Champions Day Review
Desperate ground once again reduced the appeal of this multi-million-pound monstrosity. It seems likely that the card will either be moved earlier in the season or be broken up again at some point. Qatar’s interest in thoroughbred racing and breeding seems to be plateauing as they realise the difficulty in challenging the Coolmore and Godolphin without decades of future planning and a limitless chequebook. Will they continue underwriting this day if it continues to disappoint?
That said, it was pleasing to see Magical land the mega pot she richly deserved for her supreme consistency this season. I thought she’d have no problem with the ground, but she barely handled the slop and only her toughness got her through. Similar comments apply to Star Catcher’s win as she was lifted home by an inspired Frankie Dettori but he couldn’t manage the same on Stradivarius – it’s nice to see the stayers division looking a real contest again, hopefully he and his conqueror Kew Gardens will have many more enthralling battles to come next season and beyond.
The star performance on the day came from King Of Change. He showed a fine turn of foot despite the horrific ground and has been looked after with a four-year-old campaign in mind. His half-brother Century Dream improved markedly from 3 to 4 and in a division lacking strength in depth King Of Change could mop up plenty more Group 1s over a mile in 2020. I hope Sean Levey will be allowed to keep the ride going forward, a fine jockey and a great interviewee, he deserves a chance to show his talents on the biggest stages.
Baddesley Knight (C.Gordon) – There were just 5 runners for Market Rasen’s class 3 novice chase on Saturday, but it was a hot little contest run at a serious clip. Rouge Vif was the impressive winner and his task was made easier by the fall of the market leader 2 out, but he looks a top prospect to me, so to see Baddesley Knight left on a mark of 131 for his 7-length beating is a surprise. He struck for home much too early yet kept on doggedly when passed. He prefers a sound surface and can either win a conditions novice chase or utilise his lenient looking mark to find handicap success under suitable conditions.
Nikap (N.Hawke) – Nigel Hawke’s string look in particularly poor form at present so Nikap deserves a lot of credit for posting two pleasing introductory efforts over hurdles despite the funk of his stable. He showed wayward talent in his two bumper efforts but looks to have been significantly straightened out by the application of a hood. A handicap mark of 114 looks pretty fair and I expect him to improve in that sphere where a more even gallop should prevail. There is plenty of talent to draw on and he showed more tactical speed when 4th (finishing clear of the rest) at Ffos Las on Saturday. There is a novices handicap hurdle at Ascot on the first Saturday in November, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him in that.
Samarquand (H.Fry) – Showed very little aptitude for chasing and ran in snatches at Plumpton on Monday when he would have finished 5th of 7 but for two rivals falling, so why is he an eyecatcher? A long-bodied, scopey type, he was comfortable early on but his rhythm fell to pieces as the taps were turned on a mile from home. He looked sure to finish well out the back but plugged on takingly between his sloppy leaps and showed good resolve, possibly benefiting from a summer wind op. He looks the wrong sort physically for a tight, twisting course like Plumpton and can improve on this significantly at a more conventional galloping track. On this basis he might well stay 3 miles in due course but will probably stick at 2m 4f for now.
Only 1 representative this week, with Giving Glances (A.King) taking her chance over hurdles at Wincanton following a pleasing flat comeback at Newmarket. She was a never nearer 5th in a strong contest not run to suit and looks ready for a step up in trip. I’ll be giving her another chance next time where hopefully she’ll be ridden more forcefully.