Champions Day is the last real proper Group 1 meeting of the flat calendar in the UK, where we have a Group 2 to kick start the card, followed by a mammoth FOUR Group 1’s, plus the usually competitive Balmoral Handicap.
It’s the stayers who start the card, as some of the counties leading staying types will battle it out for the Group 2 prize over the 2-mile trip. Will Trueshan come out on top in this race again for the fourth year running, or will one of the other staying stars take his Long Distance Cup crown off him?
GG editor Jake Russell previews this years race, identifying the key trends for the race, before running through the key runners and giving his expert verdict on who he expects to win.
Last year’s renewal saw Alan King’s TRUESHAN win the race for a third successive year, coming out on top in a thrilling finish with Coltrane:
- 9 of the last 12 winners were aged between 4 and 6.
- 4 of the last 12 winners were favourites, 8 of the last 12 winners were in the top 3 in the betting.
- 6 of the last 12 winners won on their last run before the Champions Long Distance Cup, 9 of the lasy 12 winners had their last run within the last 36 days.
- 9 of the last 12 winners had at least 1 previous run at Ascot, 7 of the last 12 winners had at least 1 previous win at Ascot.
- 9 of the last 12 winners had at least 1 previous run over 16 furlongs, 6 of the last 12 winners had at least 1 previous win over 16 furlongs.
- 11 of the last 12 winners had at least 8 previous flat runs, 11 of the last 12 winners had at least 5 previous flat wins.
- 10 of the last 12 winners had a rating of 109+.
- 9 of the last 12 winners had at least 1 win in a group 1-3 race.
- 9 of the last 12 winners had at least 3 runs that season, 10 of the last 12 winners had at least 2 previous wins that season.
(Aidan O’Brien/Ryan Moore)
It is a real shame we haven’t seen much of the Aidan O’Brien stayer this season, who looked to be the new real superstar of the staying ranks, taking the torch from Stradivarius last season. Unfortunately due to injury he has only been seen once this season, which was most likely a prep run for this contest on Saturday.
Last seasons Ascot Gold Cup winner, he had a very productive season last term, winning all of his six runs. That included the Ascot Gold Cup, Goodwood Cup, Irish St Leger and the Prix Du Cadran, all of these being Group 1 contests. He was the new star stayer on the scene with Stradivarius retiring, and many were ready to see him mop up in the Group 1 Staying contests again this season, but unfortunately injury stopped that from happening. He has run this season however, when stepping foot on the racecourse for the first time in 344 days when lining up in the Irish St Leger at the Curragh 40 days or so ago, and although it wasn’t the best of Group 1 fields, with just the four runners heading to post, but he was beaten by a race fit rival who has been threatening to be a Group 1 horse this season in Eldar Eldarov. That race would most likely put him right for this, so I would expect him to come on from the last run a month or so ago.
One slight concern is, although he has previous form on softer ground, there might be one or two in this race where that suits them better. But if he was to hold the spark from last season, I expect him to bounce back to winning ways here and justify him being the highest rated runner in the field off the mark of 121, in a race that he missed last season.
(Alan King/Hollie Doyle)
A horse who I feel can be under appreciated at times, and that might be down to the fact he prefers the softer conditions. Although he does have previous form on the better ground, he does tend to run his best races on softer underfoot conditions, so that has somewhat put a little stigma on him whenever he is expected to run. No matter what you think of that, he is a very talented horse, and his record in this race speaks for itself, winning the last three renewals of the contest. As he bids to land it for the fourth time in a row, and be just one behind Further Flights record of 5 wins in this race, in a row.
Some of Trueshan’s notable winners have been the Northumberland Plate off a heavyweight last season, the Prix Du Cadran in 2021 and 2023, the 2021 Goodwood Cup and the obvious three wins in this race previously. His Prix Du Cadran last time out was a pretty good performance, on ground that was listed as good to soft via Racing Post. Although the form could be a little questionable in behind, he still put the race to bed with ease by four lengths, making all to pull clear in the final furlong. He really looked at home with these new front running tactics that connections have opted to do, after he has been a little keen in his races this season.
His record in this race speaks for itself, and he gets his conditions here, it would be an excellent piece of training from Alan King to get Trueshan to land his fourth Long Distance Cup in a row, and get him back to form after a few disappointing efforts earlier on in the year.
(Andrew Balding/Oisin Murphy)
A horse that has been a real model of consistency this season, running in all the top staying races and either winning or placing. His last run in the Doncaster Cup at Doncaster was the real only blemish to his otherwise improving CV, and Oisin Murphy reported something didn’t feel right with him down the home straight so he eased him down towards the finish, with nothing really reported on the vets report. Andrew Balding also stated the run previously at York might have caught up with him, as it was just 24 days before that where he won the Lonsdale Cup.
