Aside from ‘There’s Nothing Else To Do In Wolverhampton But Go Racing Day’ or the resolutely factual ‘Derby Day’ there can be few fixtures on the racing calendar than Champions Day at Newmarket in which the name describes the quality of the card. And if that introduction sounds familiar that’s because we’re more than likely plagiarising something we wrote in a preview for each of the last few years. Don’t condemn our ways. First of all, it’s recycling and second of all, Champions Day is pretty much the same every year €“ a bit of quantity, a lot of quality and more than likely a lot of women dressed in tarty dresses and silly hats unsuitable for the harsh reality of autumn in Suffolk sheltering from the rain.
It kicks off with the Challenge Stakes and because our time on this earth is short, we’ll quickly move on to the most illogical, complicated and downright enjoyable puzzle of the day and perhaps of horse racing in general. The Cesarewitch is like the Royal Rumble of Champions Day with the grateful omission of spandex and horses getting whacked over the head with metal chairs. 32 runners look set to go to post and the handicapper has been doing his job pretty well because about 31 of them have a chance of at least claiming a place, especially as [INSERT SUBTLE CORPORATE PLUG HERE] we’re paying ¼ Odds 1-2-3-4-5 Places on the race. Of course we’re always going to say it’s great, but it really is, because the race looks as competitive as a suburban housewife after the neighbours get a new kitchen.
Defying chronology, we’ll move on to the Dewhurst Stakes where all eyes will be Frankel. On the evidence of what he’s done on the racetrack and the reports of his workouts, he seems to be a superstar in the making, but we’ve always got to be wary about building someone up too much based solely on early excellence. The last thing we want is another Chesney Hawkes on our hands. It’s perhaps understandable as to why he’s the heavily backed favourite for the race, but is he really as good as the media hype makes him out to be? How much of it is a genuine reflection of his ability and how much of it is the Racing Post filling space until their National Hunt stable tours started? In notching up three wins from three dates so far, Dream Again hasn’t done a whole lot wrong, but hasn’t got the media fanfare of Frankel. Possibly because mentioning his name is likely to trigger some sort of net nanny or spam filter, there doesn’t seem to be much talk of how well David Simcock has done with the horse. Saamidd may not have been as impressive as his two main rivals to date, but he’s still undefeated and open to improvement.
If Frankel brings home the bacon, then it could be a very lucrative half an hour or so for Henry Cecil. Twice Over leads the way in the Champion Stakes betting, albeit without the dominance his stablemate has over the Dewhurst. 12 months ago he was the surprise winner of the race and although he’s as reliable as a spaghetti bungee cord, plenty of people reckon he can defend his title. As it’s not the strongest renewal of the race, we’d ask ‘why the hell not?’ but Poet’s Voice is another option. A lot like a real poet, most of his career has involved scratching around serving up tripe, but in the last few months the Godolphin runner seems to have twigged that when he lines up at the start, the intention is to get to the other end first. He beat Rip Van Winkle at Ascot last month and although he was getting weight, if he runs to that level again, he’ll have a big chance in this race.
This race could also be remarkable for an event rarer than John McCririck being invited to deliver a speech at a feminists’ convention. It’s an Aidan O’Brien runner in the UK at a backable price. Sure that backable price may have something to do with the fact he’s unlikely to win, but we’ve got a funny feeling about Await The Dawn. His results hadn’t marked him out as anything thing special, but he romped home in a Group 3 at Leopardstown last month and that’s enough for us to peddle the probably misguided view he’s got a chance of winning a Group 1.