Champion Stakes Preview with Sam Preen
The “Champion” tag started to fall off, when it was announced Australia retired, whilst The Grey Gatsby was in a will he, won’t he position for a while. Still, a fair field line up, which is sure to stand their ground providing nobody retires between now and then. Here we go…
Previously a top sort, but has been a shadow of his former self, since returning back to racing after disappointing at stud. Picked up a Group 3 at Windsor in August, but disappointed at Leopardstown, and again when well beaten in his second attempt at the Arc. A great shame to say this, but he’s safely ruled out of my list.
Cirrus Des Aigles
Scenes at Longchamp when Cirrus was sensationally thrown out of this year’s Prix Dollar, bidding to break his own record to win it a record four times, having bumped a rival and demoted to fifth placed. Before that, he was at his brilliant best, beating home Treve in the Ganay, Anodin in the Prix d’Ispahan, and came out on top with a gallant success in the Coronation Cup, beating home Flintshire by two lengths. Second to Farhh in this last year (which caused mass hysteria on social networking sites), he’s got his ground to suit again and looks more than capable of retaining his winning record.
Though he’s now won two Group 1’s, he’s still referred to as Frankel’s little brother. Noble Mission’s had an unreal season since returning back in April, firing off a four timer of wins, landing the Curragh’s Tattersalls Gold Cup in may, before being gifted Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud, a race he was narrowly beaten in. Beaten when dropped back to this trip at Munich, having being lumped with a high draw, and was forced wide after the first bend, beaten only half a length by Lucky Lion. Previously beaten the last time he encountered Cirrus, this time last year at Longchamp, but looks capable of throwing down the gauntlet now he’s in far better form.
Had a busy season, and got the better of Encke at Goodwood in august, in a minor Group 3, before disappointing when upped in trip at Newbury, before going onto pick up two Group races, facing only small fields, at Veliefendi, and Ascot. Surprisingly supplemented for this, dropping down in trip, which isn’t certain to suit, neither is the heavy ground underfoot.
Ruler Of The World
Former Derby hero, who was a creditable seventh in this last year when rattling home late, and followed that up with a narrow defeat in last year’s Champion Stakes. Purchased by Al Shaqab at the start of the season, he was very disappointing in the Dubai World Cup, but bounced back under a masterful ride under Frankie Dettori in the Prix Foy. Came in for a lot of support before the Arc, faring only ninth. Claims if capable of repeating his run in this last year.
Gave David Simcock an unforgettable night in Canada last month (half expected him to come home in a hockey jersey), rattling off a hat trick of wins, starting in a Listed event at Newmarket, before a cheeky success at Woodbine. Usually runs over further, but was only touched off a nose when last seen over 10 furlongs, before going onto start his winning streak. Previously well beaten on heavy, and doesn’t fare as well on soft, either.
Picked up a maiden at short odds and was plunged into the deep end when thrown into the French Derby, eventually finishing eleventh. Fared no better when second of six in a Class 3 at Epsom, and had a brave duel at Newmarket in a Listed event, before eventually running out of steam to lose second on the nod. A bit like me and the other half, he’s punching well above his weight here.
Routed his rivals on his debut, before losing his unbeaten tag to Australia last September at Leopardstown. Off for almost a year after all sorts of problems, but made up for lost time when massacring his rivals over 10 furlongs, coasting home 7 lengths clear. Definitely deserves his place here, having missed the big Group 1’s, and should fare very well providing the softer ground doesn’t faze him.
Got off the mark earlier in the year, beating the Leger third, Snow Sky, by two and a quarter lengths, in a conditions race at Newbury, and landed the Group 3 Classic Stakes on good to soft, but flopped when sixth to Australia in the Epsom Derby, having being greatly unsuited by Epsom’s unique undulations. Bounced back with an cosy victory in the Prix Eugene Adam at Maisons-laffitte in July, being driven clear by three lengths, with Shamkiyr (my one time Arc hope), back in fourth. The fourth placed Shamkiyr went onto finish runner up to The Great Gatsby, and he went onto beat Australia, but was given far too much to do at Deauville in August, finishing a “short neck” to Prince Gibraltar, a useful yardstick in himself. I got on before Australia was retired, but still looks a dark horse.
Conclusion: A race which has lost some of it’s shine with the news that the main attractions are retiring or staying home with their hooves up. All eyes will be on Cirrus Des Aigles, who bids to get back to winning ways after losing his Prix Dollar crown, thanks to the stewards, whilst Noble Mission could prove dangerous in his ideal ground, but was brushed aside last time he and Cirrus clashed.
The Grey Gatsby‘s participation is still doubtful, so it leaves plenty of room for a dark horse, which is my ante post bet – WESTERN HYMN. A confirmed mud lover, he blotted his form book when failing to handle the undulations of Epsom, but was back to his best at Maisons-laffitte, on very soft, but wasn’t given the best of rides when held up last at Deauville, staying on late for fourth. Capable of running a big race now the big guns aren’t around. Ruler Of The World is better than his disappointing Arc run, but has to do it alone, having no pacemaker. Free Eagle is also worth a mention, stepping into Group 1 level for the first time, having missed most of the year.
Western Hymn @ 12/1 (Ante-post)
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