If QIPCO British Champions Day does not get your pulse racing, then it is difficult to know what will.
It must be a short price one of that classy quintet doing the business on Saturday, or at sometime in the future.
This will be the eighth edition of Champions Day and a few patterns are emerging.
There still has not been a winner at more than 20-1 in any of the five Group races on the card. That is surprising given the meeting comes at the end of the year, when the formbook often gets turned upside down, and that the ground can be testing.
Those worried that Roaring Lion’s busy year might catch up with him in the Queen Elizabeth Stakes should take comfort in the fact that Cirrus Des Aigles and Maarek had run nine times before Champions Day glory.
And Frankel, Solow and Minding had all won four Group One races that season en route to QEII glory, with the recent record of favourites in the race being 1142112.
As usual, I’ve tried to look beyond the obvious. I’ll regret it if Stradivarius, The Tin Man, Lah Ti Dar, Roaring Lion and Cracksman all deliver - if only because everyone else will be partying like it’s 1999 - but try not to fall for bookmaker talk of an “apocalypse”.
Such colourful language is a recurring theme at the big Festivals - the layers want you to fear not following the pack and missing out on a mass celebration should all the high-profile favourites oblige.
I’m ducking the opening Long Distance Cup, in which market leaders Stradivarius and Flag Of Honour look set to dominate, but will be punting on the rest of the card.
I’ve not got a lot against The Tin Man, the general 3-1 favourite, other than this will be his 12th run in a Group One race (has won three) and this will be the shortest price he has been for any of them.
According to the handicapper he’s no better than when he lined up in a similar renewal 12 months ago, when he finished fifth at 9-1.
I cannot entertain the other pair near the head of the market because Harry Angel is his own worst enemy and 0-5 at the track, while Librisa Breeze has offered little this term.
Donjuan Triumphant has made little impact in the past two runnings but fast ground was no use to the mudlark two years ago and then, 12 months ago, front-running tactics backfired.
Donjuan Triumphant finished an eye-cathching fourth behind The Tin Man at Haydock
He will have his conditions this time and he was an eye-catcher when staying-on stoutly to be a couple of lengths fourth to The Tin Man in the Sprint Cup last time.
This stiffer six furlongs should suit him better and the booking of James Doyle can only be a positive. The 33-1 available is too big.
Tasleet looked in need of the run when fading in the Sprint Cup and we know last year’s runner-up is better than that.
His regular cheekpieces are replaced with blinkers (he won at 14-1 when first tried in headgear) and he also wears a first-time tongue tie.
The ground is an unknown for Lah Ti Dar, plus she had a hard race when runner-up in the St Leger and is drawn wide. Enough negatives to take her on, for all she is open to more improvement than anything else in the field.
I backed Coronet ante-post straight after she had finished runner-up to Sea Of Class in the Yorkshire Oaks and the winner’s subsequent near-miss in the Arc gives that form a glow.
Rewatch what our experts said about the Yorkshire Oaks, in which Coronet finished second to Sea Of Class
The fact that last year’s Ribblesdale winner has been placed in six Group One races (two of those at Ascot) without quite managing to win one will worry some but she bumped into Enable on one occasion last year and her nose second to Waldgeist (subsequently fourth in the Arc) at Saint-Cloud in July, with Cloth Of Stars (third in the Arc) and Salouen (sixth in the Arc) the next pair home, is rock-solid form.
I’m struggling to see how she cannot make the frame, at the very least, and at 13-2 she looks an each-way steal.
The mile division has lacked a genuine star this year, with the exception of the now retired Alpha Centauri, and Roaring Lion may simply outclass this lot.
However, we’ve no idea if he will handle the testing ground and his draw in 15 is another negative because the pace looks among the low numbers and the race may well develop on the far side.
Oisin Murphy may have to drop in behind and ride him for luck unless he wants to risk having no cover, which undone Ribchester in the race last year.
Addeybb looked all over a Group One horse in the spring but he needs to bounce back from finishing jarred up in the Lockinge and he has not been missed in the market.
In the circumstances, I’m happy to roll the dice and back the consistent Stormy Antarctic, at 66-1 with Betfair and Paddy Power (both firms offering four places), and Century Dream, who is a more modest 25-1.
