CHAMPIONS DAY: Declan Rix from At The Races gives his best bets for British Champions Day 2022

British Champions Long Distance Cup

British Champions Day 2022 kicks off at 1.25pm on Saturday – live on Sky Sports Racing – with the Group 2 Qipco British Champions Long Distance Cup, run over the official distance of 1m7f209y. No Kyprios or Stradivarius means this field of stayers have a much easier task in hand. The winner of the last two runnings, Trueshan, returns, however, and his fans or connections won’t mind the aforementioned pair of absentees.

Nor will they mind any more rain that falls from declaration time, although there are mixed messages in the amounts that will actually land in Berkshire. The more rain, the better Trueshan’s hopes for reasons that are two-fold; one: we know he handles extremely testing ground well and two: the extra emphasis on stamina will also play to his strengths.

Fellow market leader Eldar Eldarov clearly handles cut in the ground, as we saw in his tough St Leger success 34 days ago, but this trip is an unknown for him, especially on a stamina-demanding track like Ascot. He obviously has the class to win, if his Leger exploits haven’t left a mark on a young horse with a great attitude.

This pair are the two standouts for me, from the likable duo of Coltrane and Quickthorn; but both of these have had long, tough seasons and will want no more rain. Rain shouldn’t be an issue for Waterville, but he looks under-priced at 4.3 so I’m more than happy to take him on.

At the current odds, despite being beaten at 2/9 last time out, when not getting a great ride in a tactical-enough race and looking ill-at-ease under pressure, maybe not fully fit, TRUESHAN gets the nod. I hope Hollie Doyle lets him stride on this time around. Let it rain, I say!

British Champions Sprint Stakes

We go from one extreme to the other next, with the 6f Group 1 Qipco British Champions Sprint Stakes (2.00pm), the second contest on the six-race card. I do feel this race is more open than the betting suggests where the market has Creative Force, the defending champion, outright favourite at 5.0. He takes a sizable chunk out of the market, despite not having competed in over three months, meaning we can hopefully get a bit of value elsewhere. He’ll need a top-class Charlie Appleby-training performance to win.

The draw and pace in all races are important, but more so over sprint trips. There looks to be pace across the track here in what should at least be an honest-run race, but I want to be with a horse drawn low. The in-form and Ascot-loving ROHAAN fits the bill, although, ideally, I’d want at least 5.0 to get involved. Hopefully the selection doesn’t get too far behind under Adam Kirby, like he has on a few occasions this season.

British Champions Fillies & Mares Stakes

While there looks to be plenty of pace on in the Sprint, the opposite is true in race three, the Group 1 Qipco British Champions Fillies & Mares Stakes (2.40pm). Only Sweet Lady has led of this declared field on their last starts, but she did so at a steady gallop. I think this race could get tactical and potentially quite messy in the closing stages.

That may not suit likely favourite Emily Upjohn, who can race keenly, is a hold-up horse, and who also comes here on the back of a run where mentally, it looked like she lost the plot, for whatever reason. The Oaks runner-up will need a good training performance from John & Thady Gosden to win, the pair now reaching for a first-time hood.

This is another open race, more opening than the betting suggests in a field chockfull of hugely likable fillies and mares. I have a lot of time for the progressive three-year-olds Eternal Pearl, Mimikyu and Stay Alert while last year’s one-two Eshaada and Albaflora return.

It’s also great to see former Australian star VERRY ELLEEGANT back, having finished just under five lengths behind cracking filly Sea La Rosa last time out in what was a farcical race from a pace perspective. She sat too far out of her ground and pulled too strong, but a return to more forward-going tactics could see her outrun her price of 26. She is also of interest in any extra place markets on offer.

Of the more likely winners however, I’ll back the 2021 heroine ESHAADA to defend her crown from an ideal draw in seven. This track on this ground at this time of year clearly bring out the best in Roger Varian’s inmate who looks overpriced in the win market 10 and holds strong place claims.

Queen Elizabeth II Stakes

A filly is also favourite for the Group 1 Queen Elizabeth II Stakes (3.20pm), Inspiral. One of last year’s star juveniles, we had to wait for the Cheveley Park Stud-owned three-year-old to start pleasing John & Thady Gosden before we saw her in 2022. The wait was worth it, as the daughter of Frankel sparked at Royal Ascot, winning the Group 1 Coronation Stakes by four-and-three-quarter lengths in devastating fashion.

A shock defeat at 1/7 followed in the Falmouth Stakes, Inspiral clearly still feeling the affects of her huge Royal victory, but she showed good bouncebackability to win the Prix Jacques le Marois 62 days ago in France. Whether that form means she should be as short as 2.1, I have my doubts, especially on ground that may prove softer than ideal. She looks priced up on her Royal Ascot performance to me, but has been below that level in her two subsequent starts.

Rain is also against the chances of the race second-favourite Modern Games, a Godolphin-owned globetrotter who won the Grade 1 Woodbine Mile on officially firm ground in Canada just 28 days ago. He chased home the brilliant Baaeed two starts back, but if all the rain comes, the mud-loving THE REVENANT has a better chance than his odds of 6.0 imply, with Ryan Moore booked.

This will be the seven-year-olds fourth run in this race on the back of form figures of 214. That fourth in last year’s renewal behind Baaeed and Palace Pier puts him bang in the mix here, in what looks a weaker running, and he comes into the race on the back of a lovely prep and is fresher than most. He’s a good win and place bet. Once more, with him concerned, let it rain, I say!

Qipco Champion Stakes

In the Group 1 Qipco Champion Stakes (4pm), we both welcome back and say farewell to superstar Baaeed, who bids to end his career unbeaten-in-eleven. All the son of Sea The Stars has done in his career is get better and better; the stiffer the opposition and the hotter the pace, the greater he was. As his price of 1.2 suggests, if he runs his race, he should win.

On my own ratings, I have him nine pounds clear of Adayar and 14 pounds clear of Bay Bridge, his two biggest rivals according to the market. Assuming all horses run to their peak ratings, which would be lovely but probably unlikely, Baaeed should beat Adayar by ~5 lengths and Bay Bridge by 7½ lengths.

Adayar’s peak effort came here at Ascot in the King George VI And Queen Elizabeth Qipco Stakes (12f) last year on firm ground, but since then, his form levels have dropped and he’s clearly not had a straight-forward 2022, running for the first time 37 days ago.

Bay Bridge should love getting back on ground with some juice in it, but last year’s unlucky runner-up DUBAI HONOUR is worth backing in the place-only market and might well be a sporting play in the betting without Baaeed market. This strong-travelling and likable sort has been crying out for softer ground and pace to run at this season, and he may finally get both here, in a race he produced his career best in last year.

The perfect result for me, and likely William Haggas too, would see the exceptional Baaeed go out on a high with Dubai Honour chasing him home. Good luck to the champ!

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