ROBERT COOPER OFF THE BOX

TV celebrity with mix­ture of wit and wis­dom

The Racing Paper - - Front Page - ROBERT COOPER

There were plenty of non­be­liev­ers when As­cot’s first Cham­pi­ons Day was staged in 2011, I was one of them, but now seven years on it is justly a day to cel­e­brate the very best of Bri­tish rac­ing, both equine and hu­man.

My hum­ble role on the in­au­gu­ral fix­ture in 2011 was to of­fer ATR view­ers a bit of jaunty ban­ter from the starts of the six races. The weather was per­fect – warm, sunny with the golden leaves il­lu­mi­nated – the clas­sic au­tumn day. But could it work as de­scribed on the la­bel, a Cham­pi­ons Day? Tak­ing place just a fort­night af­ter the Arc and three weeks be­fore the Breed­ers’ Cup it was surely doomed to strug­gle – and would the stands be packed on a wet and windy Oc­to­ber af­ter­noon?

With a lit­tle help from Frankel in 2011 and 2012, Cham­pi­ons Day has never looked back, and the six races this af­ter­noon with to­tal prize money of £4.35 mil­lion (you could but a half de­cent year­ling for that money) is of the high­est qual­ity. It’s just a shame I’ll be watch­ing it on a dodgy TV at Ffos Las – but I’m not com­plain­ing, as it is Welsh Cham­pion Hur­dle day, more on that later.

If John Gos­den re­quires a cherry on his heav­ily iced and dec­o­rated cake, to­day could be the day. He has al­ready notched ten Group Ones in 2018 and CRACKS­MAN (Cham­pion Stakes), ROAR­ING LION (QEII) and LAH TI DAR & CORONET (Fil­lies and Mares) could quite eas­ily pro­vide three more. And, of course, Gos­den’s day could get off to a flyer with STRADI­VAR­IUS in the Long Dis­tance Cup – only a Group 2 I’m afraid.

I cer­tainly wouldn’t op­pose STRADI­VAR­IUS [1.25 AS­COT] al­though FLAG OF HON­OUR looked a big im­prover step­ping up to a mile and three quar­ters.

He was im­pres­sive in the Ir­ish St Leger but beat­ing STRADI­VAR­IUS will be mighty tough. He’s had a nice breather since York, and the softer ground shouldn’t pose a prob­lem – he was third to Or­der of St George last year and is a vastly im­proved per­former this sea­son.

Ai­dan O’Brien runs six of the eleven in the Fil­lies and Mares in­clud­ing last year’s win­ner HY­DRANGEA who hasn’t scaled sim­i­lar heights in three runs this sum­mer. Maybe the fast ground has been against her and to­day’s un­der­foot con­di­tions should suit but this is a race I’ll prob­a­bly dodge on the bet­ting front.

St Leger run­ner-up LAH TI DAR is untested on soft go­ing, whereas her stable-mate CORONET [third last year] will def­i­nitely han­dle it. If you twisted my arm I might take a chance on An­dre Fabre’s KITESURF – the poor old French had such a wretched Arc meet­ing, I’m al­most – but not to­tally – com­mis­er­at­ing.

CRACKS­MAN (3.50 AS­COT) looks head and shoul­ders bet­ter than his seven ri­vals in the Cham­pion Stakes. Life is full of sur­prises but I’d raise an eye­brow or two if he didn’t re­peat last year’s stroll. He hasn’t had a stren­u­ous cam­paign be­cause of the un­suit­able rock-like ground, but to­day all the boxes are ticked.

On form it would be folly to op­pose ROAR­ING LION in the QEII but two fac­tors put me off – trip and ground. Win or lose ‘the lion’ is a true cham­pion with fab­u­lous per­for­mances at Sandown, York and Leop­ard­stown but all three vic­to­ries were over ten fur­longs on quick ground. I’m ready and wait­ing, knife and fork tightly clutched, to eat my words but I’m go­ing to take a chance with Wil­liam Hag­gas’ ADDEYBB (3.15 AS­COT). He won the Lin­coln [beat­ing LORD GLIT­TERS] back in March and proved he was bet­ter than a hand­i­cap­per when win­ning the Group Two Mile at Sandown in April. Fresh and rar­ing to go, he’ll do for me.

The Sprint is a bit of a puz­zle – HARRY AN­GEL has en­joyed no luck this sea­son and his As­cot form fig­ures – 22240 – don’t au­gur well. Last year’s win­ner LIB­RISA BREEZE will have his op­ti­mum con­di­tions but he’s not shown a glim­mer of his 2017 form, so he too gets the heave-ho. The ad­mirable BRANDO de­serves to win a race like this but is cur­rently los­ing 6-1 to THE TIN MAN on pre­vi­ous en­coun­ters. I’ll take THE TIN MAN [2.00 AS­COT) to re­peat last year’s vic­tory for James Fan­shawe. No praise is too great for the Skele­ton Man; year on year Fan­shawe ex­tracts the very best from his rel­a­tively small string of horses.

In re­cent weeks I hope read­ers have given many of my se­lec­tions a wide berth but we all have lean spells – some leaner than oth­ers! How­ever I can pride my­self by urg­ing my reader(s)way back in April, to in­vest a few quid on Ni­cola Cur­rie at 7/1 in the handicap bet­ting to be top fe­male jockey of the cham­pi­onship sea­son that ends to­day.

She’s nailed it good and proper, but sadly she won’t be re­ceiv­ing any tro­phy along­side the champ Sil­vestre de Sousa or top ap­pren­tice Ja­son Wat­son but she has great chance of glory in the Bal­moral Handicap on Jamie Os­borne’s RAIS­ING SAND. He gave Cur­rie the big­gest win of her ca­reer over course and dis­tance a fort­night ago and he’s been ante post favourite since the en­tries were made. He’s far to short for me, but take a close look at VIA VIA (4.30 AS­COT) who fin­ished third, 4 ½ lengths in front of RAIS­ING SAND, in the Cam­bridgeshire, lead­ing at the fur­long pole. He’s been in my tracker ever since a luck­less run be­hind ADDEYBB in the Lin­coln. He’s left it late but it looks like he’s back on song.

Away from the roar of the As­cot thou­sands, at Ffos Las Nigel Twis­ton Davies’ ad­mirable cam­paigner THE NEW ONE (4.25 FFOS LAS) bids to win first time out for the eighth con­sec­u­tive sea­son – an in­cred­i­ble record. Zak Baker keeps the ride af­ter win­ning the Welsh Cham­pion Hur­dle last year – he gave him a great ride too. Zak was at Uttoxeter on Thurs­day and he was beam­ing at the prospect of to­day’s race.

“If John Gos­den re­quires a cherry on his heav­ily iced and dec­o­rated cake, to­day could be the day. He has al­ready notched ten Group Ones in 2018 and could eas­ily land three more”

Tough to beat: Stradi­var­ius

Top jockey: Ni­cola Cur­rie

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