So, the curtain came down on the 2018 Flat season with an enthralling Champions Day at Ascot. The richest day in the calendar with four Group Ones always has the potential to be a damp squib but instead the sun shone and the Champions not only turned up but performed.
The die was cast early with Dettori extricating himself from a tricky position on Stradivarius round the home turn with a daring dash up the inner of Ryan Moore as they straightened.
He has been dominant in the division throughout and in turning away a few potential O’Brien usurpers to his crown here Stradivarius will start next campaign in a dominant position.
We won’t be seeing Roaring Lion again in Europe or Cracksman at all but they were really the days headline acts.
Having roared to victory during the summer this time the Lion was forced to claw his way there on ground that was too soft over a trip too sharp, only his class enabling him to land a fourth consecutive Group One in the QEII.
For Cracksman, I must confess the excuses had begun to wear a little thin. From ground too soft, then too firm, to tracks that didn’t suit and amorous distractions it had increasingly appeared as if the issue was between his ears rather than his legs.
Whether it was the blinkers, the autumn ground or the promise of a whole parade of blue blooded beauties if he behaved this one last time he acquiesced in style storming clear in a carbon copy of twelve months previously.
He departs the track with his star again at its zenith though sadly with the promise of a date with Enable unfulfilled (at least on the track).
All three paid a huge compliment to champion trainer John Gosden. On my track walk I passed him musing on how to overcome stall 8 with Cracksman weighing up the options, trying to shift all the percentages in his favour, the attention to detail as opposed to any complacency a major reason for his continued success.
Finally, a word to the horse that finished third to Cracksman – the Czech Republic trained and ridden Subway Dancer. It was easy to be slightly patronising about his participation, a nice day out that had the happy circumstance of ensuring three each way places.
Instead as the end game of the Champion Stakes chess match was played out there he was picking up the pieces in third and instantly becoming everybody’s Czech mate. For a track that sets such great store in attracting international competition it rounded off a Champion day.
Now for such an outcome on the tipping front on Tuesday!
Not many Flat horses don’t appear until the September of their 5yo old careers let alone then run three times in just over a month but that is exactly the profile of Butterfield.
Moving into a handicap for the first time he is far less exposed than his rivals and can get off the mark.
Selected because of Hughie Morrison’s super record in bumpers, especially at Exeter.
At only 1m5f it lands itself to a Flat horse that has had the odd issue or been a slow learner rather than a true jumping type and Morrison has exploited this with three winners from five runners in this particular race including Cill Rialaig who went on to win at Royal Ascot!
Ripplet is his first runner in the race since 2013 and hence is of particular interest.
Judged on his 2nd at Leicester he has started out on a decent mark in handicaps and from a good family can take advantage.
Drawn well in stall 3 the ducks all look in line for a bold show.
The yard have done terrifically well with the family – Deacon Blues and The Tin Man both winners of the Champions sprint in the past.
She looks well up to winning here returning to the scene of her comfortable success two starts ago. She can take this on the way to trying to earn some crucial black type.