Champions Day at Newmarket has had its critics, but more than lives up to its billing this year. It is a corker of a card across the board with some fascinating clashes that will help set the bar, both for this season and next. But amongst all the swanky Group races there is also the Cesarewitch, a 2m2f handicap with 34-runners and a mix of horses from flat and jumping yards.
Jumps trainers have a great record claiming five of the last ten renewals. However, it is difficult to find anything of the quality of previous winners, Detroit City and Landing Light, who were Champion Hurdle class, in this year’s race. The flat yards may hold the aces this year.
It is a wide-open race and certainly not one for a maximum wager. Few flat races are run at this extreme distance but the Ascot Stakes is one competitive handicap that is. Full House won that but Som Tala meets that rival on slightly better terms for a half-length beating. He merits a modest each-way bet. Last year’s third, Dr Sharp, is interesting running with a featherweight, particularly if the ground rides on the soft side.
The Group 1 Emirates Airline Champion Stakes has assembled an élite field. French raider Literato looks the horse to side with. The French won this last year with Pride and this colt has similarly progressive profile. His form looks bombproof, winning a Group 3 and a Group 2 this term and only just being defeated in a high-class renewal of the Prix du Jockey Club, one of the richest races in Europe.
The cherry on the icing is the Darley Dewhurst Stakes, which looks like the best running of this two-year old championship ever. The three horses at the top of the betting for next year’s 2,000 Guineas are all runners. Top of those lists is New Approach. If he wins today the 4/1 will look generous.
Rio de la Plata has carried the flag for Godolphin and may well reverse the form of his National Stakes defeat by New Approach, but Raven’s Pass might just be better than both. Whoever wins will have bragging rights as the champion two-year old for the rest of their career.
2:40: Newmarket - Raven’s Pass (win)
3:15: Newmarket - Literato (win)
3:55: Newmarket - Som Tala (each-way)