Jamie Spencer thinks Maarek could go well on Champions Day
I think Agent Murphy has the strongest form in the QIPCO British Champions Long Distance Cup at 12.45pm. He’s quite lightly raced with only four runs this season, and he does like soft ground. The Irish St Leger was quite a funny race in the sense that Order Saint George was so superior to everything else in the field. In fact I think he’s the highest rated horse in Ireland and he’s not far behind Golden Horn on the ratings. That just shows you the performance he put in that day. Agent Murphy finishing second to him that day is by no means a disgrace and he stays this two mile trip well. The only imponderable is that he hasn’t got a great draw, and you’d think that shouldn’t make a difference over such a long race but it actually does. Hopefully Jimmy can get a nice position from the start. He’s won over a mile and a half at Ascot in the spring, and so he should have a bit more pace than some of these horses.
In the Champions Sprint at 1.20pm I ride Maarek who won the race three years ago, and finished fourth last year when the pace was very steady. I’m actually very happy where I’m drawn this year as I’ve got pace horses Coulsty and Eastern Impact close to me. He’ll have an each way chance depending on how soft the ground is. I’ll get there early and see what the track is like. We’ll just have to see how the race pans out. He gets back in his races and this is a different test to what he’s been facing most of this season. It’s a stiff six furlongs and if he gets a gallop to run at he could go well. Longchamp was never going to suit him given the ground and Evanna was going to take him out. But I said to her that if he doesn’t run then it will have been five weeks since his last run by the time he goes to Ascot. As an eight year old he doesn’t do that much at home and Evanna doesn’t have any horses to work with him. So we ran in France with a view to having him ready for this race. The ground was too dry and it’s a quick five at Longchamp.
For me it’s an open race. The Tin Man is unexposed. He’s been very impressive and is a course and distance winner only a couple of weeks ago so you have to respect him. Charlie’s horse Muhaarar has the best form. Other than that blip in the French Guineas he’s had a brilliant season. Strath Burn and Twilight Son are good horses but I think they need to step up. I’m not sure the Haydock Sprint was that strong this year and the Stewards Cup winner, Magical Memory, was arguably a little bit unlucky.
In the Champions Fillies and Mares Stakes at 1.55pm, the favourite Covert Love is solid as she has had a great season only being beaten once. But the one I really like here is Sea Calisi. She was third in the Vermeille which means she’s closely matched with Candarliya. I like this filly a lot and think she will suit the test at Ascot as she gets the trip so well. Mikel Barzalona is a good rider. He’s won The Derby. He’s won the Dubai World Cup, so he’s won big races. He’s a bit older now and has matured a good bit too. I don’t think he was too young when he took the Godolphin job, it’s just difficult when you move countries, and there’s a language barrier too. He did brilliantly for Al Zarooni, but then they had the change to Charlie Appleby eighteen months ago and a lot changed with that. It’s like everything in life you just have to get on with it, and it doesn’t seem to have harmed him. Andre Fabre has always been a big fan of his, and now he’s Godolphin’s mainstay rider in France so I’m sure he’s happy enough with the gig he’s got.
I hope Gleneagles runs in The Queen Elizabeth II Stakes at 2.30pm. My gut feel is that he’ll beat Solow if he does run. The Gleneagles we saw on QIPCO 2000 Guineas day at Newmarket was the real Gleneagles. In the Irish Guineas he had a horrible run through and his class got him through. The same happened at Ascot when he won The St James Palace. They went very slow that day and it turned into a two furlong sprint. Any horse can sprint for two furlongs so he never got to show his superiority. The one time he was able to show his superiority was in the QIPCO 2000 Guineas when they went a good gallop, and he put the race to bed. I think he’s the outstanding three year old. There’s been a lot of hype about the horse but I think nobody should forget his Guineas run and if he brings that A-game he’s the one they all have to beat.
If Gleneagles doesn’t run then I think Solow is too good for the rest of them. Freddie Head has a line of form that says he should beat Territories. He’s just that bit better than the others. He’s a gelding and he’s five years old so should be able to cope with the ground better than the others. That said Kodi Bear is a bit of an unknown.
In the QIPCO Champion Stakes at 3.05pm, I think Jack Hobbs will be tough to beat. He’s got his pacemaker drawn in thirteen and I presume the pacemaker will go forward and then Jack Hobbs will just slot in. He’ll like the ground and gets the trip well and I can’t see any chinks in him. Obviously he ran into Golden Horn in The Derby and The Dante but other than that he’s had a really good season. We’ll be giving it our best shot. The Corsican would like better ground. He probably should have won three from four this season. But he’ll need to improve again to win this and beat Jack Hobbs. But he is a lightly raced horse and has a nice draw so should run a good race. Hopefully he’ll be in the shake-up.
I ride Halation in the Balmoral Handicap. He’s definitely in the ‘want better ground’ category. But it’s a big prize so worth a shot. I won on him at The Shergar Cup meeting so hopefully he can run another good race.