TThe news Monday morning that Starman, the July Cup winner, has retired after suffering a setback in training, was a disappointing way to start the run-up to Champions Day in Ascot on Saturday, not least when the Ed Walker sprinter missed the royal meeting. in June due to soft going, but thanks to the moods of the British weather, it looked like it was likely to get much better ground on the same track in mid-October.
Starman is Europe’s highest rated sprinter this season thanks to his convincing success at Newmarket in July, and on Sunday night he was the 4-1 favorite for the Champions Sprint. While the Ascot card will be the worse without him, the 11th Champions Day in many other respects promises to be one of the best to date.
This is largely due to the current period of stable, dry and hot (like) weather, which is a sharp and seasonal contrast to the situation for much of the first 10 years.
The first Champions Day in 2011 was run on good ground, and it also went well in 2016. Apart from that, the reason for Britain’s richest day at the races, with around £ 4 million offered to crown the summer code champions, has been: soft , soft, heavy, good-to-soft, soft, soft, soft, soft.
It includes the renewal in 2019, where the round track was waterlogged and three races were switched to the hurdles track instead. None of this is, of course, any great surprise given the initial decision to hold the meeting in mid-October, but it does raise expectations of what appears to be one of the two or three years of each decade in which Champions Day is run on proper ground.
On the court, the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes will no doubt overshadow the Champion Stakes as today’s race, with undefeated Group 1 winner Baaeed – who first saw a court in early June – expected to host Palace Pier, Alcohol Free and last year’s winner, The Revenant, b.a.
And for the first time since the title of the Flat Jockeys was changed to its current Guineas-to-Champions Day format at the instigation of their Qatar sponsors in 2015, the championship could still be decided on the last afternoon.
As the bet suggests, it remains an opportunity from the outside, with defending champion Oisin Murphy having a top price of around 1-3 to keep his crown as he enters the final week with a 148-142 lead over William Buick . But it’s close enough that the odds could change abruptly in a matter of hours, not least on a day like Monday, when Buick has eight reserved trips, including six forecast favorites, at Wolverhampton’s afternoon meeting before Murphy goes to Kempton for six. on the evening card.
Both riders have ridden an almost identical number of rides over the course of the season so far – 672 for Murphy versus 676 for Buick – and wherever the title race ended, there will have been plenty of races like the minor beginner event in Goodwood on Sunday, where a short head or nose between the pair of them will have made all the difference.
It was Buick who came out on top on Sunday when Charlie Appleby’s Secret Image, a 5-1 shot, just did enough to dismiss Murphy on the 11-10 favorite, Electress. That left Buick five winners behind Murphy, who had a winner from five trips on Kempton Park’s evening card. Paddy Power trimmed the Buicks title odds to 2-1 (from 9-4), while Murphy is 4-11 (from 1-3).