Mick Fitzgerald: This 5/1 shot looks Rock solid in the Champion Stakes at Ascot

A fantastic day’s racing in store and it could be a day to follow the Irish trainers

The Aidan O’Brien stable has carried all before him this season as he chases Bobby Frankel’s world record of 25 Grade One races in a season, while Dermot Weld has had plenty of success here in the past and looks to have targeted a couple at these end-of-season, mega-bucks contests.

Last year’s meeting threw up a lot of previous soft-ground winners but it should be totally different on Saturday. The quality is so deep that you’ll need to use every advantage you get to come out on top and the jocks – particularly the ones on the hold-up horses will need plenty of luck-in-running around Ascot’s tricky track.

It shoud be a fantastic day’s action and hopefully a profitable one. Speaking of which …

1.25pm Group 2 Long Distance Cup Stakes 2m

ORDER OF ST GEORGE sets the standard and the step up to 2m should suit. He should win this comfortably, as no disrespect to the rest – there’s not many of them that could finish third in a Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe.

I don’t think the ‘quicker’ ground will be an issue – it was quick enough at Chantilly and this is October, not July, so the ground won’t be firm.

Aidan O’Brien’s runners are running as fresh now as they did earlier in the season. If his career best run at Chantilly hasn’t left its mark he’s the one to beat. Roger Charlton’s Prix du Cadran winner Quest for More the one to chase him home while previous winner Forgotten Rules is the other for the places.

2pm  Group 1 Champion Sprint Stakes 6f

I’m going to side against Mecca’s Angel based mainly on her last run at this track at the Royal meeting. She was apparently in season then but Ascot is a tricky track and horses can repeat good – and bad – runs there.

THE TIN MAN impressed me at Newbury when winning a head and he ran well to finish second to Quiet Reflection (who re-opposes again) last time at Haydock. He comes good at this time of the year and ran so well last year here when fourth to Muharaar. I’m happy to stick with him.

Twilight Son is reportedly working well and he was second in this contest last year while Karl Burke’s Quiet Reflection is another for the places. I have to confess though, I’m worried about the bounce factor with Shalaa.

2.35pm Group 1 Fillies & Mares Stakes 1m 4f

SEVENTH HEAVEN has only run one bad race this year and she is the highest-rated in the field. I think she’ll win but Dermot Weld puts cheek-pieces on the three-time winner this season Zhukova, to try and squeeze a little more improvement from her and she won’t be far away.  Journey will be ridden handily by Frankie Dettori and should run a big race  to complete the placings.

Gallop over to all the latest Champions Day betting on PP.com

3.10pm Queen Elizabeth II Stakes 1m

The brilliant Newmarket Guineas & Epsom Oaks winner Minding takes on the boys for the first time this season having dodged an earlier Derby tilt but Ballydoyle wouldn’t run her here if they didn’t believe she was capable of winning it.

She blotted her copy book when beaten by Jet Setting in the Irish Guineas but the ground was heavy that day and she’s been outstanding since. Her last run saw here finish just behind Almanzor and Found in the Irish Champion Stakes over 10f and the drop back to the mile will suit. I’ve just a nagging doubt about no 1,000 Guineas winner having ever won this contest though.

I’m sticking with the colts to just shade it. The one I prefer is Richard Fahey’s 2,000 Guineas third and Jersey Stakes winner  RIBCHESTER. He’s matured physically all season and can be the one to deny Minding with Galileo Gold to come home in third for Hugo Palmer.

3.45pm Group 1 British Champions Stakes 1m 2f

The feature contest is top-class and if Minding was to trot up it would be some pointer to Almanzor and her Ballydoyle stable-mate’s Found’s chances as she was third to them at Leopardstown. They look the two best horses in the race.

Both will be watching one another and ridden for speed at the end. Found got a perfect run in the Prix de l’Arc and took full advantage but history is against her as the last 14 Arc winners who raced again in the same season were all beaten – even if she’s a filly that thrives at this time of the year.

Almanzor was very impressive at Leopardstown and Christophe Soumillon is on record as saying he’s one of the best he’s even ridden. That’s not a statement to be dismissed lightly.

I just fancy Dermot Weld’s FASCINATING ROCK at the prices. He’s already beaten Found twice this year and beat her in this contest last season also. Given the front two in the market’s style of racing from off the pace, I’m sticking with last year’s champ to retain his crown.

4.25pm Balmoral Handicap 1m

Just the 23-runners here to end the day and I’m going to put up DONNCHA to finally get some reward for a consistent – if frustrating – season. He’s the ultimate ‘cliff’ horse in many ways. You have to stick with him as he rarely runs a bad race but usually finds one or two better handicapped. Last year’s second and third GM Hopkins and Master the World can go close again if the low numbers prove best of the draw.

Good luck!

What do you think?