He did come 2nd in the Ascot Gold Cup this season, which is probably a career best piece of form, and was probably a shade unlucky as he was hanging right late on which might have caused him to not win the race. He has since reversed the form with the Gold Cup winner Courage Mon Ami, when they both met in the Goodwood Cup (Where Coltrane came 3rd, ahead of Courage Mon Ami who came 6th) and the Lonsdale Cup (Where Coltrane beat Courage Mon Ami with relative ease). That run last time does leave a little question mark, could the long season be having a toll on the Andrew Balding mount?
Although he has had a 36 day break since his last run, that might freshen him up nicely for this race come Saturday. He has been very consistent on previous form, and isn’t to far off most of these on ratings, in-fact he is the joint 2nd highest rated in the field. He could very much bounce back here, at a venue where he runs very well.
The Queen Elizabeth II Stakes looks one of the best races of the entire flat season, with the likes of Paddington, Tahiyra and Nashwa all bidding to add their name to the illustrious list of winners in the race. French-based runners have a fine record in the race and they’re represented by Big Rock and…
6. Sweet William
(John &Thady Gosden/Robert Havlin)
Probably one of the real surprise packages as we have progressed through this season. He has mainly been running in Handicaps this term, apart from the Doncaster Cup last time where he really relished the step up in class. He was just rated 85 at the start of the season before the good run streak started, he is now rated 108 after that 2nd last time out. He is still probably the least exposed at this sort of trip, being just his 3rd attempt at 2-mile trip, so these new conditions could definitely be the making of a nice new staying horse for the future, should he take another step forward and run well in a Group 2 again.
His run in the Ebor was excellent, and he was probably unlucky not to win or get closer to the winner given he didn’t really start very well. It was the run last time in the Doncaster Cup that caught a few peoples eyes, keeping on well and probably would have finished a little closer to Trueshan had he not hung left late on. I think this horse is seen to better effect on ground with a little bit of juice in it, so the expected softer conditions could suit him well come Saturday.
He is in good form of late, and the Gosden’s know how to campaign a potential new stayer in the making. He is a very interesting runner again in my opinion, who shown last time he could easily mix it up with the best stayers in training.
(John & Thady Gosden/Frankie Dettori)
In what is set to (potentially) be Frankie’s last Champions Weekend before he heads off to America, he is aboard the 2022 Ebor winner here, who he rode to victory that day in August last year. This horse isn’t too far off most of these on official ratings, and is light raced at this sort of staying trip, however he did run in this contest last year where he came a very decent 3rd, only beaten by 3 and a quarter lengths by Trueshan and Coltrane.
This is a much deeper contest this year with last years star stayer Kyprios and the unexposed Sweet William also lining up. Trawlerman has been in fine fettle recently however, absolutely hacking up in a Conditions race at Salisbury by 13 lengths, no matter what he beat that day, you rarely see a flat horse win by that far. Before going on to win the Listed Jockey Club Rose Bowl at Newmarket last time, beating just one horse (Other pulled up) home by 18 lengths.
I think although he placed in this race last year, as I mentioned it’s a deeper contest so he would have to put in by far a career best to win this. However it will be Frankie’s last ride in the race, so the feeling is the team will get this horse in tip top shape come Saturday.
The 2023/24 Jumps Season is underway and we’ve got all our team to give their ’10 to follow’ for the NH season. Jake Russell is the first to give his selections, which include a Olly Murphy runner who he has down as the most exciting Novice Hurdler to follow this season! JUNTA MARVEL (Willie Mullins)…
We could easily see the Kyprios from last season, that level of form he showed when landing six races last term, including four Group 1’s. But, the break he’s had from the track is a little concern, and although he ran in the Irish St Leger last time, he should have really won that race irrespective of whether he was off the track for 340+ days or not. The Aidan O’Brien horse was well clear on ratings, and only raced against three other rivals.
Trueshan bids to land this race for a fourth year running, with the conditions currently set to be in his favour, however he has now had two relatively tough races in quick succession when running at the front end in both, and I think that could come and catch up with him. Therefore I am chancing that Andrew Balding’s Coltrane bounces back to form after a disappointing effort at Doncaster last time. Put a line through that effort, as we all know he is a better horse than that, which he shown earlier on in the season. He always seems to run well here, he doesn’t mind what conditions he runs on, the 36 day break will set him straight here. I can see him bouncing back and finishing in the top 3 at the very least. He is the most attractive at the current prices, and it wouldn’t surprise me should he shorten in the market nearer to the off time.
SELECTION: Coltrane (E/W – 8/1 SkyBet, 6/1 generally)
*odds correct at time of posting – 1pm Tuesday 17th October
Check out this week’s Weekend Watch podcast, where Andrew Mount, Dave Young and Kate Tracey guide us through their picks on the fantastic Champions Day card at Ascot:
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