Another antepost dive into British Champions Day, zeros us in on the Long Distance Cup betting, in search of value in a race dominated by the mighty Stradivarius.
With the British Champions Sprint Stakes already dealt with, the Long Distance Cup, QE II and British Champions Stakes markets appeal, but the first-named is what I'm keen to tackle first.
British Champions Day is a thoroughbred horse racing meeting held at Ascot Racecourse in October each year since 2011, which acts as the end of season highlight of British Flat racing.
It is the culmination of the British Champions Series and features the finals of the five divisions of the series. It is the richest day in British horse racing, with more than £4 million in prize money across the six races.
One horse who could possibly beat the Stayers’ Triple-Crown winner Stradivarius is Aidan O’Brien’s Capri, but he is not certain to run in the Long Distance Cup, and there is a strong possibility that O’Brien will rely on Irish St Leger winner Flag of Honour, who needs to be supplemented.
Despite that, he is priced as if he is sure to run, with most firms for-going the “with-a-run" proviso. Kew Gardens and South of France are others from Ballydoyle who are prominent in the betting, making it a minefield backing an O’Brien runner without an idea of which of that quartet will line up.
One who does look certain to take his place though, is the Willie Mullins-trained Thomas Hobson, who was priced as favourite for the Group 1 Prix du Cadran at the Arc meeting recently, only to be rerouted to Ascot at the 11th hour.
That contest represented low-hanging fruit by Group 1 standards, eventually being won by Call The Wind, who had absolutely no pattern-race experience prior to that success. Given how much easier Thomas Hobson’s task was at ParisLongchamp, it must be viewed as a positive that the ultra-shrewd Mullins should aim him categorically at the Long Distance Cup instead.
Although, that decision may have been affected in some part by the fact that connections had another runner in the Cadran in the shape of the inferior Max Dynamite. Unlike a few, he has been confirmed as a likely starter, and while he is not so good as Stradivarius, or a couple of the Ballydoyle contenders, he’s likely to run a big race, and represents a viable bet at a top price of 16/1 with Coral.
The British Champion Stakes betting offers slim pickings for ante-post punters, with the possibility of Roaring Lion being parachuted into the mile event in the case of soft ground, offering scant value to each-way players - unless they can accurately predict the weather.
If John Gosden’s colt did go the mile route, then the Champion Stakes would look pretty open behind Cracksman, and last year’s winner is one who can be opposed at very short prices. given how his season has failed to take off as expected.
If the ground remains on the fast side, then Roaring Lion would go to the Champion, and would be my idea of a much more likely winner than his older stablemate, but gambling on horses and the weather in the same bet is a very risky business.
The Queen Elizabeth II Stakes sees Recoletos head the market, and given he’s an intended runner, he is the correct favourite, although it’s very likely that Laurens, a surprise absentee from the entries, will be supplemented and that will provide competition, while Roaring Lion could be rerouted in the event of soft ground.
The problem is that the prospect of these two rivals appearing to challenge the Prix du Moulin winner has not seen any of the top bookmakers ease his price at all, and given he was behind several of his potential rivals when only seventh in the Queen Anne Stakes over C&D at Royal Ascot, it seems his price can only get bigger. No bet is the inevitable conclusion.
It’s possible to take a view that Roaring Lion should be favourite to beat Cracksman in the Champion Stakes betting, but there is plenty to lose in that scenario should John Gosden seek to keep his stars apart, and soft ground would scupper our chances of getting a runner.
Likewise in the QE II Stakes, Recoletos would be much weaker if Roaring Lion and/or Laurens were declared against him, and he doesn’t have a huge amount in hand of the field, so it’s hard to back him at current odds.
In the end, the only one I would want to back in this race would be Roaring Lion, who I believe would be well-suited by the chance to tackle a straight mile again, but that be is completely weather dependent, and as such needs to wait until the heavens open - or firms start betting NRNB.
In the end, the only outstanding bet in any of the main British Champions Day betting markets is an each-way play on Thomas Hobson for the Long Distance Cup, and even then we are working on the assumption that the field will cut up towards the top of the market. That said, the Willie Mullins stayer is worth adding to the portfolio.
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