A superb British Champions Day card brings the curtain down on the 2017 Flat season, and here with his exclusive views on his excellent book of rides is Betfair Ambassador Ryan Moore...
"His defeat of Barney Roy and Al Wukair in the Guineas speaks for itself, but I thought he stepped it up a bit when beating Thunder Snow at the Curragh. That came with give in the ground and the form of his Guineas' wins have been franked time and again."
- Ryan Moore on Churchill
Order Of St George
He may not have much in hand of the field on official ratings and has been on the go since April - and he didn't run up to his best when fourth in this race last year - but he comes here in top form and is clearly the one to beat.
For the second year running he ran his race in the Arc last time - and his fourth this year was probably at least on a par with his third last season - and you could make a fair case that his earlier defeat of Torcedor in the Irish St Leger was up there with his very best efforts. If it turns even more testing then that won't be any hardship for him at all, and it will certainly appear to suit him more than his main form rival Big Orange, who inched him out in the Gold Cup.
There is also an extra week's break between Chantilly and Ascot this year, which is in his favour. But this is no two-horse race as some of these are very capable stayers on their day, and of course the 3yos have been doing well in these contests all year, so you have to respect Leger third Stradivarius and Doncaster Cup winner Desert Skyline.
Stradivarius is possibly the one to fear most stepping back up in trip and, while Desert Skyline has to improve, I thought he did well to beat me on Thomas Hobson last time.
The obvious starting point for this race is Harry Angel, who fully deserves his place at the top of the market. He was good in the July Cup and, while I didn't ride in the race, he appeared to take it up a level at Haydock last time, where he won by 4 lengths and the right horses filled the places. He could end up getting similarly testing conditions here and you have to admit that he could be a very tough nut to crack.
But don't lose sight of the fact that my colt beat him in Commonwealth Cup over course and distance, and there were genuine reasons for his below-par runs at Newmarket and Deauville, though he certainly didn't run badly in either.
He didn't have to be at his best when winning the Flying Five in the soft at the Curragh last month, but he did well to pick up his stablemate Alphabet over 5f there, and that has hopefully put him back on track. He is unbeaten here, can handle any ground and I think we could give the favourite something to think about. He is a top-class sprinter, all right.
You can give others a chance, too, though.
The Tin Man and Tasleet are solid horses in this grade, and Quiet Reflection comes here a fresh horse after her problems earlier in the season. She is a Group 1 winner and she defied an absence to beat Alphabet, who I rode, impressively in the Renaissance at Naas last time; she has won a Commonwealth Cup here and is one of those horses who won't mind how much more it rains in the next 24 hours.
If there is one horse running at this meeting that has benefitted most from the ground already changing to soft, it is probably Bateel. She is unbeaten on that going and she easily beat Dubka, a filly I rode and who also loves testing conditions, in the Pinnacle Stakes at Haydock earlier. She has won both of her starts since then, and you could have forgiven her connections for going for the Arc after she beat Journey in the Vermeille last time.
I didn't ride in that race but you can easily see the runner-up getting closer here, for all she was beaten over 2 lengths there. It looks as though Frankie wasn't hard on her when she was mastered close home, and she was pretty devastating when winning this race by 4 lengths last year, though ideally she maybe would want the ground not to deteriorate too much.
My filly tries the trip for the first time, and I think it may just suit her. There was clearly no disgrace in going down narrowly to Rhododendron in the Prix de l'Opera last time and she is a Galileo with staying winners in her family. If she stays, then the pace, class and guts that she showed to beat Winter in the Matron Stakes over a mile would make her a dangerous opponent for Bateel and Journey.
She hasn't been stopping in any of her races and I think she will give herself every chance of staying, though the better the ground the better her chance as she steps up to 1m4f. Again, though , this race has depth and the likes of Coronet and Left Hand, who wasn't far behind Hydrangea in the Opera and stays this trip, have claims.
This is a top-class and versatile colt, and he clearly stayed 1m2f well on his last two starts, though he didn't get the chance to show his best when getting no run at all in the Irish Champion Stakes last time. You can ignore that run, and in fact he did well to be beaten just 4 lengths at Leopardstown.
Aidan has decided to bring him back to a mile though, and that is probably a wise move given the probable conditions on Saturday. While you have to respect quite a few in this field, I think you have to give him a very big chance if he comes back to his early summer best, not that his Juddmonte second also wasn't a high-class run.
His defeat of Barney Roy and Al Wukair in the Guineas speaks for itself, but I thought he stepped it up a bit when beating Thunder Snow at the Curragh. That came with give in the ground and the form of his Guineas' wins have been franked time and again.
On what we know Ribchester is the horse to beat on form and his record here - he was only just beaten by the exceptional Minding in this race last year - underlines that fact. He also beat a smart, progressive horse in Taareef in the Moulin last time, but I think he is beatable.
Beat The Bank is a horse who impressed me no end when I rode him at Goodwood, and he looked to have come forward again when beating me on Sir John Lavery at Newmarket last time. I think he is a Group 1 horse and he gets the chance to show it here, in conditions that won't worry him, but this is clearly his toughest task to date. And I haven't even mentioned Al Wukair or horses like Lancaster Bomber, though the latter wouldn't want any more rain.
This race probably has a lot more depth to it than the betting suggests. There is only 2lb between four of these on official figures, and that doesn't even factor in the highly-progressive Poet's Word, who ran a huge race at Leopardstown, and Cliffs Of Moher.
The soft ground and the weather forecast is clearly a concern for the top-rated horse in the race, which is my mount Highland Reel, whose record tells you that he would want it to stay as dry as possible at Ascot from now onwards. But if it doesn't get too bad, then he has any number of performances that probably make him the one to beat, notably his course-and-distance defeat of two subsequent Group 1 winners in Decorated Knight and Ulysses in the Prince of Wales's here in June.
And he comes here a fresh horse. But you don't need me to tell you that any more rain would lessen his chances.
Cliffs Of Moher had the Derby won for all but the final 20 yards at Epsom and his hard luck hasn't stopped since. We lost our race early on when badly hampered in the Eclipse, he perhaps wasn't seen to best effect when making the running in the Juddmonte, and he was another who got no run up the inner at Leopardstown last time. I think he is a horse who has gone under the radar to a certain degree, and I can see him running a career-best here, though soft ground is an unknown, and a concern, for him.
Cracksman has it to prove that he can do it at 1m2f in this company, but soft ground could help him in that regard, and clearly Barney Roy has strong form claims, though he too is unproven on the ground. However, like Ribchester in the QEII, I think you would be happy enough to take them both on. The two French horses are also interesting, especially French Derby winner and Arc fifth Brametot.
All in all, I think it is hard to pick a winner at this stage, and the ground and conditions come the off on Saturday afternoon will probably be key.
Oh This Is Us
I finished second on him in the Lincoln earlier in the season and he clearly has claims here on that form off just a 2lb higher mark. He has won a couple of races since then, too, but this is the first time that he has run in a big-field handicap since, and I imagine the tempo of this race will suit him a lot better than a five-runner conditions race at Lingfield last time, though he ran okay there.
That Doncaster run back in April came on easy ground, too, and he also wasn't helped that day by getting a bump 3 1/2f out which meant he lost his cover. This is a better quality race though, I accept that.