Britain’s richest ever raceday – worth a total of £4m – is on the menu at a sodden Ascot this afternoon, with the ground set to be Heavy, Soft in places after a deluge of rain in the build up to the fixture.
All six races are live with us on a bumper Channel 4 Racing broadcast, including three Group 1’s, a pair of Group 2’s, plus a belting 28-runner handicap.
Initial impressions yesterday were that Newmarket’s Future Champions Day was a big success despite the much voiced reservations about the positioning of the date, with a healthy crowd and an really upbeat atmosphere at a track which can on occasion lack a bit of warmth.
Winners weren’t easy to come by it has to be said, with starting prices of 10/1, 16/1, 16/1, 20/1 and 22/1 making it very much a bookmakers’ day, as the well touted short price favourites such as Ivawood in the Middle Park, Lucida in the Fillies’ Mile, plus Estidhkaar in the Dewhurst all bit the dust.
One firm who were especially pleased were Star Sports, who reported a monster single bet of £150,000 on Ivawood at 4/6.
Anyone who knows Star boss Ben Keith will be well aware it’s probably a mixture of ice, anti-freeze, jet fuel and raw ambition rather than blood that courses through his veins, but even by his standards that’s a fair wager to front up.
Also pretty happy was course layer Ray Mulvany, as the Irishman told us live on Channel 4 from his pitch in the ring how he was out to get Jim Bolger’s Lucida, as she stepped up in trip on Soft ground after taking the Rockfel in impressive style three weeks ago.
Job done for both of them as the cash remained in the satchel, but the punters will be looking to gain their revenge as the show moves on to Berkshire…
I’m going to know my fate pretty early, as I’m playing in the first and second races on the card.
They get the party started at 1.45pm with the two mile Group 2 QIPCO British Champions Long Distance Cup, where the one who gets my juices flowing is Dermot Weld’s Forgotten Rules.
Pitched into this esteemed company against the likes of Gold Cup winners Estimate and Leading Light on just his third ever start, this horse represents raw, untapped potential, combined with a fluent ability to handle testing ground.
D K Weld certainly won’t be bringing him over from the Curragh merely for a breath of fresh air, and anyone who saw his debut lap of honour in a Punchestown bumper back in April won’t forget it in a hurry.
Brilliant that day, he was equally good at the Galway races at the start of August, and although those are the only two pieces of form we’ve got to work with it’s easy to believe the four-year-old can establish himself as the new kid on the block at this level.
Just 35 minutes later we then flip from one extreme to the other, switching from a staying test to a six furlong sprint for the Group 2 QIPCO British Champions Sprint Stakes.
Eton Forever, Jack Dexter, Maarek and Gordon Lord Byron are the quartet who promise to be best suited by deep ground, and it’s the last-named that really tickles my fancy.
Joint top rated in this field on a mark of 118, this globetrotting star has taken his County Tipperary based trainer Tom Hogan far and wide, winning close to home at Tipperary, Cork, Dundalk and Leopardstown, plus a little further afield at the likes of Haydock, York, Longchamp (Paris) and Rosehill (Australia).
Three times a winner at Group 1 level, this a very tough horse who has been running well of late without getting his head in front, notably when second in the Betfred Sprint Cup at Haydock, as well as last time out when he found only an inspired Olympic Glory too good in the Prix de la Foret at Longchamp.
Today could well belong to him, with confidence bolstered by his record on ground that contains the word Heavy in the going description, with form figures of 2, 1, 3, 1, 6 the end result.
BetVictor are best price in the village at 13/2.
Saturday’s best bets at Ascot:
2.20 – QIPCO British Champions Sprint Stakes – 6 Gordon Lord Byron (each way) @ 13/2 (BetVictor)