The QIPCO Champions Stakes is the most valuable contest on QIPCO British Champions Day at Ascot and Cirrus Des Aigles, who won the 2011 edition and chased home the great Frankel 12 months ago, is all the rage to win this year’s renewal.
The money is coming for Cirrus Des Aigles because Ascot is likely to be a soft course for QIPCO British Champions Day and punters believe that the seven-year-old gelding has returned to top form after four ordinary runs in a row.
Cirrus Des Aigles is trading at odds of 2.10 with Bet365 to win the QIPCO Champions Stakes over Ascot’s wet, testing 10 furlongs. Those are very short odds about an ageing galloper who, in spite of the supportive words of his trainer, Corine Barande Barbe, has done very little on the track to indicate that he is 100 per cent ahead of what will be a tough race.
This time last year Cirrus Des Aigles made Frankel work for his 14th and final victory in his glorious unbeaten career. Cirrus Des Aigles strained a ligament in Hong Kong at the end of 2012, an injury that kept him off the course for six months. Cirrus Des Aigles returned against Novellist in the Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud, fading out of contention in the last couple of furlongs. One month later and Cirrus Des Aigles finished an additional four lengths behind Novellist in the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot. In August, Cirrus Des Aigles flopped as the favourite in not one but two French events but he broke through for his first win in six starts at Maisons-Laffitte. Cirrus Des Aigles won at Longchamp subsequently but neither of his French triumphs entitles him to be odds on in some places to win the QIPCO Champions Stakes. Cirrus Des Aigles is a false favourite and punters who back him now should remember that he was listed at odds of around 17.00 before he beat a weak field at Maisons-Laffitte to end his lengthy run of outs.
Betting exchanges are wonderful things that enable punters to lay short-priced favourites such as Cirrus Des Aigles. Allowing for Cirrus Des Aigles being a slightly bigger win price on a betting exchange, one could reasonably expect to lay him at odds of 2.20 and, therefore, obtain odds of 1.83 that someone other than the veteran takes out the QIPCO Champions Stakes. That looks like a very sound play.
If one wants to back a QIPCO Champions Stakes runner to beat Cirrus Des Aigles then Farhh is the one to support at odds of 5.00 with a range of bookmakers, including Boylesports. Farhh is lightly raced because he is a fragile horse but the positive is that he is still open to improvement having had only nine starts for four wins, four seconds and one third. Farhh’s performance in winning the JLT Lockinge Stakes at Newbury on his seasonal reappearance was the most impressive non-Frankel display in the event for many years and, while he has been off the track since May, that should not deter punters because his fresh record is excellent. Farhh has won all four of his races after a holiday so he has a history of hitting the ground running.
Forecast soft ground is one of the main drivers behind the plunge on Cirrus Des Aigles. Farhh has raced on all types of surfaces and one could argue that his best runs have been on ground with a bit of cut. His memorable Thirsk Hunt Cup win, a victory talked about as the most emphatic handicap victory in living memory, occurred on a good-to-soft surface and he ran first Nathaniel and then Midnight Cloud close on similar ground last year. Farhh’s sire, Pivotal, has tended to produce quality sprinters and milers but there is sufficient stamina on the dam side of his pedigree to suggest that he could win a Group One contest over 10 furlongs.
The highlight of QIPCO British Champions Day was going to be the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes that is scheduled to jump 35 minutes before the QIPCO Champions Stakes but it is looking increasingly unlikely that Toronado will line up against Dawn Approach for the fourth time this year. Toronado may head to the Breeders’ Cup if Ascot’s track comes up soft.