End of season climax to showcase the best racing has to offer

British Champions Day: Much of last decade has seen focus on Ascot’s ground conditions

A total of 14 Irish trained hopefuls will line up on the day including a genuine A-Lister in the record breaking Snowfall. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

A total of 14 Irish trained hopefuls will line up on the day including a genuine A-Lister in the record breaking Snowfall. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

 

The weather Gods appear to have conspired and allowed QIPCO British Champions Day come close to doing what it says on the tin.

Designed as an end of season climax to showcase the best racing has to offer, much of the last decade has seen more focus on Ascot’s ground conditions than anyone would like.

Apart from 2016 and the initial fixture featuring Frankel in 2011, the going has often proved more winter slog rather than summer brochure quick with an inevitable impact on line-ups.

So much so that the prospect of just ‘good to soft’ ground on Saturday has been embraced and helped produce a programme acclaimed as the best since the days of Frankel.

While Oisin Murphy and William Buick duke it out on the final day of the British jockey’s championship, there is an equine line-up to reckon with by any standard.

Adayar will try to become just the second Derby winner in 53 years to also land the Champion Stakes.

To do so he will have to overcome the top older horse Mishriff who is also part of a current three-way tie at the top of the world thoroughbred rankings along with the retired St Mark’s Basilica.

A decisive win for either Mishriff or Adayar could see them officially rated the best in the world.

However Palace Pier might leapfrog the lot of them half an hour earlier if he delivers a rout in the queen Elizabeth II Stakes.

The fourth top rated horse on the planet has been lauded by Frankie Dettori as the best miler he has ridden.

If the unbeaten Baaeed lives up to his colossal reputation, then Palace Pier will have to be just that and perhaps set handicap calculators whirring in the process.

A total of 14 Irish trained hopefuls will line up on the day including a genuine A-Lister in the record breaking Snowfall.

If there were excuses for the triple-Group 1 winner’s Vermeille defeat there were no obvious ones for finishing sixth in the Arc just under a fortnight ago, apart, ironically, for bog-like conditions.

“The ground was very soft and there wasn’t much pace. We took our time on her but we probably expected there to be more pace in the race,” Aidan O’Brien said.

Snowfall towers over her seven opponents in the Fillies & Mares Stakes in terms of accomplishment and is the prime hope among O’Brien’s handful of raiders.

One of his other classic winning fillies this season, Mother Earth, takes her chance in a hot looking QEII and she has been a thoroughly likeable and consistent top-flight performer all season.

She is joined by Jessica Harrington’s outsider Njord, winner of the concluding handicap on the same card in 2020.

However, apart from the retired Poetic Flare, this is an exclusive group of Europe’s top-rated milers with Palace Pier setting a benchmark for the hugely progressive Baaeed.

Palace Pier’s third to The Revenant in this race last year is his sole defeat in 10 career starts to date but that was on considerably softer ground than is likely now.

Irish trained horses have won the Long Distance Cup half a dozen times in its 10 year history and four raiders line up this time.

The Gold Cup runner up Princess Zoe has ground to make up on Trueshan and Stradivarius from Prix Du Cadran a fortnight ago although the drop back to two miles could suit.

Conditions look to have come right for Gustavus Weston who is top-rated on official figures to give Co. Tipperary trainer Joe Murphy and jockey Gary Carroll maiden Group 1 victories in the Sprint.

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