Translating British racing pounds into U.S. dollars

By Ron Flatter  (VSiN.com) 

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Ascot Racecourse is the site Saturday of the last two Breeders’ Cup qualifying races that are part of British Champions Day, one of the biggest days on the English racing calendar. (Ron Flatter photo)

Louisville, Ky.

They will race at Ascot on Saturday for five English racing championships. Two of them will come with invitations for the winners to show up next month at Del Mar for the Breeders’ Cup. All the while, bettors waking up early on this side of the Atlantic may be left to wonder what they are seeing.

Watching European horse races only on the biggest days of the year – Royal Ascot, the Arc, this weekend’s British Champions Day – is like watching figure skating or gymnastics only when the Olympics are on. Once the TV commentators have told us what we could not figure out for ourselves, we make like experts afterward, and then we profess apathy for four years.

That will be the case Saturday for anyone tuning away from “ESPN GameDay,” sport’s answer to “Let’s Make a Deal,” to check out Champions Day. Over there it is their version of the Breeders’ Cup, albeit for about 55 cents on the dollar. It is not to be confused with our Breeders’ Cup, an event that itself turns the haughtiest opinion shaper in England into a self-styled, American racing authority.

If, as Shaw supposedly said, England and America are two countries divided by a common language, racing’s mother tongue takes the form of past performances – or, as they are called over there, form guides. Where ours are steeped in objective detail, theirs are colored by subjective comments. They are like documentaries on Netflix contrasted to our trip notes on TikTok.

Give Racing Post more than a passing chance, and it is possible to get as good a read on horses’ form as the Daily Racing Form or Brisnet offer in their PPs. It is like being able to speak fluent Celsius.

Ascot will be damp Saturday, which is as tiresome a statement as horses have four legs, grass is green, and all NFL scoring plays are reviewed. The ground is forecast to be good to soft, and that is the first place handicappers should look in the form guide – er, past performances – to see how the entrants have fared on similar going.

Take the feature race Saturday, the two-turn, 1¼-mile Champion Stakes at 10:50 a.m. EDT that is a qualifier for the 1½-mile Breeders’ Cup Turf. With Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe runner-up and 2020 Turf winner Tarnawa training up to her return to America, that leaves Mishriff (13-8) to be the clear favorite in Europe’s early betting.

In his most recent race Mishriff won the International Stakes on good ground at York. Last year in this race he finished eighth on a course rated soft. This summer going 1½ miles at Ascot he wound up second to Adayar on good going in the King George.

Adayar (2-1) returns to Ascot as a firm second choice coming off a fourth-place finish on the heavy ground of ParisLongchamp last month in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe. Ascot will have some cut in the course Saturday, but it will not be bottomless the way it was in France.

Last year’s winner Addeybb (8-1) glided over the soft turf at Ascot. Then he went to Australia to finish second and first in a pair of Group 1 races on soft and good ground. He returned to England this summer and finished a distant second to the now-retired St Mark’s Basilica in the Eclipse Stakes on turf that looked a lot like Ascot will be this weekend.

Dubai Honour (8-1) has won three 1¼-mile races in a row, all at Group 2 level. The Prix Dollar last month in Paris was the most recent, and that field may have punched above its weight. Even so, it was not of Champion Stakes caliber.

The bet here is that Addeybb can repeat, especially since he has shown the ability to win on soft ground. The biggest question is how he will come back at age 7 and after 3½ months on the bench. At 8-1, the price is right to find out.

The Champion Stakes will be preceded Saturday at 10:10 a.m. EDT by the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes, a straight, one-mile race that is a “win and you’re in” for the two-turn Breeders’ Cup Mile. The race looks like a showcase for Palace Pier (13-8). Like Mishriff, he is trained by John and Thady Gosden. Unlike Mishriff he is on an undisputed roll, winning four consecutive races, including three Group 1 straightaway miles. His only loss in 10 starts, though, was a third-place finish in this race last year on ground much softer than it will be Saturday.

For the first time since his June debut, Baaeed (5-2) will not be favored, even though he is undefeated through five starts. His last victory came Sept. 5 in the Prix du Moulin de Longchamp. How good could that race have been, though, since Order Of Australia finished second? Yes, the same Order Of Australia who was a fluky 73-1 winner of the 2020 Breeders’ Cup Mile. He finished last as the favorite six days ago in the Keeneland Turf Mile.

The rest of the field looks overmatched, and frankly, so does Baaeed. Palace Pier should win the QEII and give papa John Gosden the opportunity to return to his old haunt in southern California, presuming he accepts the Breeders’ Cup invitation.

Addeybb is trained by William Haggas, who showed up for the 2018 Breeders’ Cup at Churchill Downs with two horses that finished out of the money. That is the entirety of Haggas’s résumé in America’s so-called “World Championships.” It is by no means certain that he would take the financial bait to fly to Del Mar, presuming Addeybb wins again.

It should be clear by now that over there, the Breeders’ Cup is not “all that.” The bigger pile of money is always an incentive, but it is not as if the smaller purses of Champions Day or any British races are chump change. Nor should the championships themselves be taken lightly, even if the prize money on offer causes America’s upper crust to need a collective nose-lowering operation.

Horseplayers can be of two minds Saturday. They can either bet Champions Day like they would any other card, with or without the knowledge it takes to read the British form guides. Or they can collect impressions of the Ascot races in a scouting report that can then be applied to the firm turf at Del Mar.

Like the announcers who tell us about triple Lutzes and double-twisting dismounts, anyone who watches and wagers on the English races will speak with some expertise about them come Nov. 5 and 6. Just know that in many cases, that knowledge will be founded on literally minutes upon minutes of observation.

Remember all this next June, when Royal Ascot rolls around.

Ron Flatter’s racing column is available every Friday at VSiN.com. The Ron Flatter Racing Pod is also available every Friday morning at VSiN.com/podcasts. This week’s episode features Academy Award-winning screenwriter and 10-time National Horseplayers Championship competitor Eric Roth. Jockey Arnaldo Bocachica talks about the rarity of his eight-win night Saturday at Charles Town. Racing Post writer Lee Mottershead preview Saturday’s British Champions Day at Ascot. The Ron Flatter Racing Pod is available for free subscription at iHeart, Apple, Google, Spotify and Stitcher. It is sponsored by 1/ST BET.

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