The Champions Day showpiece at Ascot on Saturday is one of the highlights of the year in Europe, and in the magnificent and unbeaten Baaeed – heavy favorite for the 2022 Champion Stakes – there is a chance to see one of the world’s great racehorses before he retires to stud at the end of the year. It will be a closer contest in the G1 Queen Elizabeth II, with multiple G1 winners Inspiral and Modern Games dueling alongside 2020 winner The Revenant and the progressive Jadoomi.
2022 Champion Stakes
Group 1, £1,300,000, 1m 2f turf, 3yo+
There is a bona fide outstanding champion in the 2022 Champion Stakes, the centerpiece of a glittering, G1-heavy afternoon at Ascot on Saturday, and – rather like near-equivalent Flightline – it’s impossible to imagine his defeat.
The soon-to-be European horse of the year Baaeed is unbeaten in ten starts, six at G1 level, conquering all over a mile before stretching out to an extended ten furlongs at York last time, when he gave the best performance of a brilliant career by trouncing the opposition in the G1 Juddmonte International.
He bolted home by six and a half lengths from the top-class global yardstick Mishriff, with barn mate Dubai Honour two and a half lengths further back in fourth, and did it with the minimum of fuss. That earned him a rating just 2lb shy of Flightline, so it’s easy to see what we’re dealing with here. Baaeed’s other barn mate My Prospero won a weak G2 at Saint-Cloud in July, hasn’t run since, and shouldn’t be troubling his superstar neighbor.
Baaeed has won twice over a mile at this track, has no issues with stamina or the spongy autumn ground, and it would be both a huge surprise and a great shame if he were to end his career with defeat.
His main challenger is 2021 Epsom Derby winner Adayar, who had been off the track all year with a series of minor problems until returning to win an uncompetitive three-horse contest at Doncaster last month, a simple task to ease him back into the swing.
Adayar has all the class you could want but has run all his best races at a mile and a half, including when winning the G1 King George here last summer. It’s tough to see him being able to match Baaeed for speed, and he was a well-beaten fifth in this race last year.
More suited by today’s distance is Bay Bridge, who won five straight at ten furlongs in the lesser company before finding the G1 heat too much. He was beaten a length by multiple G1 winner State Of Rest in the Prince of Wales’s at Royal Ascot, and then dropped the ball when favorite for the Eclipse at Sandown in July, coming home a tame fifth behind future Arc runner-up Vadeni and the aforementioned Mishriff. He lacks the class to bother Baaeed, which goes also for last-time-out stakes winner Royal Champion, the lowest-rated horse in the line-up.
Helvic Dream and Mac Swiney are G1 winners but have shown very little of late, while fellow Irishman Stone Age was third in the G1 Belmont Derby at this distance on one of his transatlantic trips, but is not progressing.
Champion Stakes Prediction
There are no certainties in racing, but on all known metrics this can only be a valedictory victory for the unbeaten champion BAAEED.
|HORSE||JOCKEY||ODDS BY JAZZSPORTS|
|Bay Bridge||Richard Kingscote||+1100|
|My Prospero||Tom Marquand||+2500|
|Dubai Honour||James Doyle||+3300|
|Royal Champion||Jack Mitchell||+4000|
|Stone Age||Ryan Moore||+5000|
|Helvic Dream||Oisin Orr||+10000|
|Mac Swiney||Kevin Manning||+10000|
Queen Elizabeth II Stakes
Group 1, £1,150,000, 1m turf, 3yo+
The picture is not quite as straightforward in the Queen Elizabeth II, with the absence of divisional leader Baaeed opening the race up and making it much more competitive as a result, four horses holding a viable chance of grabbing the glory and the big purse.
The favorite is almost certain to be lone filly Inspiral, who has had the break she requires between races, the absence of which contributed heavily towards the only defeat of her career in the G1 Falmouth at Newmarket in July.
Before that she ran future G1 winner Spendarella out of town in the G1 Coronation at Royal Ascot (run over the round mile, rather than today’s straight mile), and since then she has beaten the boys in the G1 Jacques le Marois over a mile at Deauville, although only prevailing by a neck on the sort of ground she’ll face today.
Inspiral has huge talent and must run a big race, but she isn’t officially the top-rated horse in this, that honor going to Modern Games, already well familiar to a US audience, who is rated 1lb superior to the filly.
Last year’s G1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf winner is three-for-four over a mile with his only defeat coming against Baaeed, which is no disgrace whatsoever. He looked a colt at the top of his game when rolling flat subsequent G1 runner-up Ivar in the G1 Woodbine Mile last time, romping by five and a quarter lengths, and he can work his magic whatever the ground.
That is not the case for The Revenant, who has an excellent record in this race – winning in 2020, runner-up in 2019, and fourth last year – but needs the mud to produce his best, and whatever the caprices of an English autumn it’s unlikely to be wet enough for him.
He splashed happily through the slop at Longchamp two weeks ago to be runner-up in the G2 Daniel Wildenstein over a mile, with G3 winner Checkandchallenge a length and a half back in third and Raadobarg fifth, but this will be much tougher on quicker going.
The dark horse is Jadoomi, unbeaten in three since being gelded and running a career-best last time when very impressive in the G2 Boomerang at Leopardstown, clearing right away to score by four lengths. There’s almost certainly more improvement to come, and his preference to be on the pace could make him a big threat to the established stars.
El Drama will be sharper after his first start off a 13-month layoff when he ran two-three – three-quarters of a length apart – with G3 winner Tempus in the G2 Joel at Newmarket, but has never won above stakes level, while G2 winner Bayside Boy is another who prefers the mud.
Queen Elizabeth Stakes II Prediction
Inspiral is a class act but at the likely odds, the better bet is multiple G1 winner and top-rated MODERN GAMES, who ran a career-best last time.
|HORSE||JOCKEY||ODDS BY JAZZSPORTS|
|Modern Games||William Buick||+350|
|The Revenant||Ryan Moore||+600|
|Bayside Boy||Tom Marquand||+1400|
|El Drama||David Egan||+5000|
|Raadobarg||W J Lee||+10000|
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