Crunchsports.com's guide to British Champions Day at Ayr on Saturday afternoon, courtesy of Nick Wilby...
All eyes will be on Ascot this afternoon when British Champions Day looks to confirm its status as one of the world’s most exciting and lucrative race days.
With an incredible £3million of prize money on offer over five fantastic group races it looks set be a sensational day and the presence of Frankel, on what looks set to be his final racecourse appearance, is sure to get the pulses racing.
Ascot will be thrilled to have arguably the greatest horse of all time spearheading their most important card and Frankel looks set to eclipse the achievements of anything else on the day when he tackles the Champion Stakes.
The grandstand will be full and race fans will be desperate to witness the exceptional horse at his very best. It would be an astonishing result and huge disappointment if he was defeated, but is he as good as a banker on Saturday?
We take a look at Saturday’s five feature races on what should be an exhilarating afternoon at Ascot.
13:45 Qipco British Champions Long Distance Cup (Group 3)
Nine horses go to post for the opening contest on Britain’s richest race day and punters will be looking to get off to a winning start on an enthralling card.
Godolphin’s Opinion Poll heads the market for the race and the six-year-old has been kept fresh with this race in mind. Last seen finishing second to Colour Vision in the Ascot Gold Cup, he looked a likely winner there and he has been hugely consistent over recent years, not finishing out of the first four since 2009.
He is bound to be popular, but Aidan O’Brien is likely to have FAME AND GLORY at his best as he looks to make it back-to-back victories in this race.
The Irish raider has looked out of sorts on his last two starts and he seemed to lose enthusiasm and fade away quickly when last seen in the Irish St Leger. That performance has to be of some concern to his followers, but he was the best stayer in the business in 2011 and he has always been a seriously classy operator.
The winner of a number of Group Ones, including the Ascot Gold Cup and Irish Derby, he is more than capable of bouncing back on Saturday and it would be unwise to write him off just yet. His legendary trainer is confident he is returning to something like his peak and this race has been his target for some time.
Saddler’s Rock would have a fantastic chance if the ground dried out and the return of Rite Of Passage adds a whole new dimension to the race.
14:20 Qipco British Champions Sprint Stakes (Group 2)
In the absence of Black Caviar, Mayson and Bated Breath, SOCIETY ROCK has the chance to confirm himself as being one of the best sprinters in the division and he looks set to run a huge race for trainer James Fanshawe and jockey Kieren Fallon.
After experiencing no luck in running in the Diamond Jubilee won by Black Caviar, the selection made amends with an impressive success in the Haydock Sprint Cup last time out and it was a typically impressive performance from a very consistent horse.
The form of that race has had a huge boost since Gordon Lord Byron and the re-opposing Wizz Kid both won Group Ones at Longchamp on Arc weekend and Society Rock will have no fears over the softer underfoot conditions.
He looks more than capable of seeing off a relatively uninspiring field, although Wizz Kid looks sure to be difficult to shake off. The French raider was impressive in the Prix de l’Abbaye and she has always looked hugely talented on her day.
Retiadargent would have every chance if she bounced back to her Diamond Jubilee form and Maarek is sure to like the testing conditions at Ascot.
14:55 Qipco British Champions Fillies' And Mares' Stakes (Group 2)
This year’s Fillies’ And Mares’ Stakes looks one of the most interesting on the card and the race will revolve around the wellbeing of Great Heavens who had a hard race in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe just two weeks ago.
She has been rapidly improving so far this season and the Irish Oaks heroine was well fancied in Paris, but there has to be a worry this might come too soon and the likes of Was, Sapphire and DANCING RAIN do not have that issue to contend with.
Was has been thoroughly consistent since she won the Epsom Oaks in June, but the expensive daughter of Galileo looks short of top class and though she is sure to give her running, she might be playing for places again.
Dermot Weld’s Sapphire has been in top form all season and the Pretty Polly second will revel in the softer conditions on Saturday, however this field could be caught out by an on-song Dancing Rain and William Haggas’ top class performer could be the value call.
The selection was the leading middle-distance filly of her generation last year and her victories in the Epsom Oaks and this race last year were both very taking. Not seen since finishing well down the field in Japan at the end of last year, the daughter of Danehill Dancer has been raring to go for some time and she has apparently grown and matured over the last eleven months.
Haggas has been barely able to contain his excitement at getting his stable star back on the track and the fact that she takes her chance here could be all you need to know about her wellbeing. She can see off an uninspiring group of three-year-olds before she goes in search of international honours over the coming months.
15:30 Queen Elizabeth II Stakes Sponsored By Qipco (British Champions Mile) (Group 1)
A field of eight horses will be thrilled to see Frankel line up in the Champion Stakes and this looks far more competitive than it did when the world’s best racehorse bolted up at 4/11 twelve months ago.
EXCELEBRATION now has the perfect opportunity to add another Group One to his impressive CV and Aidan O’Brien’s superstar would undoubtedly be heralded as one of the greatest milers for years had it not been for the dominance of Frankel over the last two years.
The four-year-old was last seen winning the Prix Jacques le Marois in France and the former Marco Botti inmate has oozed class throughout his taking career. He looks to be too good for this field, despite the presence of some top class operators.
Roger Charlton’s Cityscape deserves to win a prize of this stature, while John Gosden’s Elusive Kate is sure to give her running for her in-form trainer.
16:05 Qipco Champion Stakes (British Champions Middle Distance) (Group 1)
The sensational FRANKEL will be looking to finish his sensational career unbeaten and it’s difficult to envisage defeat for the world’s greatest racehorse.
Sir Henry Cecil’s formidable colt has won all thirteen of his races and the superstar has never looked like being beaten since he made his debut two seasons ago. He is officially the best Timeform has ever rated and it would be disastrous and hugely disappointing if the son of Galileo was toppled on Saturday.
Softer conditions and the presence of Cirrus Des Aigles means that Frankel could be face with his most difficult challenge to date, but all being well, that combination wouldn’t be able to stop the market leader when he is at his best.
2011 King George hero and 2012 Coral-Eclipse winner Nathaniel will also be in the line-up, but he could be playing for third place after Cirrus Des Aigles impressive return to action in France last time out.