Al Wukair could spring surprise on British Champions Day

Al Wukair

by JOHN ANDERSON
THE Flat season is coming to an end but not before British Champions Day at Ascot, where the leading horses in each division will compete against each other one last time before they are put away for the winter and given a break. Here are three horses who could finish their campaign strongly on Champions Day and are worth a bet in their respective races.

Champion Stakes

Ulysses has firmly established himself as one of the best middle-distance runners in Europe this season with three Group victories to his name, two of which were in Group One company. Sir Michael Stoute’s runner has been tried at various trips from 1m to 1m4f throughout his career but it now seems clear that 1m2f is his optimum distance. Last season’s Champion Jockey Jim Crowley has formed a brilliant partnership with Ulysses and knows exactly how to ride the talented colt. As you will find at Timeform, his turn of speed in the latter stages of a race is his huge strength. Therefore, he needs to be held up for as long as possible. If successful at Ascot, it would be the biggest win of Ulysses’ career. He is likely to run in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe so hopefully that will not take too much out of him. Connections have already revealed their horse will stand at stud following this season. The dangers to Ulysses are likely to come from Barney Roy and Cracksman, two horses he beat earlier in the campaign. The three-year-old pair are clearly talented horses but they may have to wait until next season to land this prestigious contest.
Selection: Ulysses @ 4/1

Queen Elizabeth II Stakes

One of the most competitive races on British Champions Day is the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes, which is run over a mile. Last year’s runner-up Ribchester is back and looking to go one better than in 2016 when he finished half-a-length behind Minding. The four-year-old returned to form recently to claim the Group One Prix du Moulin at Chantilly. He has also recorded wins in the Lockinge Stakes and Queen Anne Stakes at Royal Ascot this season and therefore justifies being the 2/1 favourite for the QEII. Although the form of the favourite is very solid, British Champions Day comes at the end of what has been a long, hard season for many of the participants, including Ribchester, who started his campaign as early as March in the UAE for the Dubai World Cup meeting. French three-year-old Al Wukair hasn’t quite accumulated as many miles as the majority of his rivals in the QEII and looks capable of being in contention in the closing stages at Ascot. French trainer Andre Fabre does not waste his time bringing his horses across to the UK unless he believes they are very good. His talented colt recently won the Group One Prix du Haras de Fresnay-le-Buffard Jacques Le Marois at Chantilly. At 7/1, he looks overpriced to get the better of the field here.
Selection: Al Wukair @ 7/1

Long Distance Cup

One of the standout performances in the long distance division this season was that by Big Orange in the Ascot Gold Cup, where he got the better of Order Of St George. The front two at the Royal meeting are set to meet again at the same course in the Long Distance Cup. Big Orange looks fantastic value at 5/1 to win his battle with Order Of St George once again. The six-year-old ran a cracking race to finish second in the Goodwood Cup back in August. Unfortunately for his connections, he came up against a talented three-year-old who was receiving weight against Ascot Gold Cup winner. Order Of St George has to be respected, but he is expected to run in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe just before his Long Distance Cup bid. That is likely to take something out of him. Big Orange should be the fresher horse and that could prove the difference if it is another tight tussle between the front two in the betting.
Selection: Big Orange @ 5/1

British Champions Day takes place on October 21 and the whole card is live on ITV1.

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