ON THE CHAMPIONS TRAIL: Daqman follows the trail to the Ascot Champions Day and the two-year-old races, starting Saturday, which will tell us next year’s champions.
LOOK OUT TOMORROW: Tomorrow he analyses five Betdaq-sponsored races on the Kempton Park card. Will he try to step up on his 10 winning lays in a row?
The fat lady sings at Ascot. Yes, there’s the Breeders Cup, but champions’ day on October 15 is last-chance saloon for horse of the year in this country.
We’ve had so many ‘champions’ this season that to nominate a champion of champions would be hard but, if Nathaniel, can add the Champion Stakes to his King George, he would not be far away.
Nathaniel has a serious task against the race’s hat-trick seeker Twice Over and, if he’s recovered from the Arc, So You Think.
But it’s Ascot that’s seen Nathaniel’s progress through the ranks – he won the King Edward V11 Stakes at the royal meeting before the King George – and all he needs on October 15 is a strong pace and a normal race.
How wise not to run him at Longchamp where conditions and the race were abnormal. I have never seen a Guineas and an Arc in the same year that ended up as processions.
Nothing got into the Guineas when Frankel won six lengths and he was regarded as a ‘freak’ but he has matured into a genuine superstar since then, and his claim to be horse of the year would be clinched if he won the Queen Elizabeth 11 Stakes at the Ascot spectacular.
How much his Guineas win was the horse’s brilliance or the jockeys’ stunned ineptitude as the rest of the field failed to get involved – some riders even thought he was the pacemaker – was the big debate at the time.
The lesson of Frankel’s subsequent brilliance was that, while some in the Arc field sat and watched the leaders get away as they did at Newmarket in the Spring, Danedream fully deserved the accolades.
Many Arc observers are still in the same dazed Frankel-induced state of disbelief as they count Danedream’s scalps on Sunday: where were they, those winners of the English and Irish Oaks, Eclipse, French Derby, English Derby, Irish Derby, Grand Prix, Vermeille, St Leger? All shattered to bits by the pace.
The Ascot Champions Day is part of a massive transformation beginning to take shape in racing, one which – like the Arc day of days – leaves the daily fare a long, long way behind.
With the ‘champions league’ style should also come more money for the Classics and the resurrection of the Triple Crown in the St Leger, along the lines of the great contest we saw at Doncaster this year.
Stage three? Don’t forget the new kids on the block. We need to boost and streamline the two-year-old ‘Classics’ season.
Next Saturday’s Middle Park (October 8th) and the Gimcrack have fallen behind for subsequent honours, in the 10 years since Rock of Gibraltar; so, too, the Fillies’ Mile since Soviet Song. The Dewhurst – also on Saturday – has failed to produce a Derby winner in the last thee years.
And the Racing Post Trophy (October 22) has had a series of duff results: recent winners Ibn Khaldun, Crowded House and Casamento all fell by the wayside. St Nicholas Abbey looked set to join them as he disappointed in his second season until Ballydoyle wrought recovery.
So where do the champions come from? As well as looking at the run-up to champions day at Ascot, this column will try to answer that question as the existing juvenile series unfolds and we start talking about the 2012 Classic season.
BET 4.6pts win (nap) ESTIQBAAL (2.10 Leicester)
BET 3.5pts win MEANDMYSHADOW (2.40 Leicester)
BET 1.6pts win and place EASTERN HILLS and 2pts win (stakes saver) BEECHCRAFT BARON (5.20 Southwell)
BET 3pts win MONASHEE ROCK (5.40 Leicester)