The Champion Stakes (4.05pm, Ascot, Saturday) is the most valuable race of its kind run in Britain, so it’s no surprise that this year’s renewal features five individual Group 1 winners among the ten runners.
Cirrus Des Aigles (6/5), who was beaten just 1¾ lengths by the highest rated horse of all time, Frankel, in this race last year is hot favourite, but we think he’s worth taking on at a short price. Corine Barande-Barbe’s seven-year-old was beaten on his first four starts seasons and, although apparently showing improved form when winning the Prix Dollar at Longchamp two weeks ago, is still rated 8lb lower by the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) than he was at the start of the season. Of course, that may not stop him from winning, especially as he acts very well on soft and heavy going, but the last 7-year-old to win the Champion Stakes was Bendigo in 1887 and he has questions to answer back at the highest level.
So, too, does Farhh (4/1), who was a ready 4-length winner of the Lockinge Stakes, over a mile, at Newbury in May, but has been off the course for 154 days due to lameness. He finished second, beaten 7 lengths, behind Frankel in the International Stakes over 1 mile 2½ furlongs, at York last August, but has never won beyond a mile or on going softer than good to soft. Even if his trainer Saeed bin Suroor produces him fit and well after his absence, he still has enough doubts about to suggest that he represents little in the way of value at his current odds.
Ruler Of The World (9/1) has never actually won on soft going, but his short-head second to Kizuna in the Prix Niel at Longchamp in September and subsequent seventh, beaten 11½ lengths, behind Treve in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe suggest he’s effective on it. He gave the impression, when only fifth in the Irish Derby at the Curragh in June, that he may not truly stay a mile and a half on a stiff track, so a testing mile and a quarter could be his best trip and he shouldn’t be underestimated.
Mukhadram (9/1) has been off the course for 84 days since winning the York Stakes in July, but didn’t finish far behind subsequent Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe seventh Al Kazeem in the Prince of Wales’s Stakes at Royal Ascot or the Eclipse at Sandown and commands respect. He has officially improved 23lb since beating Main Sequence (66/1) by an ever decreasing neck in the Brigadier Gerard Stakes, also at Sandown, on his reappearance in May but, even so, one or two others have more pressing claims.
Hillstar (11/1) has apparently been working well since finishing fourth, beaten 5 lengths, behind Declaration Of War in the International Stakes at York in August. The son of Danehill Dancer has officially improved 36lb since making his seasonal debut at Newmarket in April. But he is starting to look exposed as below top class and, while he won his maiden on soft at Leicester last October, his lack of a win over a mile and a quarter is off-putting.
The one that really takes the eye is MORANDI (16/1), who has Group 1 winning form over a mile and a quarter on soft ground and was only beaten three-quarters of a length by subsequent Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe third Intello in the Prix du Prince d’Orange at Longchamp last month. Admittedly, Intello was a comfortable winner on that occasion, but Morandi has only 7lb to find with Cirrus Des Aigles on official ratings and looks cracking value at the odds on offer.
Our betting tips advice is to back Jean-Claude Rouget’s three-year-old each-way at 16/1 with Coral, Bet365 or William Hill and hope it rains from now until Saturday afternoon. UPDATE: Since we published this advice, Morandi’s odds have fallen to a best price of 10/1, which is available with any of these three bookies: Coral, Bet365 or William Hill.