It rained at Ascot and the pieces fell into place: Roaring Lion in the QE2, Addeybb in the QE2, Capri in the Champion Stakes.
The defection of Roaring Lion from the Qipco Champion Stakes is probably the biggest news of all. John Gosden’s colt has been superb over 10 furlongs all year. He has raced over the distance four times in his life, and he has won four times: the Dante, the Eclipse, the Juddmonte International and the Irish Champion Stakes.
You can understand why connections have chosen the shorter race. You probably want to stay a mile and a half if you are going to win a Champion Stakes at Ascot on soft ground in October, and Roaring Lion came up short in the Derby, on his only foray beyond 10 and a half furlongs. And there is no Cracksman lying in wait in the QE2.
That said, Qatar Racing’s colt hasn’t raced over a mile since he finished fifth in the Guineas on his debut this season, and he hasn’t raced on ground softer than good since he went down by a neck to Saxon Warrior in the Racing Post Trophy at Doncaster last October. It will be fascinating to see how he goes.
It will also be fascinating to see how Lah Ti Dar goes in the Fillies and Mares Stakes. John Gosden’s filly missed the heart of the season after she had promised the world with victory in the Pretty Polly Stakes at Newmarket in May. But she was mightily impressive in winning the Galtres Stakes at York in August, 40 minutes after Sea Of Class had danced in in the Yorkshire Oaks, and she ran a massive race in the St Leger last time.
It is difficult to pick holes in the favourite’s chance. She is classy, she is immaculately bred, she should be fresher than most of her rivals going into the race, and she has raced just four times in her life, so there is the prospect of even more. But she has never raced at Ascot, she had never raced on ground that will be as soft as it will be on Saturday, she had a hard race in the St Leger, and she is short.
Kitesurf might represent some value against her. Andre Fabre’s filly was below top grade last season as a three-year-old, but she was impressive in winning a Group 3 race at Longchamp on her debut this season, and her last two runs have been very good.
She was impressive in winning the Group 2 Prix de Pomone at Deauville on her penultimate run. They didn’t go a great gallop through that race and, no better than ninth of the 11 runners as they turned for home, she showed a potent turn of foot to hit the front inside the final furlong, and she stayed on strongly to put three and a half lengths between herself and her closest pursuer.
That form has been enhanced since too. Runner-up Palombe was only just beaten by Princess Yauza in the Group 2 Prix de Royallieu at Longchamp on Arc weekend, while third-placed God Given won the Group 2 Park Hill Stakes next time at Doncaster. Fourth-placed Morgan Le Faye finished third in the Prix du Cadran on Arc weekend, fifth-placed Precious Ramotswe ran a cracker in the Cesarewitch until her stamina appeared to run out, and seventh-placed Crimson Rosette ran a big race next time to finish a close-up third in a Group 3 race at Newmarket.
It was a strong race.
Kitesurf herself went out next time and won the Group 1 Prix Vermeille at Longchamp on Arc trials weekend. She didn’t travel too well through that race, but she stayed on strongly through the final furlong to get up and beat Magic Wand by a head, the pair of them nicely clear. And Magic Wand enhanced that form next time when she finished second to Wild Illusion in the Prix de l’Opera.
The Godolphin filly was in the Arc picture until final declaration stage, but her trainer probably decided to by-pass Longchamp with a view to going to Ascot instead, presumably with the prospect of softer ground as an influencing factor.
By Dubawi, out of the Danehill Dancer mare Shimmering Surf, who handled soft ground well and who won the Group 3 Pinnacle Stakes at Haydock over a mile and a half, Ascot’s stiff mile and a half on soft ground should suit Kitesurf well. She may be a little under-rated at 7.0 or 7.2.
Librisa Breeze may also be a little under-rated in the British Champion Sprint Stakes at around 6.0. The Dean Ivory-trained gelding has been well beaten in all four runs this season, but there has been mitigation.
His first run was in Dubai in March, his second was in the Diamond Jubilee Stakes at Royal Ascot, on ground that should have been faster than ideal for him. He ran well on his third run, in the Group 1 Prix Maurice de Gheest at Deauville, when he finished fourth, after racing through the early stages of the race in the near-side group, in a race in which the first two home made up two-thirds of the far-side group. And last time, in the Hungerford Stakes at Newbury, he saw too much daylight too early and raced too keenly before fading.
Tony Bloom’s horse is a little bit of a leap of faith, but he should have his optimum conditions on Saturday, and there is every chance that a return to Ascot on soft ground in October will see a return to his best. His record on good to soft ground or softer reads 22121, and his three wins on turf have been gained at Ascot.
The Mount Nelson gelding has raced on soft ground at Ascot on three occasions. On the first, he finished second in the Royal Hunt Cup in 2016 over a mile, a trip that was probably further than ideal. On the second, in October 2016, he won the Challenge Cup over seven furlongs. On the third, he won this race last year.
Behind him that day were Tasleet, Harry Angel, The Tin Man, Brando and Donjuan Triumphant, all of whom are set to re-oppose on Saturday. That was the best performance of his career to date, and a repeat of that run could be good enough to see him home again on Saturday.