Five Key Takeaways From British Champions Day

Welcome to Gavin Beech's weekly racing column for Bookmakers.co.uk. A veteran racing journalist, Gavin provides his opinion on the latest talking points across flat and jump racing.

Five Key Takeaways From British Champions Day
Five Key Takeaways From British Champions Day

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Trueshan the Champion Stayer - but Only when Conditions Suit

In just over 12 months, Trueshan has won two Long Distance Cups and two Group 1 staying races, from just six appearances and he is clearly worthy of the horse racing ‘champion stayer’ crown that has metaphorically been awarded to him following Saturday’s Ascot success.

However, versatility is one of the characteristics that separate good horses and great horses. When Stradivarius was carrying all before him in 2019, he won Group 1 races on ground conditions ranging from soft to good to firm. Whatever the surface, Stradivarius came out on top.

This is now Trueshan’s time. He has consistently performed to a slightly better level than Stradivarius for the last 12 months and is clearly a very smart stayer. The difference between a peak Trueshan and a peak Stradivarius, though, is that the latter has shown himself capable of doing it on all types of ground, whereas Trueshan excels when the mud is flying and connections appear intent on not even risking him on ground any quicker than good.

Trueshan’s four group wins this year have come on very soft, soft, soft and good to soft, although the consensus at Ascot on Saturday was that the last of those was much nearer soft than good to soft.

Trueshan has won races on good ground but his best form is all on much softer terrain and, for all his high-class staying form, I’m not convinced that he is versatile enough to be considered a great stayer.



Art Power Connections Left to Rue Draw - Again!

It’s been a record-breaking season for Tim Easterby but the North Yorkshire trainer must have driven away from Ascot on Saturday rueing Art Power’s luck on the British Champions Sprint Stakes.

Despite the big field, very few horses made an impact in a Group 1 sprint that developed towards the far side of the straight track, where Glen Shiel made the running before being picked off by Creative Force in the final furlong. To reinforce the point, the first three horses home came from stalls 5, 2 and 4.

Art Power, racing from gate 20, was marooned towards the slower stands’ side of the straight track where he proved a bit headstrong with very little cover. Silvestre de Sousa's mount was never able to get on terms with the likes of Creative Force, who benefitted from the perfect trip, but he stayed on to really good effect to get within two-and-a-quarter lengths of the winner and there can be no doubt that this grey son of Dark Angel ran an absolute screamer in the circumstances.

It’s not the first time that Art Power has suffered on the draw front at Ascot this year - he was on the wrong side in the Diamond Jubilee Stakes, where he finished comfortably best of those to race in the near-side group.

Art Power isn’t an outstanding sprinter, he has an official rating of just 114, but he surely has a top-level prize in him granted a bit more rub of the green.

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Baaeed has Silenced Any Remaining Doubters

I have to admit, I was far from convinced that Baaeed was worthy of the hype surrounding him prior to Saturday but It’s almost impossible to maintain that view now.

Baaeed beat the world’s best miler Palace Pier despite having a disadvantageous trip and for all the hullabaloo about Dettori looking around too often for his trainer's liking, I just don’t think the result would have been any different had he kicked a fraction sooner.

Baaeed was caught further back and wider than Palace Pier in a race that wasn’t strongly run, while his jockey was adamant that he’ll be an even better horse on quicker ground so he must be some tool to sweep past his market rival with such little fuss.

The 'head-on' camera angle was particularly revealing; while his much more experience rival was edging to his right under pressure entering the final furlong, Baaeed was keeping straight and true and finished his race in the manner of a horse right at the peak of his powers.

Racing Post Ratings indicate that Palace Pier ran to within 1lb of his best form so there is no reason to doubt that Baaeed isn’t the best miler in the world now and there has to be a chance that he can improve on those numbers again next year given he only started racing in June. Jim Crowley was right - he is a beast.

A footnote to that race is the effort of Mother Earth in fifth. It hasn’t gone unnoticed in certain quarters that Mother Earth came home faster than any other horse in the race, indeed she ran the last three furlongs faster than Baaeed.

The daughter of Zoffany has some constitution, she’s only three but has already raced 16 times and is still running to her best in October despite having been on the go since winning the 1,000 Guineas at Newmarket in May.

She ran a cracker in the Juvenile Fillies at Keeneland last year and, if connections decide to take her back to the USA, she would have to be a huge runner in the Breeders’ Cup Mile.



There Aren’t Many Good Middle-distance Fillies Around

This year’s batch of middle-distance 3-year-old fillies aren’t up to much. Snowfall was beating them all up in the first half of the season but she’s not managed to get anywhere near that level of form on her last three starts and Saturday’s defeat in the Fillies & Mares Stakes was her joint-lowest performance of the campaign in terms of the figures.

The likes of Loving Dream and Albaflora were stuffed by Snowfall in the Yorkshire Oaks but both have shown better form than the dual Oaks winner in the second half of the season.

It remains to be seen whether Snowfall will race on next season, but connections might be tempted to keep her in training to replace older stablemate Love, whose form has also tailed off.

Champions Day winner Eshaada is still very lightly raced and undoubtedly has the potential to go on to bigger and better things if she is kept in training next year although the Shadwell operation will no doubt see her undoubted broodmare potential as a major asset.

Going into Saturday’s race, Eshaada and Albaflora were officially rated 108 and 110 respectively, numbers that barely even warranted them competing at Group 1 level, but that is where we are with the middle distance 3-year-old fillies this year. In terms of ratings, none have managed to reach RPR’s of 120+ that a peak-form Snowfall was hitting earlier in the season.

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Champion Stakes a Damp Squib

Sealiway is clearly a very good horse but he benefited from his main Champions Stakes rivals underperforming and his winning RPR was the third-lowest in the last decade.

I can’t remember the last time THREE major contenders of a Group 1 contest all ran so far below their peak form and, of all the races run on Qipco British Champions Day, this is the one that disappointed me most.

These are the facts according to RPR's: Adayar ran a whopping 19lb below his peak form of his King George win in the summer, while Mishriff underperformed to the tune of 11lb from his Juddmonte romp.

Addeybb, who really should have been suited by the soft conditions, ran a quite ridiculous 26lb below the level he ran to in this race 12 months earlier.

Mishriff just doesn’t seem to hold his form for very long, Adayar clearly isn’t right and Addeybb just wasn’t anywhere near fit enough.

Sure, Sealiway still had to run to a high level to see off the improving Dubai Honour, but nowhere near the level he would have had to if the three main protagonists had performed to anything close to their best.


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