Qipco British Champions Day: Sky Sports Racing’s Alex Hammond makes her Ascot picks and previews Baaeed’s last dance | Racing News


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Sky Sports Racing’s Alex Hammond highlights her fancies on Qipco British Champions Day at Ascot including the French raider Sweet Lady.

Another flat season reaches its climax on Saturday on Qipco British Champions Day at Ascot. The day was first run in its current guise in 2011 and the new concept was rewarded with Frankel romps in its inaugural year and the following year when he took his final curtain call in the Champion Stakes in 2012.

I was lucky enough to be there 10 years ago as a guest, and it was a real treat to go racing purely as a fan. I had the perfect date because I took my mum along, but our real date was with Frankel, and he pulled out all the stops.

The concept of Champions Day is to celebrate champions and we can do the same a decade later as Baaeed uses the same race, the Qipco Champion Stakes, as his swansong.

Frankel will be hard, if not impossible, to knock off his lofty perch, but Baaeed has done everything asked of him and we ask once more for maximum effort in order for him to take an unblemished record with him to his next career.

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Sky Sports Racing goes behind the scenes on the gallops with superstar Baaeed as he is prepared by trainer William Haggas for one final run in Saturday’s Champion Stakes at Ascot

Backing Trueshan to bounce back to form

Speaking of careers at stud, the small but mighty Stradivarius will be joining him in the breeding shed next season and I hope the charismatic eight-year-old gets well supported with some quality mares. We get another chance to show him our appreciation when he will parade one last time at Ascot after the British Champion Sprint Stakes on Saturday.

The Cup division won’t be the same without him, and it was a shame he couldn’t win that record-equalling Gold Cup at Ascot, but there are some exciting horses coming through, with Kyprios heading the charge.

There’s no Kyprios on Champions Day but the Long Distance Cup is still high quality with Trueshan bidding to make history with a third win in this race. If he lands the hat-trick, he’ll be the first horse to achieve three wins at this fixture.

He’s up against the St Leger winner Eldar Eldarov and in Kyprios’ absence Aidan O’Brien sends over a three-year-old called Waterville who looks an exciting horse for the staying division next season.

Trueshan was disappointing at Doncaster last time out but that may ensure he is a more attractive price than he would have been otherwise. He’s Sky Bet’s 7/4 favourite.

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At The Races’ Declan Rix is backing Trueshan to bounce back to winning ways in Saturday’s QIPCO British Champions Long Distance Cup at Ascot, live on Sky Sports Racing

Ascot specialist Rohaan can do it again

The British Champions Sprint has attracted the second largest field of the day with 18 declared. The stalls will be placed on the far side which means that low draws are favoured. This makes life difficult for a number of the protagonists. Last year’s winner Creative Force, Kinross and Naval Crown are all drawn high.

I think the stars could be aligned for Rohaan, who loves Ascot. He is four from five at the track, comes here in top form and will break from stall six.

He’s been a real success story for trainer Dave Evans who picked him up for just 20,000 guineas a couple of years ago and he’s now won nine races and almost £400,000 since joining the Welsh wizard. He’s now 9/2 with Sky Bet to win again.

Ryan Moore and Rohaan win the Wokingham Stakes
Ryan Moore and Rohaan win the Wokingham Stakes

Elsewhere on the card the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes market is headed by Inspiral (even money favourite with Sky Bet). I thought she’d be shorter than that, and for a filly who has done precious little wrong in her career I thought she looked hard to oppose.

If she were to win that would take John Gosden’s tally of Champions Day winners to nine, one clear of Aidan O’Brien at the top of the standings. By the same token, a win for O’Brien would take him clear at the top, but he doesn’t look to have as strong a hand as Team Gosden.

Inspiral runs out a hugely impressive winner of the Coronation Stakes
Inspiral runs out a hugely impressive winner of the Coronation Stakes

Graffard’s Lady looks sweet in Fillies and Mares

French trainer Francis Graffard sends three runners over the Channel to Ascot. The Revenant is always one to consider in the QEII and it would be wonderful to see Aussie sensation Verry Elleegant show European racing fans what she’s made of in the Qipco British Champions Fillies and Mares Stakes.

However, their travelling companion, Sweet Lady, is not to be discounted in the mile-and-a-half Group One. Sweet Lady beat Lilac Road in the Prix Vermeille last month and that form puts both fillies in with a shout against Emily Upjohn in an open looking contest. Sweet Lady is 10/1 and Lilac Road 14s and either could be each way value.

In the last race on the card, the Balmoral Handicap, we will celebrate another new champion. Benoit de la Sayette is leading apprentice this season after a fair tussle with Harry Davies. Both riders are real talents who will no doubt have many more head-to-heads over the years to come.

It may be worth giving Benoit de la Sayette’s mount in the last an each-way chance. Magical Morning was third in this race last year at a whopping 66/1. He’s now 1lb lower in the weights and will be fitted with cheekpieces for the first time. He does have a high draw to overcome and is 20/1 to do so.

So, a superb day in prospect and if you’re watching from home or lucky enough to be coming along to Ascot, let’s hope that Baaeed can make the day as memorable for you as Frankel did for me and my mum all those years ago. It may be his last dance, but I promise you, if he does something special, you’ll be hooked.

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