British Champions Day Tips: Five to back on a super Saturday of racing
Some of flat racing's biggest stars will be on show at Ascot on Saturday as a stunning six-race card, including four Group 1s and a Group 2, make up British Champions Day, and our big-price tipster Tony Calvin is on the case with a quintet of selections...
"Her earlier Salisbury win came in an excellent time and this late-bloomer powered away on her first start over this trip at Newmarket last time in the manner of a filly well worth testing in this higher grade."
I'm happy to start with the "worst" race on a brilliant day's racing at Ascot on Saturday, and suggest backing Professor and Fort Bastion at odds of [30.0] and [26.0] respectively in the Balmoral Handicap at 15:45.
Professor needs a bit of explaining as he has been well beaten in his three starts over 1m, and the 20-runner field won't be hanging around here.
However, he has dropped to such a tempting mark - he was rated 113 after beating Trade Storm over 7f at Haydock last year and is now down to 99 - that I have to give him another chance, especially as he has hinted in a few of his races that the 1m trip would be within his compass.
He ran well here last time out when sixth to Buckstay. Indeed, some of his best efforts have been at this track, such as a Wokingham second last summer and a 7f handicap victory the year before.
He wouldn't be the smoothest traveller and Pat Cosgrave is going to need a lot of luck in running, but hopefully he will arrive on the scene late here and just last home on this stiff mile.
Regular readers will know the score with Fort Bastion, but he is too big to ignore at 25-1.
He is a frustrating sort but he finally came good when winning by 3 ¾ lengths at Ayr in May and the handicapper has certainly played fair with him since, as he can now race off only a 1lb higher mark, despite some good efforts in the interim.
He has run some of his better races at this track, ran very well last time considering he ran loose before the start, and looks handicapped to take a big hand if on a going day.
In spite of the fact that I think that he is very well suited to 1m4f, I think Jack Hobbs is a justified favourite at around the 5-4 mark in the Champion Stakes at 15:05. He looks the class act of the field with the potential of more to come.
But ask me if I think that he is a bet at the price given my slight concerns at the trip - he looked tailor-made for the Arc - then I have to say no, especially as his wide draw in 12 is probably not ideal, either.
Picking out one to take him on with isn't easy though, especially as the obvious alternatives - Found and Vadamos - are next up in the betting, although the latter is priced up on his trainer's glowing comments rather than the evidence of the form book.
But I am going to back The Corsican win and place at [13.0] and [4.0] respectively.
I was convinced that he would have run a big race here in the King George back in July, and backed him accordingly ante-post, only to be struck dumb when connections pulled him out at 8.30am - on a drying day - because of the perceived soft ground.
I was on the Morning Line at the time and I couldn't believe my ears. But ease in the ground didn't stop him winning at Newbury on his latest start, following an unlucky second at Goodwood.
He didn't get the best of rides/runs when fourth in the Prince Of Wales's Stakes here at the Royal meeting and a strongly-run 1m2f - they won't be hanging around - is ideal for him. To be honest, I'll be surprised if he is good enough to beat a peak-form favourite but disappointed if he isn't placed.
At the time of writing it is another "will he, won't he" situation with Gleneagles in the QEII at 14:30 so you can't really have a bet in the race as it stands.
If the principals are to be toppled, then the progressive course winner Kodi Bear is the one that I like, but the each-way shape and angle into the race changes dramatically if Gleneagles gets the go-ahead to try and put it to Solow.
The Long Distance Cup at 12:45 looks an exceptionally tricky race, and nothing stands out for me at the prices.
The one who I would back, if forced, would be Agent Murphy, who was tremendously impressive in the Geoffrey Freer and who clearly met a rapid improver when brushed aside by Order Of St George in the Irish St Leger last time.
But the step up to 2m is an unknown, and he does head the market anyway at around 11-2, so I can easily step away from a bet.
Muhaarar is the stand-out on form in the sprint at 13:20 and it could be that his price hits a point at which he becomes backable.
In fact, he has eased slightly in the market during the week, but for me he hasn't quite reached the punting/tipping level just yet, and Strath Burn looks far more attractive at [13.0].
I know unbeaten Betfred Sprint Cup winner Twilight Son has the "sexier" profile and has the assistance of Ryan Moore for the first time. But quite why he is around half the price of Strath Burn, who most considered had done remarkably well to get within a short-head of him from an unfavourably high draw at Haydock, is a mystery to me.
Okay, he went off 33-1 there. But he went into the race firmly on the upgrade and there is no reason to disbelieve the form.
The Tin Man looks well worth the £40,000 supplementary fee for this £600k pot - he was actually taken out of this race before his ridiculously easy win off 91 over course and distance recently - and is a half-brother to Deacon Blues, who won this race in 2011. He is well worth a shot in this grade but Strath Burn appeals more at the prices.
Journey is unlikely to get her own way out in front as she did when winning by eight lengths at Newmarket last time - Covert Love, for one, will see to that - but she doesn't have to lead and she has made a deep impression in both her recent victories.
Her earlier Salisbury win came in an excellent time and this late-bloomer powered away on her first start over this trip at Newmarket last time in the manner of a filly well worth testing in this higher grade. Indeed, the bare form of that success suggests she has very little to find with the market principals.
Back her at [9.0] or better in the Fillies and Mares at 13:55.
Be lucky, and enjoy what is sure to be a fantastic day of racing at Ascot.
Back Strath Burn at [13.0] in the 13:20 at Ascot
Back Journey at [9.0] in the 13:55 at Ascot
Back The Corsican at [13.0] in the 15:05 at Ascot
Back The Corsican at [4.0] to Place in the 15:05 at Ascot
Back Professor at [30.0] in the 15:45 at Ascot
Back Fort Bastion at [26.0] in the 15:45 at Ascot
*For more daily racing tips, news, and Ambassador columns from Paul Nicholls and Ryan More then be sure to check out or dedicated Horse Racing section on betting.betfair.
3/1+ Channel 4 – Saturday (Sportsbook only)
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Qualifying races - Ascot: 12:45, 13:20, 13:55, 14:30, 15:05, 15:45