CHAMPIONS Day will bring the flat season to an exciting conclusion with high class Group action at Ascot.
There is terrific racing throughout the card with three Group 1 races up for grabs. As usual Aidan O’Brien will lead the Irish challenge with his brilliant filly Magical currently the 15/8 fav for the Champions Stakes following her convincing victory in the Irish equivalent back in September at Leopardstown.
There is a real intriguing race in the Long Distance Cup with Stradivarius facing the Dermot Weld trained Search For A Song who won the Irish St Ledger recently. Dream Of Dreams is the one to beat in the sprint while Palace Pier is already odds on for victory in the mile for Frankie Dettori and John Gosden who will be without Enable who was retired during the week.
She was a dual Arc winner and it would have been great for this brilliant filly to go out on a high but connections have probably made the right decision.
It has been a frustrating end to the season for Aidan O’Brien with his horses unable to run at the ‘Arc’ meeting due to contaminated feed. But the team at Ballydoyle put that disappointment behind them with St Marks Basilica claiming victory in the Dewhurst Stakes at Newmarket last Saturday.
He looks a very exciting colt for next seasons Classics. But its all about Champions Day this weekend and O’Brien’s formidable squad will have plenty of chances.
“We had to think hard about what we did with the horses that were due to go to France as for a long time their preparation had been geared around Arc weekend and when you carry on for another two weeks it’s not always ideal.
“It can be tricky to keep the momentum going. We were looking forward to Arc weekend and the horses were training really well for it for a long time, but that’s the way it was and the way it was meant to be and we just accepted it and moved on. Next year will be another year. We changed the route with them and we’ll see what will happen, but they seem to be in good form.”
As well as the brilliant Magical the trainer will also look to Japan who has disappointed this season. But time and again we have seen with the master of Ballydoyle that his horses are always primed for the big Group 1 days. Circus Maximus has been so consistent while at a huge price Royal Dornoch is another interesting contender.
The latter won a Group 2 at Goodwood last year beating Kameko and has the potential to run well.
“Japan is a strong possibility and this has been the target for Magical since Leopardstown. We’ve always been delighted with Circus Maximus. He’s very tough and very consistent and seems to dance every dance. He’s a very competitive horse who loves it when horses challenge him – he’s tough and hardened and loves to get into a battle.”
While the flat season is winding down the jumps season proper is just about to commence. Unfortunately Davy Russell faces a lengthy spell on the sidelines after a nasty fall aboard Doctor Duffy in the Munster Grand National at Limerick last weekend. Russell was teaming up with Charles Byrnes but it ended with real frustration for the Youghal rider with a serious fall at the first fence after being bumped.
Russell has neck and back injuries which couldn’t have come at a worse time with horses like Envoi Allen, Presenting Percy and Tiger Roll ready for the new season. Incidentally, Jack Kennedy suffered a fractured collarbone which will keep him out for a number of weeks also.
It’s just the nature of the game and as Russell joins the injured list Aidan Coleman is back from a few months on the side lines. Coleman has heaped praise on the Injured Jockeys Fund's Oaksey House rehabilitation centre as he revealed he would make his comeback from an 11-week spell on the sidelines at Fakenham on Friday.
Paisley Park's regular jockey sustained a complex arm fracture in a fall at Southwell on July 30, since when he has been a regular visitor to Lambourn's Oaksey House, which, like the IJF's Jack Berry House in Malton and Peter O'Sullevan House in Newmarket, has transformed the way jockeys recover from injuries.
Of course the Innishannon rider has been linked to the JP McManus camp following the retirement of Barry Geraghty. Mark Walsh looks set to ride the McManus horses in Ireland but there has been no formal arrangement with any jockey in the UK yet. Obviously JJ O’Neill Jnr’s name has also been mentioned but Coleman’s name has being doing the rounds for some time now. It’s great to see Coleman coming back with such enthusiasm after a lengthy spell injured.
"I was in there two weeks after the fall and since then I've been going in five days a week and spending a minimum of two hours there every day. I've had between 70 and 80 sessions and the more time I've spent there, the more I've come to realise what an amazing place it really is. "It's hard for me to express just how grateful I am, not only for them getting me back in a little under three months but also for making that time so enjoyable.I'm definitely fitter, healthier and stronger than I've ever been – but without Oaksey House a hard job would have been much harder."