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Champion Stakes Preview – Saturday 20th October

Last updated: October 18, 2018 by Leon Marshal

The £1.3million Group 1 Champion Stakes is the highlight of a top quality card at Ascot on Saturday. It is the last of four successive top level events on Champions’ Day and has attracted a strong list of entries. The race was staged at Newmarket until moving to its current venue in 2011. The roll of honour for the Champion Stakes includes Pebbles (1985), Triptych (1986 and 1987), Alborada (1998 and 1999), Cirrus des Aigles (2011) and Frankel (2012). Last year’s race was won by Cracksman who defeated Poet’s Word and Highland Reel.

Horse running

Cracksman chasing back-to-back Champion Stakes wins

Cracksman is the ante-post favourite to repeat his victory on Saturday and will be partnered by Frankie Dettori. Placed in the English and Irish Derby last season, his seven lengths win in the corresponding race established him as the top middle distance colt of his generation. An impressive win on his comeback in April was followed by a lack-lustre display when scrambling home in the Coronation Cup at Epsom.

After being scrubbed along early in the straight, he got up in the dying strides to catch long-time leader Salouen and win by a head. Connections put his lethargic display down to his dislike of the track and he started odds-on at Royal Ascot in June. He was tracked throughout the Prince Of Wales’s Stakes by Poet’s Word who quickened impressively to win by two and a quarter lengths. The going was good to firm at Ascot and he has missed several tempting engagements since due to the fast ground.

The going is certain to be on the soft side this weekend but he has not looked an easy ride in his last couple of starts. Gosden has taken the decision to fit the colt with blinkers for the first time on Saturday. It will be interesting to see how he settles for Dettori in the headgear, especially after a 122-day break from the track.

Crystal Ocean leads Stoute challenge at Ascot

Stoute is represented by Crystal Ocean who forced stable companion Poet’s Word to pull out all the stops to beat him by a neck in the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot in July. He then faced an impossible task in trying to concede 8lbs to Enable on her comeback race at Kempton in the September Stakes. Crystal Ocean has won in the soft but is more of a mile and a half horse. He is a straight forward ride and William Buick will probably be looking to kick on from the home turn to make the most of his stamina.

The Champion Stakes has somehow managed to elude Aidan O’Brien so far. His entries this season look well behind the Gosden horses, led by last year’s St Leger winner Capri. His fifth placed effort in the Prix de L’Arc de Triomphe was highly creditable but the drop down to ten furlongs is surely against him. Rhododendron has been very disappointing since winning the Lockinge Stakes at Newbury in May. She has been ridden prominently in her last couple of races before fading quickly.

Gosden also runs Monarchs Glen and Maverick Wave, the latter presumably in a pace-making role. Robert Havlin rides Monarchs Glen who has not raced since winning the Listed Wolferton Stakes at Royal Ascot. He was wearing a hood for the first time that day and retains the headgear on Saturday.

The only three-year-old in the field is Verbal Dexterity, trained by Jim Bolger. He was a highly rated juvenile and finished fourth behind Saxon Warrior in the Racing Post Trophy. The son of Vocalised needs to step up considerably on his last place in the Irish Champion Stakes if he is to feature here.

Horses running

Champion Stakes Betting Tips

Cracksman @5-6 bet365

The Champion Stakes is due off at 3.50 at Ascot on Saturday 20th October and will be televised live on ITV.