Six top trainers aiming for Champions Day breakthrough
11 Oct 2017
Sir Michael Stoute and Roger Varian among those yet to enjoy the taste of Champions Day glory
Ribchester gives Richatrd Fahey a great chance to open his account on Champions Day. Picture: Racingfotos.com
The quality of QIPCO British Champions Day is reflected by the fact that a number of top trainers have yet to saddle a winner at the meeting six years after it was first staged.
Will some of the sport’s biggest names enjoy a breakthrough success on Saturday week? We assess their chances and, tomorrow, will turn the spotlight on trainers whose strike-rate at the meeting has been exceptional.
The Kingsclere handler has had 14 runners on Champions Day but the closest he has come to hitting the target has been with Whiplash Willie, fourth in the QIPCO British Champions Long Distance Cup in 2014, and Tullius, who filled the same position in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes on the same card.
Balding is likely to be represented in all bar the QIPCO Champion Stakes this time, with Beat The Bank and Here Comes When spearheading his strong team in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes.
The latter was only tenth in the Balmoral Handicap last year but took the scalp of Ribchester in the Qatar Sussex Stakes on his latest start.
None of Clive Cox’s previous eight runners on Champions Day have fared better than fourth – Electolysyer filling that position in the QIPCO British Champions Long Distance Cup in 2012 and My Dream Boat doing the same in last year’s QIPCO Champion Stakes.
Two years ago, Kodi Bear was a leading fancy for the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes but trailed in eighth.
This time, Cox has an ace up his sleeve in the brilliant Harry Angel, hot favourite for the QIPCO British Champions Sprint Stakes after superb victories in the Darley July Cup and 32Red Sprint Cup.
Ribchester came close to giving Richard Fahey a first Champions Day winner last year when beating all bar Minding in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes. Earlier on the card, his Growl had finished runner-up in the QIPCO British Champions Sprint Stakes at 50-1.
Many fancy Ribchester, the favourite, to go one better in this year’s Queen Elizabeth II Stakes. He has already won three Group One contests this year, including the Al Shaqab Lockinge Stakes and Queen Anne Stakes.
In total, Fahey has sent 24 runners to Champions Day without securing a success.
Having only taken out a licence in 2014, Richard Hannon has had less opportunities than most to strike on Champions Day.
So far, he has had five runners on the big day and only one of those has started at shorter than 25-1.
Night Of Thunder was the exception, starting 2-1 favourite for the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes three years ago and beating all bar Charm Spirit.
His big hope this year is Barney Roy, a leading light in this year’s Champions Series who will run in the QIPCO Champion Stakes.
The doyen of Newmarket training ranks has won big prizes all over the world during his decorated career but, so far, a win on Champions Day has eluded him.
Half of his 12 challengers have gone off at single-figure odds but none have finished closer than third, achieved by Queen’s Trust in the QIPCO British Champions Fillies & Mares Stakes last year.
Estimate, owned by the Queen, started 2-1 favourite for the QIPCO British Champions Long Distance Cup in 2013 but could finish only seventh.
This year, Stoute’s principal hope appears to be Poet’s Word, who will contest the QIPCO Champion Stakes after finishing a close second in the Irish equivalent last time.
Newmarket-based Roger Varian has enjoyed a excellent season and a first Champions Day would cap it.
However, he looks short of a standout performer and the odds are tilted against him.
Varian has had nine runners on Champions Day with the best of them being Belardo, who ran a cracker to be second in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes two years ago at 33-1.
Morando started 5-1 favourite for the Balmoral Handicap last year but could finish only seventh after meeting trouble in running.