IRISH CHALLENGE ON CHAMPIONS DAY: SHAMROCK looks ahead to the Irish Challenge at Ascot on Saturday on Champions Day.

A good run from the nap yesterday, Agnes Stewart who finished second at 5/1, beaten just half a length in the Dubai Fillies’ Mile at Newmarket.

And now to Champions Day itself at Ascot. Heavy ground with the prospect of further showers today will clearly be at the forefront of punters calculations.

As for the Irish challenge it has been weakened somewhat by the retirement of the dual Derby winner Australia.

1:45 Qipco British Champions Long Distance Cup (Group 2) (3yo+, Class 1, 2m, 9 runners)

The Irish have a huge chance of landing the opener with either Forgotten Rules for Dermot Weld or Aidan O’Brien’s Gold Cup winner Leading Light. Forgotten Rules has been hugely impressive in both his bumper win at Punchestown and flat debut at Galway and excuse the clich√© but really could be ‘anything’. However, the safer bet has to be Leading Light and although most of his big race successes have been on faster ground – he has proven he can handle testing conditions too.

2:20 Qipco British Champions Sprint Stakes (Group 2) (3yo+, Class 1, 6f, 16 runners)

The much travelled Gordon Lord Byron is never far away but has had a busy campaign. Eddie Lynam may yet again have the answer to a Group sprint, this time with Viztoria who relishes the testing ground and looked good when sprinting clear to win at the Curragh last time out.

2:55 Qipco British Champions Fillies & Mares Stakes (Group 1) (3yo+, Class 1, 1m 4f, 10 runners)

We’ll Go Walking looks totally outclassed here so the Irish challenge is dependent on Aidan O’Brien’s Chicquita but the ground is a big question mark and she needs to bounce back after finishing 15th of 20 in the Arc. No bet for me.

3:30 Queen Elizabeth II Stakes Sponsored By Qipco (Group 1) (British Champions Mile) (3yo+, Class 1, 1m, 11 runners)

Another big race that doesn’t look to be heading back to Ireland. Brendan Brackan is not up to this level and is totally unproven on the ground whilst Aidan O’Brien’s Kingsbarns is a talented horse on his day but has had an interrupted career through training setbacks.

4:05 Qipco Champion Stakes (Group 1) (British Champions Middle Distance) (3yo+, Class 1, 1m 2f, 9 runners)

Free Eagle is my nap of the day, although I am taking a big chance with the ground. He was so impressive on comeback when winning the KPMG Enterprise Stakes- a Group 3 at Leopardstown. There’s a chance Dermot Weld will make a late decision but if he is happy to let him take his chance I’m more than happy to be onboard.

4:45 Balmoral Handicap (Sponsored By Qipco) (Str) (3yo+, Class 2, 1m, 27 runners)

Not a strong Irish challenge here and it looks totally impossible so I’m happy to swerve!

1.45 Leading Light
2.20 Viztoria (NEXT BEST)
2.55 NO BET
3.30 NO BET
4.05 Free Eagle (NAP)
4.45 NO BET

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