One of the highlights of Ascot’s incredible six-race card on Saturday is undoubtedly the QIPCO Champions Stakes. Previous winners have included New Approach, Cirrus Des Aigles and the legendary Frankel, as well as Jean-Claude Rouget’s Almanzor two years ago.
Cracksman is back to defend his title, aiming to replicate Twice Over’s double in 2009 and 2010.
We take a look at the eight declared runners for the 1m2f Group 1 contest, along with the latest odds from our friends at GentingBet, who offer ‘Best Odds Guaranteed’ from noon each day:
Having landed the Irish Derby and the St Leger last season, the dual Classic winner has missed much of the season through injury, and while he needed the run in the Prix Foy on his return from a five-month break, he showed he still retained all his ability with a fine fifth of 19 to Enable in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe earlier this month. He drops back in trip, but won over this 1m2f in a Group 3 at Naas on his seasonal debut in April. Odds: 6/1
It has been this Frankel colt’s misfortune to encounter the hottest and driest summer since 1976, because, by a Pivotal mare, he does like to get his toe in. He was prepared for the Juddmonte International and the King George, but the ground was too fast, and he was ready to run in the Arc, but Longchamp missed the forecast rain, so he was withdrawn.
Although he was behind Capri in the Irish Derby last year, he subsequently won three Group 1s – this race last season (trouncing Poet’s Word by seven lengths) , the Prix Ganay on his seasonal debut and the Coronation Cup at Epsom.
This will be his first outing since finishing runner-y=up to Poet’s Word in the Prince of Wales’s Stakes at Royal Ascot in June and he will sport first-time blinkers, which is an interesting move.
This will also be his final run before he is retired to stud and he remains the one to beat, according to the bookmakers: Odds: 4/5
The four-year-old Sea The Stars colt was runner-up to Poet’s Word in the King George in July and then ran subsequent Arc winner Enable to three-and-a-half lengths in the Group 3 September Stakes on the All Weather at Kempton, giving the filly an 8lb concession.
There is not much between him and Capri on their St Leger run last year (when beaten half a length), but whether either has the speed to trouble Cracksman over 1m2f is open to question. Odds: 11/4
The oldest in the line-up at the age of seven, he is having his first run since finishing a well-led eighth of 10 in this race last year when going well for a long while as a 100/1 shot, before stablemate Cracksman took charge. Odds: 100/1
Winner of two Listed races and a Group 3 over similar trips to the one he encounters here, the Frankel four-year-old has never threatened to hit the heights in elite company and would appear to be keeping stablemate Cracksman company. Nothing is being left to chance by his trainer, who has three of the eight runners. Odds: 12/1
Czech raider from the stable of Zdeno Koplik and winner of three of 24 races, he was sixth of nine on his last run in the Group 2 Qatar Prix Dollar at Longchamp. That bare form puts him in with zero chance of picking up this prize. Odds: 100/1
It is rare to see the Galileo filly’s trainer going to the well quite so often with a runner that has been so patently out of form, but Rhododendron has been struggling for much of the year. The former Fillies’ Mile winner progressed last term to finish runner-up to Enable in the Oaks, and gained a second Group 1 success in the Prix de l’Opera at Chantilly last October.
Yet aside from taking a third top-level victory in a weak Lockinge Stakes at Newbury in May, she has been below par in five subsequent starts.
Her latest start was when thrashed 25 lengths by Wild Illusion in defence of her Prix de l’Opera crown at Longchamp. Odds: 33/1
Winner of the Group 1 National Stakes at the Curragh last September and fourth in the Racing Post Trophy, this three-year-old son of Vocalised has only had two starts this season and there is plenty to find on his last of seven run behind Roaring Lion in the Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardstown last month. On the plus side, he is one of the last exposed with just six runs under his belt. Odds: 20/1
TRENDS TO NOTE
The last 16 winners had all won at least four times previously
Ten of the last 16 winners won their previous race
Aidan O’Brien has yet to saddle the winner of this race
14 of the last 16 winners had previously won over this 1m2f trip