3.30 Ascot: British Champion Stakes, 1m 2f
On paper this is likely a match between odds-on favourite Cracksman and top rated Crystal Ocean. It’s also the duel of the super sires Frankel vs. Sea The Stars.
Cracksman is the one who’s likely to enjoy the soft going the little more. First time blinkers after a surprising defeat at Ascot when last seen is an interesting move by John Gosden. Personally I judge this as a big minus. One couldn’t help but feel, despite his early season wins, that Cracksman isn’t as good – or shall we rather say focused – as he was last season. The Coronation Cup scare already was a revealing hint, I feel.
On prices I probably would favour Crystal Ocean. He’s 4lb higher rated at the moment. Something to take with a pinch of salt, nonetheless it tells a story of a horse who’s at the top of his game.
In saying that, Crystal Ocean continues to chase the elusive Group 1 victory. While his runner-up performance behind wonder mare Enable at Kempton showed he remains as good as ever, with ground potentially too soft to be ideal and a trip potentially too short to be ideal, I find myself picking plenty of holes not only in to the odds-on favourite, but also the second fancy in the betting.
Capri? An interrupted season, has to be taken seriously still, after a damn good effort in the Arc. He could try to steel the race from the front, utilizing his superior stamina. He’s a fair price, for sure.
However, I’m drawn to a massive long-shot here. Jim Bolger’s Verbal Dexterity, last year’s National Stakes winner. Things didn’t go plan for him afterwards, clearly. And his latest showing in the Irish Champion Stakes is worrisome, despite a more than fair seasonal reappearance weeks earlier.
On the other hand the ground looks ideal for him, unlike at Leopardstown. Whether he can stretch out to 10f on soft going is an entirely different matter. Either way, I feel this lad has a big race in him. Jim Bolger continues to show faith, otherwise he wouldn’t bring him over.
As the only three-year-old in the race at the bottom of the weights, despite a massive price I can see him outrunning this price tag for at least a place.
10pts Each/Way – Verbal Dexterity @ 28/1 PP