Champions Day 2017 Review

Champions Day Review – 21st October 2017, Ascot

Saturday saw the big finale to the British flat racing season, as Ascot played host to their ever-popular Champions Day. Here we take a look back at the stories from each of the days six cracking contests.

Odds on Order Gets Punters Off To A Flyer

There can be little doubt that Aidan O’Brien’s Order Of St. George is the most talented stayer in training on his day, but he is far from infallible. The question going into the opening Long Distance Cup – featuring the likes of his Ascot Gold Cup conqueror, Big Orange, and the emerging talent, Stradivarius – was would he deliver today?

For a long way, it looked as though the answer would be no. Going nowhere quickly with 2f to go, it was only close home that the complexion of the race began to alter. As the leader, Torcedor began to wilt, Order Of St George’s abundant stamina came to the fore as he recorded a thrilling ½l success to the delight of the majority of the packed crowd.

Sprint Shock As Breeze Blows In

With the first hot favourite of the day obliging in the opener, a victory for the speedy Clive Cox star, Harry Angel, in the Champions Sprint Stakes may well have had the bookies running for cover. Making swift progress to hit the front 2f for home, the dream start to the day for favourite backers looked to be on the cards. But then it all started to go wrong.

Whether it was the tough conditions, or the energy burnt taking a fierce pull in the early stages, Harry Angel simply couldn’t maintain his effort and was reeled in by Caravaggio, Tasleet and eventual winner Librisa Breeze. Five times a winner at beyond this six furlong trip, that proven stamina proved telling here as the Dean Ivory trained grey would not be denied.

Hydrangea Blossoms In Rain Softened Ground As O’Brien Draws Level

One of the main sub-plots to Champions Day this year concerned the question as to whether today would be the day that Aidan O’Brien drew level with – or perhaps even surpassed – the great Bobby Frankel, in pursuit of the single season Group 1 World Record.

It was fitting that it was a filly by the horse who has done more to shape O’Brien’s career than any other, the unsurpassed stallion Galileo, who took O’Brien to the magic number of 25 by winning the Champions Fillies and Mares Stakes. Confirmed mud lover Bateel threw down a big challenge to O’Brien’s Hydrangea, but the will to win of these Galileo runners seems unbreakable at times, and Hydrangea showed that will in abundance to power away close home.

O’Brien didn’t quite manage to break the record on the day – but was crowned the season’s Champion trainer – but it is surely only a matter of when not if now.

Gosden Filly Needs No Persuading In QEII

A number of the big guns from the miling division were lined up for what looked to be an enthralling renewal of the prestigious Queen Elizabeth II Stakes. But would it be four time Group 1 winner Ribchester, dual Guineas hero, Churchill, French raider, Al Wukair, or the emerging talent Beat The Bank who came home in front?

In the end the answer was none of them, as the prize was landed by the outgoing Champion trainer John Gosden and his four year old filly, Persuasive. Sweeping to the front under Frankie Dettori, the daughter of Dark Angel was recording a first Group 1 success at the fourth time of asking here. It will also be her last though, as she will now embark on her second career in the breeding shed.

Cracksman Takes Aim And Blows Them Away

Despite the impressive efforts that had come before, there can be no doubting that the big performance of the day came in the big race itself, the Champion Stakes. Long-touted as being something a little out of the ordinary, placed finishes in the English and Irish Derby did suggest that John Gosden’s Cracksman was good, if not quite brilliant. That assessment may need to be revised now, as the performance he delivered here – dropping back down to 1m2f – was simply jaw dropping.

Some may argue that this wasn’t the hottest of renewals, but it is still some effort to leave a Group 1 field standing like stones to blitz clear for a seven lengths success. In common with stablemate Enable, Cracksman is to be kept in training next season, with a mouth-watering head to head clash, possibly in the King George, looking a distinct possibility.

Glitters Is Golden….But Only Just

The day’s closing contest provided another boon for favourite bakers, as the David O’Meara trained Lord Glitters delivered the goods. Coming from a mile back to finish a fast finishing second over 7f at this track last time out, it seemed certain that this extra furlong in trip would suit. And so it proved, but boy did he makes his backers sweat.

Much like in the Challenge Cup last time, this impressive grey had been all but forgotten in-running, only to produce what is becoming a trademark finishing thrust to grab GM Hopkins – finishing second here for the second time – close home. Surely a group horse in the making, Lord Glitters looks one to follow.