Aside from the Derby, the Champion Stakes (4.05pm BST, Saturday, Ascot) is the most valuable race run in the UK. This year’s renewal, has attracted a select but high class field of six, headed by Sir Henry Cecil’s unbeaten colt Frankel.
Officially the best horse in the world, Frankel has won eight Group 1 races in a row, including the Juddmonte International over 1m2f at York in August, and is long odds-on (2/9) to take his unbeaten tally to 14 before being retired to stud.
Frankel has only raced once on soft going, when beating Nathaniel by half a length on his racecourse debut two seasons ago, but his connections think that he won’t be unduly worried by underfoot conditions. Indeed, the form of his 11-length win in the Queen Anne Stakes over a mile on good to soft going at Royal Ascot is as good as anything he’s ever achieved, if not better.
However, Frankel does face his stiffest task to date and if there is a chink in his armour on soft going Cirrus Des Aigles (4/1) could be the one to exploit it. The six-year-old gelding, trained in Chantilly by Corine Barande-Barbe, has won half a dozen times on soft, very soft and heavy going, including the Group 1 Prix Ganay at Longchamp in April.
Cirrus Des Aigles won his preparatory race for the Champion Stakes, the Group 2 Prix Dollar, again at Longchamp, by a whopping nine lengths two weeks ago and looks a serious contender. Of course, he also won the Champion Stakes last year, on good to firm going, and that form entitles him, once again, to beat Nathaniel, who finished 3¼ lengths behind in fifth.
Nathaniel (12/1) missed his intended engagement in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe because of a high temperature, but has been in decent form on all three starts so far this season. He won the Eclipse at Sandown in July before narrowly losing out to Danedream in the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes, over a mile and a half, at Ascot later the same month. He once again finished runner-up behind Snow Fairy in the Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardstown in September.
Nathaniel is another who has encountered soft going just once in his career, but he’s run well enough on good to soft to suggest it shouldn’t be a problem. Nevertheless, he has something to find with Cirrus Des Aigles and even more to find with Frankel, through the Coral-Eclipse runner-up, Farhh, so he looks to be running for place money at best.
A line through Danedream suggests that Mario Hofer’s three-year-old colt Pastorius (40/1) has his work cut out to beat Nathaniel and therefore Cirrus Des Aigles and Frankel on collateral form lines. Nevertheless the German Derby winner will relish the ground.
Master Of Hounds (150/1) looks a big price for a Group 1 winner but is ultimately outclassed and Bullet Train (200/1) will act as a pacemaker for his half-brother Frankel, as he has done on five previous occasions.
Champion Stakes Betting Tips Conclusion
It would not be a total surprise if all the runners in the Champion Stakes finished in more or less the same order as the betting market suggests. If he runs to form, Frankel appears to have plenty in hand of Cirrus Des Aigles, who, in turn, appears to have plenty in hand of the others.
- So the best option in terms of value may be a straight forecast on 1. Frankel to beat 2. Cirrus des Aigles. This can be placed with a top-class online bookmaker such as Bet365.