbeaten this season following victories at York (twice), Ascot and Goodwood. Testing terrain could put off a few punters but it is worth recalling his close third last year behind Order of St George and Torcedor when the track was riding soft.
The Sprint is a more open affair with Harry Angel bidding to restore his reputation. He could finish only fourth last year behind LIBRISA BREEZE (2.00) and Dean Ivory’s mud-lover also holds Brando (sixth) on that run.
Librisa Breeze hasn’t hit those heights this summer but this will be the first time he finds conditions in his favour. The Tin Man, winner in 2016, ran fifth last year but struck the target at Haydock last time when landing the Sprint Cup.
The Balmoral handicap, a 23-runner one-mile contest, is a tough finale with Raising Sand, Zwayyan, Humbert and Kynren topping the shortlist along with ARGENTELLO (4.30).
Gosden’s three-year-old hacked up at Kempton on Tuesday, when admittedly enjoying the run of the race, and is clearly in great heart. Stall 23 up the stands’ side may prove a good place to be berthed and Frankie Dettori is in the saddle.
Recommended Ascot bets
- 3.15 – Roaring Lion (9-4, Ladbrokes)
- 3.50 – Cracksman (5-6, Unibet)
- 1.25 – Stradivarius (Evens, 888sport)
- 2.00 – Librisa Breeze (6-1, McBookie, Paddy Power)
- 2.40 – Lah Ti Dar (11-8, Marathonbet)
- 4.30 – Argentello ew (8-1, bet365)