Stormy Antarctic has had few chances to show what he can do in the mud since bolting on heavy ground in the Craven a couple of years ago and his form ties in with plenty of rivals who are trading at much shorter odds. Gerald Mosse can be relied upon to squeeze the most out of him.
Century Dream also has quite a bit in his favour, not least the ability to act on testing ground, and is likely to go forward from a good draw. Simon Crisford deserves a decent prize after some near-misses in big races at the Cambridgeshire meeting.
If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Well, something has looked broke with Cracksman in his past two races and now connections are trying to fix it by equipping him with blinkers.
Will the headgear prevent him from racing indolently for a third time in succession? I’m not tempted to find out at Evens and those believing soft ground will revive him seem to forget it was testing at Epsom in June when he scrambled home in the Coronation Cup.
Crystal Ocean, the second favourite, looks more solid and is officially rated 3lb superior to Cracksman.
However, at the prices, the bet has to be Capri. He had Cracksman behind when winning the Irish Derby last year and, similarly, had Crystal Ocean behind when landing the St Leger.
Capri ran a fine race to finish fifth in the Arc last time out
This year he spent a hot summer on the sidelines but his fifth in the Arc this month shows he remains a class act.
That run might well bring him on a bit further and, for all he stays well, he won over a mile as a two-year-old and is not short of gears.
It’s not difficult to imagine a scenario where Rhododendron dictates a gallop for him, before Ryan Moore kicks on early in the straight.
My three against the field are Mitchum Swagger, Via Via and Flaming Spear. You cannot back them all, so the last-named has to go because he’s drawn high (I’d rather be among those who are low) and is the shortest priced.
I backed Mitchum Swagger at big odds for the QEII two years ago after a massively eye-catching run on softish ground off a mark of 108 in the Royal Hunt Cup but the ground dried up and he failed to figure.
He’s since been switched to the yard of Ralph Beckett and ran a cracker on his debut for the stable when third in the Lincoln behind Addeybb and Lord Glitters.
I’m happy to forgive him a below-par effort on fast ground at Haydock three weeks ago because he needs a soft surface to be seen at his best and, in any case, that outing might have been something of a tee-up for the most valuable mile handicap in Europe.
He is 1lb lower than in the Lincoln, and 4lb lower than when running so well in that Hunt Cup.
Via Via has shown improved form in blinkers on his past two starts and Ryan Moore has been snapped up.
He didn’t quite get home when third in the Cambridgeshire last time behind a winner who looks bound for big things and he gets an 8lb pull with the progressive Argentello, who previously beat him a length at Newmarket.
How To Bet £20 on Saturday:
2.40 Ascot: Coronet £2 win and £1.50 each-way at 13-2 with Coral
3.15 Ascot: Stormy Antarctic £1.50 each-way each-way at 66-1 with Betfair and Paddy Power (obith offering four places) and £1 each-way Century Dream at a general 25-1
3.50 Ascot: £2 win Capri at 13-2 with bet365 and Ladbrokes
4.30 Ascot: £1 each-way Mitchum Swagger at a general at 20-1 and Via Via at a general 12-1
£1 Win Patent
2.40 Ascot: Coronet
3.50 Ascot: Capri
4.30 Ascot: Mitchum Swagger
Above trio in a 25p each-Way Super Yankee with Paddy Power
2.00 Donjuan Triumphant (take 33-1)
3.15 Ascot: Stormy Antarctic (take 66-1, four places)
Ascot Placepot perm - numbers listed in preferred order
108 lines - 20p each - costs £21.60.
Leg 1: Numbers 6 and 3 (Flag Of Honour and Stradivarius)
Leg 2: Numbers 3, 11 and 12 (Donjuan Triumphant, Tasleet, The Tin Man)
Leg 3: Number 1 (Coronet)
Leg 4: Numbers 8, 3 and 11 (Stormy Antarctic, Century Dream, Roaring Lion)
Leg 5: Numbers 1 and 3 (Capri and Crystal Ocean)
Leg 6: Numbers 6, 12 and 1 (Mitchum Swagger,Via Via and Flaming Spear)