What are the bets bets for the Champion Fillies & Mares Stakes?
The 1m4f Qipco British Champion Fillies & Mares Stakes at Ascot on Saturday (due off 1.55pm) comes under the scrutiny of our resident tipster.
With two Group 1s already on her CV, Hugo Palmer’s Covert Love thoroughly deserves to be favourite to make it three wins at the highest level. She’s only met with defeat twice in seven career starts – on her debut and when caught on the line in the Yorkshire Oaks – and I loved the way she fought back tenaciously to regain the lead after being headed in the Prix de l’Opera over 1m2f last time. The concern is that she is being turned out again quickly for a race that is an afterthought, as opposed to one she has been targeted at, unlike some of her rivals who arrive relatively fresh. Also, having tired over this trip at York, you just wonder if the stiffer nature of this track will find her out.
Who else is fancied?
Her rivals are literally queuing up to take her on and they include the admirable Simple Verse, who won the St Leger, lost it in the Stewards’ Room and was then reinstated. That was her second successive victory over 1m6f, though, and she might not be able to cope with pacier types over this shorter trip.
French challenger Sea Calisi finished just a neck behind Covert Love in the Yorkshire Oaks and, while she was below her best when third in the Prix Vermeille won by Treve last time, she’s likely been aimed at this for a while. She makes more appeal than the other French raider Candarliya, who was second in the Vermeille but gives the impression she might be more effective over further.
With Found expected to be switched to the Champion Stakes, Ireland’s challenge is headed by Tapestry. She looked top class when winning last season’s Yorkshire Oaks, but she’s been restricted to just two runs this term and was virtually tailed off in the Arc 13 days ago. Her trainer Aidan O’Brien has strangely never won this race and I’m struggling to see this filly changing that.
Any decent outsiders?
This race has thrown up a few surprise results, including 12/1 winner Madame Chang 12 months ago, and she is back for more at even bigger price this time. I can’t see it myself, but the John Gosden-trained Journey is certainly worth a second look at the same price. She’s taking a huge step up in class here, but is clearly improving fast and was very impressive when landing a Newmarket Listed contest by eight lengths over this trip last month. She wouldn’t want the ground too soft and the weather forecast is favourable in that respect.
Another filly who could outrun her odds is James Fanshawe’s Speedy Boarding. She too looks to be improving, found 1m2f too sharp last term (finished strongly into second) and her stable is finishing the season with a flourish.
Who’s going to win then?
If Covert Love ran right up to her best she would take all the beating, but there are enough doubts to take her on at the current 9/2. At this time of year it often pays to side with an improver and JOURNEY fits the bill nicely and I like her even more for the fact she will be ridden by Frankie Dettori. That alone should ensure she goes off at a single-figure price, so 888sport’s 12/1 needs snapping up. I’m also going to risk a little each-way on SPEEDY BOARDING, who is currently overpriced at 25/1 with Paddy Power (16s generally).