12-45 QIPCO BRITISH CHAMPIONS LONG DISTANCE CUP (GROUP 2) – 2 MILES
Flying Officer has only had a handful of starts but five wins from eight races show that he clearly has ability. He won at this trip for the first time when last seen out at Newmarket seeing off the re-opposing Gale Force by around four lengths. He was beaten by both Pallasator and Forgotten Rules in this race last year but he has shown himself to be in rude health of late and he has matured and strengthened since then.
Clever Cookie has not been tested too much this season but he was ultimately disappointing when last seen finishing fourth to Max Dynamite in the Lonsdale Cup. If the rains were to descend they would certainly increase his chances and he would have to be considered a huge danger. Agent Murphy was no match for Order Of St George in the Irish St Leger and ought to appreciate this slight drop in grade. The ground looks ideal for Brian Meehan’s runner and he too ought to have a say in the final outcome.
Flying Officer represents a stable that can do little wrong at present. He is once again partnered by a rejuvenated Frankie Dettori and the combination look destined to go well.
1-55 QIPCO BRITISH CHAMPIONS FILLIES & MARES STAKES (GROUP 1) – 1 M 4F
Sea Calisi was only beaten by a couple of necks when third in the Yorkshire Oaks on what was her British debut. She was held up for most of the race and made giant strides in the closing stages only to be thwarted by the likes of Pleascach and Covert Love. She took another significant step forward when finishing third to Treve and the re-opposing Candarliya in the Prix Vermeilles next time. She is expected to have progressed again and with Mikael Barzalona keeping the ride on the three year old, they can go close here for Francois Doumen.
Simple Verse finished first past the post in the St Leger and was deemed to have interfered with Bondi Beach by the stewards. That decision was found to be flawed later and she was re-instated as the victor last week. Whilst this trip might be a bit on the sharp side for her, the gallop is likely to be relentless from the outset. If delivered at the right time, she looks a force to be reckoned with.
Candarliya makes her debut on British soil this afternoon and although she has the beating of the selection in France, her inexperience here could see her limitations exposed. Covert Love would enjoy better ground whilst Tapestry has it all to prove given her dismal showing in the Arc last time.
Sea Calisi remains on the upgrade and has been specifically targeted at this race by her veteran trainer. She will have no problem with the trip and she commands utmost respect.
3-45 BALMORAL HANDICAP – 1 MILE
Empire Storm ran two solid races around this time last year at this very track including when finishing third to Bronze Angel in this same race. He has rarely been seen since but he did make a comeback at Goodwood when finishing last behind Battalion in a listed race at the end of last month. Since then he has run in a similar handicap here where he defied massive odds to once again make the frame when chasing home Buckstay a couple of weeks ago. This is likely to have been his main aim for the year and with Mikey Ennis taking five pounds off his back, the duo has to be high on any shortlist.
Buckstay looks the most obvious danger given the easy manner of his victory over the course and distance last time and he will revel in the likely ground conditions. He has the beating of many of today’s rivals and connections will be hopeful that he can confirm the form. GM Hopkins, Ayaar and Belgian Bill have not added to their good early season form and are once again overlooked here. Gabrials Lad has not won since April 2014 but he did indicate that he was on his way back into form with a solid effort here last time. His experience of this course and experience will stand him in good stead and he looks a solid each way proposition.
Empire Storm has not been overly raced this year and is proven under similar conditions. Now that his is fully fit, he can take advantage of his rival’s long hard seasons and he can edge past them here at rewarding odds.
SATURDAY 12-45 ASCOT FLYING OFFICER
SATURDAY 1-55 ASCOT SEA CALISI
SATURDAY 3-45 ASCOT EMPIRE STORM (E/W)