British Champions Day at Ascot kicks off with the Long Distance Cup (13:20), a Group 2 over two miles. Stradivarius has been the dominant stayer in training for the last three seasons – even if he has been beaten on two of his three appearances in this race – and he proved better than ever when winning his third successive renewal of the Gold Cup at Royal Ascot in June, producing a top-class performance to beat Nayef Road by 10 lengths.
That form comfortably sets the standard here on Timeform’s weight-adjusted ratings, but it’s a much closer run thing on timefigures. Stradivarius is still joint-top with a timefigure of 113 for his third behind Ghaiyyath in the Coronation Cup at Newmarket in June, but Search For A Song is a big danger when you factor in her 3 lb sex allowance, Dermot Weld’s mare having earned a timefigure of 110 when recently winning the Irish St Leger at the Curragh for the second year in a row.
This will be her first try at two miles, but she shapes as if the longer trip won’t be an issue and could be the one to take advantage if the favourite fails to reproduce his best form after contesting the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe at Longchamp less than two weeks ago.
Search For A Song - successive victories in the Comer Group International Irish St Leger!— Racing TV (@RacingTV) September 13, 2020
What a moment for jockey @OrrOisin, owners @MoyglareStud and trainer Dermot Weld 👏 #LICW2020 @curraghrace @IrishChampsWknd pic.twitter.com/ozOTRKly5H
Dream of Dreams and Oxted bring the strongest form credentials into the Champions Sprint Stakes (13:55), both having already won Group 1s over six furlongs this season. The latter took a big step forward when last seen winning the July Cup at Newmarket, and that form sets the standard here on Timeform’s weight-adjusted ratings, marginally superior to what Dream of Dreams achieved when winning the Sprint Cup at Haydock last time.
Both horses earned a timefigure of 116 for their respective wins at the top level, but it’s worth pointing out that Dream of Dreams produced an even bigger effort on the clock when winning the Hungerford Stakes at Newbury in August, winning by seven lengths in an excellent time for the conditions.
That performance earned him a timefigure of 125, which provides substance to the view that he is simply a much-improved performer this season after a gelding operation. For context, only Ghaiyyath (126 in the Coral-Eclipse) has surpassed that timefigure in Britain and Ireland this season, while we also know that Dream of Dreams is very effective over a stiff six furlongs at Ascot (placed in the last two renewals of the Diamond Jubilee Stakes).
The Fillies & Mares Stakes (14:30) looks likely to be another closely-fought contest on paper, with only 3 lb covering the top five on Timeform’s weight-adjusted ratings. Dame Malliot rates a key player on the form she showed to win the Princess of Wales’s Stakes at Newmarket in July, while Mehdaayih is another with a big chance if returning to her best after four months on the sidelines.
The three-year-old Wonderful Tonight is just behind that pair on weight-adjusted ratings but has standout claims on the clock after earning a timefigure of 107 for her victory in the Prix de Royallieu at Longchamp last time. That performance reads very well in the context of this race, with Antonia de Vega and Dame Malliot next best, each on a timefigure of 102.
Her latest effort suggests Wonderful Tonight has improved since her fifth – two places behind Dame Malliot – in the Prix Vermeille at Longchamp, and she looks sure to give another good account in conditions that will play to her strengths.
Palace Pier is very much the one to beat in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes (15:05) after showing top-class form to win his last two starts in the St James’s Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot and Prix Jacques le Marois at Deauville. No timefigure was recorded on the last occasion, so his peak effort on the clock is the 114 he earned for his St James’s Palace victory, which was respectable given that the race was steadily-run and not conducive to producing a good overall time.
One horse who may have been slightly underestimated in the betting is Century Dream, who achieved a timefigure of 121 when easily winning the Celebration Mile at Goodwood in August. That is a better performance on the clock than any of these have achieved, just ahead of Circus Maximus (120 timefigure when runner-up in the Sussex Stakes), and he did it in similar conditions to what he will encounter on Saturday, a mile on soft ground.
It’s worth remembering that he was third behind Roaring Lion in this race in 2018, too, and he rates a solid each-way bet at around 20/1 if bouncing back to his Goodwood form (did too much too soon under a penalty when only fifth in the Boomerang Stakes at Leopardstown last time).
Finally, the feature race on the card is the Champion Stakes (15:40), in which Magical will attempt to emulate the likes of Twice Over (2009 and 2010) and Cracksman (2017 and 2018) by winning it for the second year in succession.
A splendidly tough and genuine mare, Magical proved better than ever when recording her seventh Group 1 success in the Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardstown last time, beating Ghaiyyath by three quarters of a length and running to a level that identifies her as very much the one to beat in this line-up, not only on form but also on the clock.
For context, she earned a timefigure of 121 on that occasion and gets a 3 lb sex allowance here, which gives her the edge over stablemate Japan (122 timefigure when third in the Coral-Eclipse), the pair well clear of Extra Elusive (114 timefigure when runner-up in a Newbury listed heat in July).
Incidentally, no timefigure was recorded for either of Mishriff’s last two wins in France, so he can only be judged on his listed success at Newmarket in June, where he earned a timefigure of 114.
A stunning performance from Magical 🌟 who defeats Ghaiyyath and flies home to land the Irish Champion Stakes under Seamie Heffernan for Aidan O’Brien at @LeopardstownRC 🙌 #LICW2020@ballydoyle 🇮🇪 👏 pic.twitter.com/5AEGxOskiS— Irish Champions Wknd (@IrishChampsWknd) September 12, 2020