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2018 Champions Day roundup – Cracksman and Roaring Lion headlines spectacular day at Ascot for Gosden and Dettori

Jonathan Vine 20 Oct 2018
Frankie Dettori celebrates as he rides Cracksman to win The Qipco Champion Stakes at Ascot.

We bring you a roundup of the action and developments in various ante-post betting markets after Champions Day at Ascot.

The stands at Ascot were abuzz with excitement this afternoon, as Ascot staged six fantastic races on Champions Day. Bookmakers had been quaking in their boots during the build-up to the meeting, fearing a fabulous four-timer for John Gosden, who saddled four of the five favourites for the major Group races.

Stradivarius was expected to get the Johnny G bandwagon rolling in the Long Distance Cup, holding an odds-on price with all bookmakers during the morning. However, the Gold Cup winner drifted back out to 11/10 in some places before the off, as Flag Of Honour and more significantly, Sir Erec were backed in opposition.

The two Aidan O’Brien runners put it up to Stradivarius from the off, with Flag Of Honour leading at a fairly modest pace under Ryan Moore. The plan to box Frankie in on the rail rounding the bend was thrown out the window, however, as Flag Of Honour went a little wide and Dettori decided to pounce. Driving Stradivarius into the clear, the favourite never looked back, holding off Thomas Hobson to become the first Gold Cup winner in 50 years to end the season unbeaten.

John Gosden and owner, Bjorn Nielsen all-but confirmed that Stradivarius would stay in training for another year, with a return to the Yorkshire Cup in May his intended starting point. Betfair reacted by clipping Stradivarius’ odds in the 2019 Royal Ascot Gold Cup, offering a price of 15/8 on the favourite, from their original 9/4 stand-point this morning.

Next up was the Champions Sprint, where Harry Angel attempted to rebuild his tarnished reputation. Clive Cox’s star sprinter sat second in the betting behind Sprint Cup winner The Tin Man, with Limato and Donjuan Triumphant being heavily punted by each-way backers.

As usual, Harry Angel played up before the start and needed the blindfold to enter the stalls. Amazingly, Adam Kirby’s mount managed to break on terms and was traveling best of all in second two furlongs from home. Market backmarker, Sands Of Mali had set a fairly sedate pace, but when Paul Hanagan asked his to go, none of his highly rated rivals were able to bridge the gap and Sands Of Mali handed Richard Fahey a huge victory in the Champions Sprint.

Oisin Murphy punches the air after winning the QEII with Roaring Lion.

The second leg of John Gosden’s fabulous four was Lah Ti Dar, who held her position at the head of the betting for the Champion Fillies’ & Mares’ Stakes. Frankie managed to slot in nicely behind the leaders from a wide draw and looked to be traveling beautifully as he pushed the favourite into the lead.

That move, however, proved to be a little premature. Lah Ti Dar found little when she hit the front and Magical was on hand to pounce, powering to victory for Aidan O’Brien, with Lah Ti Dar’s stablemate, Coronet coming through to claim second ahead of the St Leger runner-up.

Lah Ti Dar is due to stay in training next season and her odds for the 2019 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe remained unchanged. Magical, who was making just her fourth start of the season, could carry that winning form into the Breeders’ Cup, where Coral have halved her odds from 14s to 7/1 to win the Fillies’ And Mares’ Turf.

In a bid to keep his stable stars apart, Roaring Lion was rerouted from the Champion Stakes to the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes and Gosden’s three-time Group One winner went to post as the 2/1 favourite. French raider, Recoletos was backed in the build-up, with each-way money coming for Laurens and Addeybb.

Laurens tried to make the pace, but Karl Burke’s filly fell tamely. Oisin Murphy pushed Roaring Lion past Century Dream to the front, but Murphy would have had his heart in his mouth as I Can Fly came through with a late charge on the inside. Yet, Murphy’s favourite mount toughed it out on ground he clearly hated, securing a hard-fought victory for Sheikh Fahad and Qatar Racing.

Many were anticipating Roaring Lion would head to the Breeders’ Cup Classic after competiting at Ascot. BetVictor clipped the Lion’s odds in that race in from 12s to 10/1 after the race, but in an interview with ITV racing, John Gosden claimed his colt would “probably head to stud” after that QEII win, throwing plans for the Breeders’ Cup up in the air!

The stage was then set for Cracksman to strut his stuff, as he attempted to recapture the form he showed in this race 12 months ago. John Gosden employed blinkers for the first time to help keep his colt’s mind on the job - not the fillies in the paddock - and Frankie’s mount looked cool, calm and collected before the off.

It wasn’t plain sailing for the favourite, who hit a flat spot down in Swinley Bottom and had to be rousted along for a couple of strides. Yet, when Dettori unleashed Cracksman, the outcome was never in doubt. In a carbon-copy of his performance the previous year, Cracksman immediately put daylight between himself and the chasing pack, heading into blissful retirement with a second emphatic Champion Stakes win.

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2018 Champions Day roundup – Cracksman and Roaring Lion headlines spectacular day at Ascot for Gosden and Dettori

We bring you a roundup of the action and developments in various ante-post betting markets after Champions Day at Ascot on Saturday 20th October.

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