Talking Horses

    With British Champions Day soon upon us, David Lawrence takes a statistical look at the British Champion Stakes as well as releasing his figures for the British Champions Sprint. Numerous taking performances and a pair of horses working well at home - Roger Varian and Paul Nicholls-trained inmates – also get positive mentions.
  • Wednesday 18 October 2017
  • Blog

ON THE RADAR

Firm ground at Ascot on Saturday, 21 October, would unquestionably temper my optimism about the prospects of Order Of St George scoring in the Qipco British Champions Long Distance Cup. But, as long as the forecast showers arrive in Berkshire before this two-mile Group 2 contest, I reckon the Aidan O’Brien-trained five-year-old will see off his rivals. Order Of St George has registered a hatful of victories since first featuring in Talking Horses and holds an outstanding form claim this weekend.

PROMISING NEWCOMERS

Crooks Peakmade an encouraging first appearance in the bumper staged over the extended two miles at Newton Abbot on 13 October and surely has a bright future over jumps. This Philip Hobbs-trained four-year-old travelled smoothly throughout and, having taken the lead with just over a furlong left to race, eased six lengths clear of the more experienced River Bray.

Hobbs plans to switch Crooks Peak to hurdles for his next run and, given he has already schooled at home, the gelding is worth following.

Backed by the biggest team of horses he has so far amassed for a jumps season, Colin Tizzard will be hoping to make a concerted bid to land the 2017/18 National Hunt Trainers’ Championship, and it will disappointing if The Russian Doyen fails to contribute at least one win, and some useful prize money, to his end-of-campaign total.

The four-year-old finished runner-up on his debut in a two-mile bumper at Chepstow on 15 October and, being out of a half-sister to Denman, has obvious pedigree potential.

CODEBREAKERS

Shantou Rock jumped impressively on his initial outing over fences and, after scoring in the two-mile novices’ chase at Newton Abbot on 13 October, appears likely to cope with a step up in grade. Useful and progressive over hurdles last season - he began this campaign with an official rating of 137 - Dan Skelton’s five-year-old made all the running to win comfortably by nine lengths from The Unit on his reappearance and will have learned enough from the experience to score again over this, his ideal trip.

The Peter Chapple-Hyam-trainedLubinka could manage only sixth in the Group 1 Fillies’ Mile at Newmarket on that same afternoon. Nevertheless, by finishing within six and a quarter lengths of the winner, Laurens, she indicated she is improving sufficiently with racing to break her duck in slightly less-exalted company.

The daughter of Mastercraftsman - twice placed at a lower level on her earlier starts - is out of a Golan mare who stayed extended distances, so a stiffer stamina test should suit her.

Roger Varian’s two-year-old colt Qianlong is another to remain a maiden, in his case after three runs, but he too has the talent to get off the mark, judged on his second in a novices’ contest at York on the same day.

Qianlong was stepping up to a mile for the first time on the Knavesmire, having previously run over six and seven furlongs, and my view is that, while he kept on gamely to get within two and a three-quarter lengths of the Barford, he could well appreciate a return to a marginally shorter distance.

Finian’s Oscar was far from foot-perfect when taking a novices’ chase over just shy of two and a half miles at Chepstow on 14 October, making several early niggling mistakes, but his class shone through in the closing stages as he sauntered to an 11-length success over the 139-rated Tintern Theatre.

Colin Tizzard’s five-year-old was entitled to collect, of course, having twice registered Grade 1 victories while hurdling last season, but he is a big individual and has always looked a potentially smart chaser.

DIGGING THE DIRT

Keith Dalgleish has rapidly established himself among the most reliable of trainers, placing his horses shrewdly and keeping them in decent form for long periods, and I envisage him adding to his growing list of winners in the next few weeks thanks to Broken Wings.

The daughter of Canford Cliffs made a solid start to her racing career with a two-length second behind Consolida in a one-mile novice stakes at Newcastle on 10 October, despite losing ground leaving the stalls and hitting traffic trouble late on.

Kawasir, a two-year-old colt trained by Roger Varian, also posted an encouraging first effort at an all-weather track, in his case in a seven-furlong Kempton novice contest the following evening.

Varian’s charge raced in midfield early on, before making progress from the two-furlong marker and finishing strongly to take third behind Glendevon. Although by Speightstown, generally an influence for speed, Kawasir is a half-brother to decent middle-distance performers, so might well handle a step up in trip.

NOTED ON THE GALLOPS

Roger Varian should soon be giving a two-year-old colt named Talas his racecourse debut and, if his work at home is a reliable guide, this son of Dansili ought to can break his duck. Out of a mare by Sadler’s Wells, and related to a Group 3 winner, Varian’s charge moves nicely on the Newmarket gallops and has an imposing physique. He will stay middle distances as a three-year-old.

Paul Nicholls believes his chance of regaining the British jump Trainers’ Title rests with young horses and among those he must be hoping will register a few wins for him is Captain Cattistock, a point-to-point scorer back in spring, and poised to make his first appearance under rules in the near future. By Black Sam Bellamy, and out of an Alflora mare, Nicholls’s four-year-old is undoubtedly nicely bred.

STATS THE WAY TO DO IT

Qipco Champions Day at Ascot, rightly regarded as one of each Flat season’s big autumn draws and staged this term on Saturday, 21 October, promises to provide a series of ultra-competitive events.

