British Champions Day Preview
Billed as the explosive finale to the British Flat racing season, Champions Day at Ascot on Saturday promises a high class card.
With some of the stars of this season aiming to sign off with valuable wins, here's what to expect.
The card features five Champions Series races and begins with the Long Distance Cup. The Group 2 event was won last year by Dermot Weld's Forgotten Rules and while he hasn't been at his best this term, the return to soft ground and two miles should make him a key player.
Agent Murphy, second in the Irish St Leger last month, and soft-ground specialist Clever Cookie are others for the shortlist in a tricky opener.
The Champion Sprint Stakes now takes on Group 1 status and Charlie Hills' exceptional three-year-old colt Muhaarar looks the one they all have to beat. He has won his last three starts at this level and set a high benchmark in doing so.
Of the challengers, the unbeaten Twilight Son took another step forward when winning the Sprint Cup at Haydock in September and Henry Candy's decision to book Ryan Moore for the ride at Ascot is surely worthy of note.
Moore showed at the Royal meeting in June he is without equal in the saddle and Twilight Son is a huge danger to all.
Recent course and distance winner The Tin Man is held in high regard by trainer James Fanshawe and Tom Queally's mount is entitled to get involved here once again.
The Fillies & Mares Stakes is another chance for Hugo Palmer's fabulously consistent Irish Oaks winner Covert Love to strut her stuff on the big stage. She showed unbelievable guts to win the Prix De L'opera at Longchamp on Arc day but there must be some concern that race will have taken its toll at the end of a busy season.
Ralph Beckett will be hoping that regardless of the outcome, his filly Simple Verse enjoys a clean passage after her controversial St Leger victory last month. Andrea Atzeni is in the saddle once more and her stamina could prove vital on the softened ground at Ascot despite this drop in trip.
The talented French duo of Candarliya and Sea Calisi make this a tough puzzle to solve all round.
The French also provide one of the real superstars on show in the form of Freddy Head's fantastic miler, Solow.
He has already pocketed four Group 1 races this year and proved himself to be Europe's best miler in the process. As such, he looks to have the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes at his mercy.
Gleneagles would prove a genuine adversary should Aidan O'Brien's 2000 Guineas winner stand his ground but the conditions could scupper his bid.
Last year's Racing Post Trophy winner Elm Park got back on the winning trail at Sandown last month and trainer Andrew Balding retains big hopes for him. He could prove to be one of main dangers to Solow.
The Champion Stakes revolves around one horse, Irish Derby winner Jack Hobbs. John Gosden's runner has been perhaps overshadowed by stablemate Golden Horn but in six starts only the Epsom Derby and Arc winner has got his measure to date.
His roaring success at the Curragh in June was one of the performances of the season and with his trainer having skipped Longchamp, he comes here a fresh horse and can rubberstamp an impressive campaign with victory.