By Andy Stephens
The trainer was non-commital about his rapidly progressive three-year-old contesting the QIPCO-sponsored £1.1 million contest after his runaway win in the Group Two Joel Stakes at Newmarket last Friday.
But on Wednesday he said: “Beat The Bank is an intended runner. He’s very exciting and I’d say his performance at Newmarket was probably his best yet, although I also thought he was also very impressive at Goodwood the time before. You can only beat the horses you are up against.
“Oisin [Murphy, his jockey] is adamant he will be better on better ground but he seems versatile in that regard. His one blip was at Royal Ascot but he had a dirty scope afterwards and obviously wasn't himself. He just ran very flat and hopefully we can put a line through that.”
Beat The Bank is a best-priced 7-1 with Ladbrokes for the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes (he is as short as 4-1 in places) and will be joined in the line up by stablemate Here Comes When, a general 25-1 chance, who took the scalp of Ribchester in the Group 1 Qatar Sussex Stakes at Goodwood in early August.
Ribchester has since resumed winning ways back in Group 1 company - he has won three races at the highest level this term - and is the general 9-4 favourite.
“Here Comes When is in good form and goes straight to the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes. We were thinking of running him in Italy [after his Goodwood win] but decided we were best keeping him fresh for Champions Day,” Balding said.
The pair feature among 29 entries left in the contest after the latest forfeit stage. That compares to 19 this time last year.
Balding has sent out 85 winners from his Kingsclere yard in Britain this term and accumulated almost £2.5 million in prize money - at least £400,000 more than he has previously managed in his 14 years with a licence.
He did not have a runner in any of the five Group races on Champions Day last year but it looks like being a very different story 17 days from now in the spectacular £4.3 million finale.
In addition to Beat The Bank and Here Comes, Montaly (QIPCO British Champions Long Distance Cup), Donjuan Triumphant (QIPCO British Champions Sprint Stakes) and Horseplay (QIPCO British Champions Fillies & Mares Stakes) have also been pencilled in to run.
He also has Naval Warfare and Isomer engaged in the £250,000 Balmoral Handicap, the richest mile handicap in Europe, that concludes the card.
Montaly produced a career best to win the Weatherbys Hamilton Lonsdale Cup Stakes at York on his penultimate start only to finish a disappointing sixth in the Doncaster Cup last time. He is among 31 still engaged in the Long Distance Cup.
“I probably ran him a little bit too soon in the Doncaster Cup, where he was flat, but the Long Distance Cup looks perfect for him. He loves soft ground and hopefully he will run well there. We have also left Duretto in the race, but he is more likely to go for the Prix Royal Oak.”
Balding was not present when Montaly won at Doncaster - or when he scooped the 188Bet Chester Cup in May. He said: “Maybe I should stay away on Champions Day, although in fairness I wasn’t at Doncaster when he ran last time either!”
Horseplay, one of 19 who remain in the mix for the Fillies & Mares, finished fourth to Enable in the Investec Oaks in June before filing the same position in a Group 2 contest at Saint-Cloud on July 2.
She has been absent since and Balding explained: “She had a setback, but at the moment we are in good shape to to try and make it to Champions Day with her. Her Oaks run looks pretty good now and she handles cut in the ground, if it comes up like that on the day.”
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