British Champions Day 2021: Rac selections, tips and guide to Saturday’s action at Ascot

Adayar, winner of the Derby and King George, is one of a number of horses with legitimate claims to land the Champion Stakes

Credit: PA

There may not be a headline horse quite like Frankel – will there ever be in our lifetimes? – who launched the first Qipco British Champions Day with a four length romp in the 2011 Queen Elizabeth II Stakes but Saturday’s card looks as good if not better than nearly all of the nine subsequent editions of the country’s richest race day.

It is certainly not short of equine star quality and, helped by ground that is not a bog, it will be fiercely competitive and anything but predictable.

There are no certainties on top of which are two very prominent sub-plots to the day; the outcome of the 2021 jockeys’ championship which ends on Saturday and, with so much prize-money on offer, the trainers’ title runs from year to year could go one of three ways; to Charlie Appleby, Andrew Balding or John and Thady Gosden.  

Adayar, the Derby and King George winner, Mishriff, six-length winner of the International but well beaten in this a year ago, last year’s winner Addeybb who has already pocketed £3.5 million in prize-money and the French challenger Sealiway, fifth in the Arc but a good second to St Mark’s Basilica in the French Derby over the trip, all have legitimate claims in the Champion Stakes.

It does look a bit of an after-thought for Adayar after his Prix de L’Arc de Triomphe fourth and though he is an out and out stayer, the tempo of a 10 furlong race might suit him rather well.

Al Aasy, one of three William Haggas runners, has a chance on the ground but Jim Crowley needs to play him late while it may not be quite soft enough for Addeybb but it is Haggas’s third runner, the extremely progressive Dubai Honour who can eclipse the established names in this race.

A fortnight ago Haggas sent out eight winners in a day, a feat not achieved in living memory on the Flat, so the stable could not be in better form. One of those winners was Dubai Honour, the only three-year-old carrying a penalty for a previous Group Two win, in the Prix Dollar at Longchamp.

Gelded last year when he failed to win a nursery and did not look like he would ever make a stallion, the trainer thought he had ‘lost’ him last winter.

“He got free and very arsey, pulling, sweating and not thriving so we sent him of to [Olympic team gold medallist] Laura Collett,” he recalled. “They like a challenge. She sent a video six weeks later of him with his head bowed between his legs doing figures of eight in her school. He came back and has done nothing but thrived ever since.”

He finished fourth in a handicap first time out in the Britannia at Royal Ascot before winning at Newmarket. Haggas then decided to have a go at a Group Two in Deauville where they went too fast, fell in a heap and, ridden from the back, he came through for a smooth win.

“We thought let’s run him in the Prix Dollar and see,” recalled Haggas. “They went very slowly and he was at the back of the field (which should not have suited) but he showed a very smart of foot and finished well on top at the finish. When I suggested to the owner we might supplement for this he nearly bit my hand off.”

Haggas also has a chance of upsetting the apple cart in the Queen Elizabeth II stakes with Baeed, unbeaten in five starts this season including the Group One Prix du Moulin at Longchamp.

The Moulin form has not worked out well but Haggas had had a hold up with Baeeed going into that race and reckons he can find improvement on that.

“It’s a hell of a strong race though,” he said. “What none of us know is what he’s got left. I’m not a punter but I’d have Palace Pier at evens, Baeed at 3-1 but you should see the best of him on Saturday.”

Palace Pier lived in the shadow of his stable mates Stradivarius who goes for a third time against Trueshan in the Long Distance Cup – and Enable. But he has done little wrong. His only defeat came in this race last year on awful ground.

Frankie Dettori, who is a hard man to keep out of the winners’ enclosure on these occasions, likes Palace Pier’s chances. “The only race he has been beaten in is this one last year, when he lost a shoe and I got squeezed out at the start,” he said.  “He was so far back, and with everything that went wrong that day it was a massive run to come home third.

“He’s a champion and probably one of the best milers I have ever ridden so I have confidence he will put in a huge performance.”

However a freshened up Alcohol Free, who has had a break since the international, will enjoy the track and the ground and has a great chance of beating the colts on Saturday.

Queen Elizabeth II Stakes

Benbatl
Reliable old warrior who has won a Dubai World Cup, probably not quite up to winning it but one for each-way punters.

Lord Glitters
Likes Ascot, won a Queen Anne two years ago, but possibly bit long in the tooth for race of this calibre now.

Njord
Won the handicap on this card a year ago, he has found life tougher in Group company.

Palace Pier
The pre-eminent miler in Europe and the one to beat. Only defeat came in this race a year ago. Obvious chance of putting the record straight here.

The Revenant
Won this is a bog last year. Would want the ground heavy for a repeat.

Baeed
Unbeaten but yet to meet a horse of Palace Pier’s calibre but big threat to the favourite.

Lady Bowthorpe
Not far behind Palace Pier in the Lockinge in similar conditions. Each-way chance.

Master of the Seas
Runner-up in the Guineas and should improve on run behind Benbatl last time after a break but jury is out.

Alcohol Free
Coronation and Sussex Stakes winner. Loves some cut in the ground and freshened up for this. Maybe best bet at the prices.

Mother Earth
Guineas winner who has developed a habit of finding one too good since. Needs to be at her best.

Champion Stakes

Addeybb
Mud-lark winner of this race a year ago. Sure to give a good account of self but would prefer heavy ground to slow others up.

Al Aasy
Travels well in his races, loves cut in the ground but sometimes does not find much off the bridle.

Euchen Glen
Scottish challenger, grand old servant who loves some cut in the ground, he is probably a bit out of his depth here.

Mishriff
Very impressive in the International at York. Very solid mile and a quarter horse who should reverse form with Adayar back over his favoured distance.

Adayar
Derby and King George winner. Arc did not pan out for him but slight surprise to see him back over a mile and a quarter.

Bolshoi Ballet
Seventh in the Derby when favourite has spent his time racing is USA since. Even though a Group One winner does not look good enough.

Dubai Honour
Very progressive dual Group Two winner. Huge threat to the big boys.

Foxes Tales
An Ascot winner who likes cut in the ground. First time application of blinkers would need to make a big difference.

Mac Swiney
He will appreciate the ground but appears to have gone off the boil since winning the Irish Guineas.

Sealiway
Chased home St Mark’s Basilica in French Derby before finishing fifth in Arc after long break. No forlorn chance back at this trip.

Champions Day tips

Marcus Armytage

1.25 Trueshan
2.00 Minzaal
2.35 Albaflora
3.10 Alcohol Free 
3.50 Dubai Honour NAP
4.30 Sunray Major

Marlborough

1.25 Hamish
2.00 Happy Power NAP
2.35 Albaflora
3.10 Baeed
3.50 Adayar
4.30 Rhoscolyn

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