Champion Cirrus The One To Beat
QIPCO Champion Stakes
It could be a case of the best being saved until last at Ascot on Saturday via the Group 1 Champion Stakes, which gets underway at 4.05…
…and where the headline act is French superstar, Cirrus Des Aigles (11/10).
Cirrus Des Aigles
A winner of six Group 1s, including this race over C&D in 2011, this popular 8yo has looked as good as ever this season in landing his last four races
– albeit he was disqualified from winning a Group 2 on Arc weekend.
He even defeated the subsequent dual Arc winner, Treve, back in April in the mud and comes here with the best form on show. The ground has also come right for Cirrus Des Aigles, and there appears be no chinks in his armour. However, some may point to the fact that he was beaten into second in this race during the last two years (on soft ground), and could be vulnerable as an 8yo – after all, nine of the last 10 winners of this race were 3-5yo’s.
It’s a decision punters will need to make ahead of race time, though there are other each-way options, including Dermot Weld’s lightly raced 3yo, Free Eagle (11/4). This colt has been supported throughout the week, which is surprising considering he only won a Group 3 at Leopardstown last month, and has yet to race on soft ground.
However, it was the nature of that victory in Ireland last time that got people talking, as he was barely off the bridle in winning by 7l, and Weld expects more improvement, as that outing was his belated seasonal debut. If he is the ‘real deal’, then Cirrus Des Aigles will have to pull out all the stops.
Elsewhere, Lady Cecil will be hoping Noble Mission (9/2) can win his third Group 1 of what has proven a terrific season so far, which would in the process be the same race his full brother, Frankel, won two years ago. There is a suspicion, though, that Noble Mission has been found the ‘right’ races this season, and this will be much more competitive.
Aidan O’Brien also throws his hat into the ring with Ruler Of The World, who was a 3/4l third in this race 12 months ago, and has to rate each-way material at 7/1 having enjoyed a good autumn, where a Group 2 Arc trial victory was followed by a 6l ninth in the Arc itself.
But, with four winners of the Champion Stakes having returned at 12/1, 14/1, 25/1 and 12/1, the chances of John Gosden’s 3yo, Western Hymn (14/1), cannot be dismissed.
Epsom didn’t suit when sixth in the Derby, but he bounced back to win a Group 2 in France the following month, before a fourth in similar company when last seen two months ago. A strong gallop would help Western Hymn, on Saturday, and he will not be found wanting for stamina.
Richard Hannon’s 4yo, Pether’s Moon (16/1), is another available at double-figure odds, which isn’t bad considering he won his last two races in Group company (both over 1m4f). The concern at the weekend is the step back in trip, while this will be his first foray into a Group 1, but he handles soft ground and could make the frame.
With three of the last eight QEII winners having been French-trained, the omens look good for Cirrus Des Aigles, who will need to be at his best if seeing off a potentially top-class colt in Free Eagle.