Matt Chapman looks ahead to a brilliant afternoon of British Champions Day action at Ascot
FRANKIE DETTORI is gunning to be the daddy of today's classy Queen Elizabeth Stakes – thirty years after he exploded as a kid onto the Group 1 scene at Ascot.
It was back in 1990, when Dettori became the first teenager to ride a hundred winners in a season since Lester Piggott, that racing's biggest name banged in Markofdistinction to claim his first QEII.
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He has won the race five times since, with Persuasive, Poet's Voice, Ramonti, Dubai Millenium and Mark Of Esteem.
The Italian's mount today, Palace Pier, gives Dettori the chance to end the week by gushing with joy after he shed lovesick tears on Monday following the retirement of his dual Arc heroine Enable.
Palace Pier takes on thirteen rivals – headed by last year’s runner-up The Revenant and Queen Anne hero Circus Maximus – in a Qipco sponsored QEII which has become much more easily winnable after the defection of 2000 Guineas winner Kameko on account of the deep ground. The latter heads to Keeneland for the Breeders' Cup Mile.
In many ways the unbeaten colt has been a surprise package this season, having started off the campaign in a handicap on the Tapeta at Newcastle off a BHA rating of 98. With the benefit of hindsight he should have been 1-10 that day rather than 11-10.
Since then, Palace Pier banged in the St James’s Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot and the Jacques le Marois at Deauville.
Dettori rode Palace Pier at home the other day, and said: "It was routine work over six and a half furlongs. It was just good to get him on the grass and I had not ridden him since Deauville. He seemed in good form although we were not doing anything too crazy."
Reflecting on Markofdistinction all those years ago, Dettori added: "He was my first Group 1 winner, my first Listed winner, my first Group 2 winner and my first Royal Ascot winner so I have so much emotions about him. He was a big black horse who had an amazing turn of foot. In the QEII we managed to beat Pat Eddery on Distant Relative which as a kid was amazing and a special moment I will never forget."
The QEII has been good to market leaders in recent years, having had two odds-on shots in the history of British Champions Day, namely Frankel at 4-11 in 2011 and Excelebration a year later at 10-11. Both won emphatically.
There have also been three winning favourites in the seven years since, with Solow (11-10 in 2015), Minding (7-4 in 2016) and Roaring Lion (2-1 in 2018) all doing the business.
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In all, seven of the 11 short-priced favourites on British Champions Day – those sent off at evens or shorter – have won since the season-ending showpiece was inaugurated in 2011.
Three of those wins have come in the feature Group 1 Champion Stakes, but this looks much more competitive than the QEII, with Gosden and Dettori teaming up with rising star Mishriff who takes on the defending champion Magical and classy Addeybb in a field of eleven.
My hunch is that Magical will take some stopping, and she gets back on some testing ground for Aidan O’Brien and Ryan Moore which often is right up her street.
O’Brien also saddles the Derby winner Serpentine, who missed the Arc due to dodgy feed. He has something to prove now and the Derby form looks suspect, although also-ran Pyledriver might not be the worst place wager of all time for William Muir.
Elsewhere on the card, all eyes will be on the triple Gold Cup hero Stradivarius in the Group 2 Long Distance Cup as he tries to bounce back from a tame effort in the Arc. Oisin Murphy picks up the ride on Dermot Weld’s big rival Search For A Song but I can’t see beyond Stradivarius who was narrowly touched off by Kew Gardens last year.
The Champions Sprint is a cracker and no one would grumble if Sir Michael Stoute landed the prize under Murphy. It’s been a hard year for Sir Michael after the passing of his partner Coral but he remains a legend of the game. However, One Master, the Foret heroine, is the each-way bet of the day for me.
Every race is live on the main ITV network. So sit back and enjoy.
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