Among the most eagerly-anticipated of those contests is the Champion Stakes, taken in its inaugural Ascot year (2011) by the brilliant Cirrus Des Aigles - and which this season has attracted a superb entry.

This week, then, I think it is appropriate to offer Talking Horses readers some statistical analysis of the past decade’s Champion Stakes results, in the hope that the details set out below are helpful.

A few long-term trends for this ten-furlong Group 1 race are no longer particularly pertinent, of course, because, until 2011, it was staged at Newmarket, a course very different from Ascot.

Several others remain relevant, though, among them being that just three favourites - New Approach (at 6-5 in 2008), Frankel (2-11) and Almanzor (11-8 in 2016) - have scored in the last ten years.

Within the same period, three second-favourites have collected: Literato (as a 7-2 chance in 2007), Twice Over (7-2 when collecting for the second time in 2010) and Farhh (11-4 in 2013).

The victories of Twice Over (14-1 in 2009), Cirrus des Aigles (12-1 in 2011) and Fascinating Rock (10-1 in 2015), meanwhile, have shown that challengers starting at double-figure odds can prevail.

Last-time-out scorers have a fine recent record, however, with seven Literato, New Approach, Twice Over (in 2009), Frankel, Farhh, Fascinating Rock (2015) and Almanzor coming home in front.

Two runners who finished second on their most recent outing have collected too - Cirrus des Aigles and Noble Mission (2014) - while one who filled third - Twice Over (in 2010) - has also prevailed.

Five-year-olds have the best strike-rate during the period under scrutiny, after registering a total of four victories, via Twice Over (2009), Cirrus des Aigles, Faarh and Noble Mission.

Three-year-olds and four-year-olds share second spot in the generational pecking-order, each with a trio of wins, the former courtesy of Literato, New Approach and Almanzor, the latter thanks to Twice Over (2008), Frankel and Fascinating Rock.

Last year, Almanzor, trained by Jean-Claude Rouget, was the first French-trained scorer since

Cirrus Des Aigles, and before that, Literato, who was a three-year-old when adding his name to the roll of honour back in 2007.

Earlier strikes at the big-race distance are worth noting, as nine of the last ten winners - Literato, New Approach, Twice Over (on both occasions), Cirrus des Aigles, Frankel, Noble Mission, Fascinating Rock and Almanzor - had already collected over mile and a quarter.

Perhaps equally significant is the statistic revealing that none of the successful candidates within the past decade had raced more than six times previously during the relevant campaign.

Pride’s victory in 2006 was the first by a French raider since 1994 and, until New Approach broke the sequence in 2008, no runner based in Ireland has been successful since Cairn Rouge back in 1980.

Fillies and mares have traditionally fared quite well in the Champion Stakes, though, and, despite a far weaker numerical representation than their male counterparts, they have registered no fewer than nine victories since Pebbles scored in 1985.

Triptych (in 1986/87), Indian Skimmer (1988), In The Groove (1990), Hatoof (1993), Bosra Sham (1996), Alborada (1998/9) and Pride are the distaff runners responsible for that notable record.

BIG RACE FOCUS

Harry Angel is, by my reckoning, a worthy favourite for the six-furlong Group 1 Qipco British Champion Sprint Stakes, one of the highlights of a fine card at Ascot this Saturday, 21 October.

Clive Cox’s three-year-old colt has earned a rating of 122 on my scale and that figure, which makes him the leading male of his generation, gives him an advantage over all this weekend’s rivals.

Some punters may consider Harry Angel’s odds too short for them to support him - the majority of bookmakers are offering around 11-10 - but he looks hard to oppose based on my mathematics.

Perhaps the best each-way alternatives are the Karl Burke-trained Quiet Reflection, whose mark of 116 will be augmented by a 3lb fillies’ allowance, and Aidan O’Brien’s Caravaggio (rated 117).

The Tin Man (115), from James Fanshawe’s stable, and Tasleet (114), trained by William Haggas are good animals but in need of some cut underfoot to show peak form. They appear the only others with realistic claims.

QIPCO British Champions Sprint confirmed entries
(ranked in order of ratings achieved by 17/10/17)

Rank Name (age) (gender) Trainer (country) Rating*
1) Harry Angel (3) (colt) C Cox (GB) 122
2) Quiet Reflection (4) (filly) K Burke (UK) 119
3) Caravaggio (3) (colt) A O'Brien (Ireland) 118
4) The Tin Man (5) (gelding) J Fanshawe (UK) 115
5) Tasleet (4) (colt) W Haggas (UK) 114
6) Brando (5) (gelding) K Ryan (UK) 112
7) Intelligence Cross (3) (colt) A O'Brien (Ireland) 111
8=) Alphabet (3) (filly) A O'Brien (Ireland) 110
8=) Donjuan Triumphant (4) (colt) A Balding (GB) 110
8=) Librisa Breeze (5) (gelding) D Ivory (UK) 110
8=) Washington DC (4) (colt) A O'Brien (Ireland) 110
12) Cougar Mountain (6) (entire) A O'Brien (Ireland) 107
13=) Danzeno (6) (gelding) M Appleby (GB) 105
13=) Tupi (5) (gelding) R Hannon (UK) 105

* All figures have been adjusted to include penalties and allowances

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