One of the best day’s racing on the Flat as Ascot looks to crown some new equine stars on Champions Day.
Fascinating Rock (Dermot Weld) Won this race last year (by one and a quarter lengths from Found) and also Tattersalls Gold Cup at the Curragh (by three and three-quarter lengths from Found) in May. Looks to have been aimed at this race once again and shaped as though he retains all his ability when second in the Royal Whip Stakes last time after three months off. Definite player, especially if the rain arrives.
Gabriel (Richard Fahey) Often highly tried but won for the first time since the 2015 Lincoln when taking a listed race at Windsor (8.3f) in June. Uncharacteristic poor run when seventh to Hathal in Superior Mile at Haydock last time, however, and has plenty to find with the principals even if back to best.
Jack Hobbs (John Gosden) Last season’s Irish Derby winner. Ended his three-year-old campaign with a good third in this race behind Fascinating Rock (raced close to strong pace) but suffered a stress fracture of the pelvis on his return at Newmarket earlier this season. Not seen since and a big ask to reproduce his best after nearly six months off the track.
Maverick Wave (John Gosden) Best effort this year was his second to Grendisar in Winter Derby at Lingfield in February and could be in here to ensure a good pace for Jack Hobbs.
My Dream Boat (Clive Cox) Made Group 1 breakthrough in Prince of Wales’s Stakes at Royal Ascot (by neck from Found) in June but below that form in two starts since, including when five and three-quarter lengths fifth of 12 to Almanzor in Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardstown on latest, never looking like winning. Would probably need others to underperform to make the placings here.
Racing History (Saeed bin Suroor) Full-brother to the top-class Farhh, who won this race in 2013. Finished fourth in the race himself on his final start last season (three quarter lengths behind Fascinating Rock) with another improved effort. Not seen since, however, which is obviously a big concern.
The Grey Gatsby (Kevin Ryan) High-class performer at best but is on a 10-race losing run. Folded tamely when last in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe at Chantilly last time and hard to fancy.
Found (Aidan O’Brien) Tough and reliable filly who filled second place in five successive Group 1 races earlier in season, including when three-quarters of a length behind Almanzor in Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardstown, clear of remainder. Went one better when winning 16-runner Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe at Chantilly last time by one and three-quarter lengths from Highland Reel, and a major contender again here.
Almanzor (Jean-Claude Rouget) The winner of seven of his nine starts, including Prix du Jockey Club, and completed four-timer in 12-runner Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardstown last time by three-quarters of a length from subsequent Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe winner Found, finding plenty to lead well inside final 1f. Swerved the Arc in favour of this and should take plenty of beating.
Midterm (Sir Michael Stoute) One-time Derby favourite after winning the Classic Trial at Sandown in April but reportedly suffered stress fracture in pelvis when fifth in Dante at York in May. Improved after four months off when neck second of five to Makahiki in Prix Niel at Chantilly last time, leading until last few strides. Needs more but is still lightly raced.
US Army Ranger (Aidan O’Brien) Second in Derby at Epsom (one and a half lengths behind Harzand) in June on just his third start, and bounced back from a below-par effort in Royal Whip when finishing a half-length second of five to Zhukova in Enterprise Stakes at Leopardstown last time, conceding first run. Still lightly raced and should have more to offer.
3. Fascinating Rock
ALMANZOR showed himself to be a top-class performer when continuing his winning sequence in the Irish Champion Stakes, and with connections having avoided the temptation of the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, he receives the vote. Found is 2 lb better off with the selection for a three-quarter length defeat and arrives in the form of her life following victory at Chantilly, so has to be feared.