Champion’s Day Round Up
The World’s greatest scribes couldn’t have conjured up some of the stories that unwound on Champions Day at Ascot, particularly the fairy tale ending that was Noble Mission stepping out of his brother Frankel’s shadow to take the Champion Stakes. Two years ago the mighty Frankel brought down the curtain on his illustrious career in the same race but today it was the turn of his baby brother Noble Mission to have his name up in lights.
A change to front running tactics and a little more maturity has brought an unbelievable amount of improvement from the Lady Cecil trained 5yo and he again braved it out from the front here under James Doyle. He simply galloped his rivals into the ground, that is, all but the revitalized Al Kazeem, who put in a brave effort under George Baker.
How strange it must have been for James Doyle to be trying with all his might to win the race, only to look over and see his old mate Al Kazeem doing everything he could to stop him. Noble Mission eventually scored by a neck. The young pretender Free Eagle ran a blinder on ground he seemed to struggle on to finish third. 7/4 favourite and 2011 winner Cirrus Des Aigles was forced to travel wide and ultimately finished a disappointing fifth.
Elsewhere, French raider Charm Spirit was victorious in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes for Freddy Head and Olivier Peslier. A two-time Group 1 winner in his native land and fifth behind today’s rival Night Of Thunder in the 2000 Guineas, Charm Spirit was obviously in his element on today’s testing ground and, with the help of Peslier, squeezed through a tight gap before coming home a 1/2 length winner from the unfortunate Night Of Thunder.
There will be many people that will question the ride that Night Of Thunder received from Richard Hughes and, in truth, there probably is a case to be made for it. Hughes looked extremely relaxed as he settled his charge in the rear of the field but that relaxation quickly turned to panic, as there was no break in the wall of horses in front. The pair switched to the outside in search of room but were forced to change tact and come back to the rail. A gap eventually came but by this stage Charm Spirit already had the race in the bag. Last year’s Champion 2yo Toormore returned to his best form to finish third under Kieren Fallon.
Earlier in the day there was more jockey bashing going on when Chicquita, with Joseph O’Brien in the saddle, somehow managed to throw away the Group 1 Fillies and Mares Stakes. 12/1 shot Madame Chiang was the filly to benefit from the wayward tendencies of Aidan O’Brien’s former Irish Oaks winner, staying on strongly under Jim Crowley.
Chicquita hit the front inside the 2 pole under Joseph’s urgings but hung really badly to her left and eventually ended up on the stand’s rail whilst the rest of the field passed by. The 12/1 price about the winner was a little surprising given that her best performances had came with ease in the ground and David Simcock’s filly again showed a liking for the surface by recording a 2 length victory.
The first two races on the card were dominated by the Irish contingent, with Forgotten Rules taking a messy Long Distance Cup and the globetrotting Gordon Lord Byron benefiting from a brilliant ride by Wayne Lordan to take the Champions Sprint Stakes. Forgotten Rules, a bumper winner at Punchestown and an eight length winner at the Galway Festival, looks to be a very special talent but benefited from some good luck to record this 1 3/4 length victory.
Having turned for home things soon got messy with Forgotten Rules having to shove his way through a gang of horses, hampering Leading Light and Marzocco but, in truth, those two looked beaten at that stage and it would surely have had no affect on the outcome. Biographer stayed on gamely to finish second in the end, with the gallant Pallasator back in third.
Gordon Lord Byron had to wait an age to get a gap under a patient ride from Wayne Lordan in the Sprint Stakes but having shoved his way through went clear easily to score by 1 1/4 lengths from Tropics, with Jack Dexter back in third.
By Kevin Walsh / Photos: Steve Parsons/PA Wire
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