Champion Stakes Field Confirms Switch To Ascot Was The Right Decision
So You Think has been cut into 2/1 ahead of Saturday’s Group One Champions Stakes after it was confirmed that the outstanding Australian bred multiple Group One winner has come out of the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe in good order according to trainer, Aidan O’Brien, and will look to add a ninth career Group One victory to his record which will be run for the first time at Ascot. However, he will only be accompanied by one other from Ballydoyle, Windsor Castle, who will set the pace for his stablemate after it was confirmed that fellow Ballydoyle runner, Await The Dawn, was to be withdrawn.
So You Think has only ever known defeat once in a ten furlong race and that came at Royal Ascot in June when he was beaten ¼ length by Rewilding in the Group One Prince of Wales Stakes. He has since found the winners enclosure in two other prestigious Group One races, the Eclipse Stakes at Sandown and the Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardstown, both over ten furlongs but he was arguably beaten by the weights when fourth in the "Arc" a fortnight ago, finishing fourth behind three fillies who the son of High Chaparral was conceding weight to.
That said, one trainer who will not necessarily agree that it was the weights that cost him a win at Longchamp will be Ed Dunlop, whose filly, Snow Fairy, although 3lbs lighter finished a neck ahead of him and will be similarly weighted on Saturday to do the same. Snow Fairy showed however, despite the same 3lb advantage, that she could not get the better of So You Think in the ten furlong Irish Champions Stakes at the beginning of September and she was beaten out of sight by So You Think in the Eclipse. Clearly however, Dunlop is not frightened to test his filly against the colt again and on that basis her claims should not be dismissed but is reflected in the difference in price with Snow Fairy quoted at 8/1 and a genuine each way contender.
The claims of the two Henry Cecil entries cannot be dismissed either, Twice Over, winner of this race for the last two years and Midday, a multiple Group One winner, who has not finished outside of the first two places in her last 11 starts, and nine of those starts were at Group One level both hold solid claims and are both a 7/1 chance in what is building up to be one of the best races seen on British shores for some time.
Twice Over has been something of a revelation in his last two races, firstly winning the Group Two York Stakes over ten furlongs in July, which he followed up by winning Group One Juddmonte International Stakes also at York and also over ten furlongs. In the latter of those two races he had stablemate Midday beaten ¾ length after the two fought out a terrific battle in the final furlong which saw them go five lengths clear of the third horse home, Await The Dawn, who had gone off as an odds on favourite.
Interestingly Midday had Snow Fairy two lengths behind her when winning the Group One Nassau Stakes at Glorious Goodwood at the end of July, which in theory makes her the better mare and possibly the best in the race. However, Snow Fairy, based on her Arc form at least, would appear to be in great form and more than capable of reversing placings.
These form lines between So You Think, Twice Over, Snow Fairy and Midday make them all look extremely close. Twice Over has beaten Midday, who in turn has beaten Snow Fairy, who last time out beat So You Think, but So You Think has beaten Snow Fairy twice before this season and he also beat Twice Over at Royal Ascot. It is not that easy to split one from the other and that's before you factor in the odds to consider what is "value" of the leading group!
To complicate matters further, Nathaniel, trained by John Gosden also enters the reckoning after being withdrawn from the Arc in favour of a tilt at the Champion Stakes. This three year old looked very impressive when winning the Group One King George & Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot in July, but that was run over his favoured distance of 12 furlongs. There are many who would doubt his speed over this shorter trip on Saturday although Gosden very often surprises us and the forecast rain before the weekend will be a positive for Nathaniel in who is the 6/1 second favourite with Ladbrokes.
With the news that Reliable Man is an unlikely starter unless rain falls, the two other entries which really catch the eye are the improving Cirrus Des Aigles and the unbeaten Dubai Prince.
Cirrus Des Aigles has been kept very busy this season by trainer, Corine Barande-Barbe, but has yet to make it through to becoming a Group One winner. He has put in plenty of outstanding runs, particularly recently, but he might find one or two in this field a little too good for him.
Meanwhile the exciting Dubai Prince, trained by Mahmood Al Zarooni for Godolphin will look to confirm the potential he showed until an injury setback in April curtailed his racing for the Summer. At that time he was a strong antepost fancy for the 2000 Guineas and he underlined why with a very decisive victory in a hotly contested Conditions Stakes race at Newbury last month. Taking on some of the very best mid-distance horses in the world in this race however and winning is a big ask and one that maybe just beyond him at this time and is 10/1 to win.
Much has been discussed within the
Racing World about the decision to move the Champion Stakes from Newmarket
to Ascot but if this line up is anythign to go by, it is clearly a decision
welcomed by trainers and owners and a look at the entries in the other races
confirm that, this includes the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes which sees the
much talked about Frankel look to make it nine wins from nine start.