Sky Sports Racing presenter Mike Cattermole previews the race that kicks off British Champions Day at Ascot on Saturday, the QIPCO British Champions Long Distance Cup.
Baron Samedi (Joseph O’Brien)
Made massive strides late last summer to win four middle-distance handicaps inside a month and then made the successful step up to pattern company when landing the Group Two Prix du Conseil de Paris at Longchamp in late October.
He began the season where he had left off, winning a Group Three at Navan and then stepping up to two miles for the first time to take the Group Two Belmont Gold Cup in New York.
His third in the Irish Leger last time, when back to a mile and six, was another fine effort and he has possibilities for some place money here, although it is harder to imagine him winning.
Berkshire Rocco (Andrew Balding)
Last year’s St Leger runner-up was expected to feature in the Cup races this year but presumably a setback or two has restricted him to just two outings, with a space of almost seven months between them.
It is difficult to know what to expect from him but stepping up to two miles for the first time could suit him and he should strip fitter for his recent second at Salisbury. Seems to act on any going.
Hamish (William Haggas)
Has had just eight races in his life but has won four of them and is clearly fragile, hence just two appearances in the past two years.
He is also clearly extremely talented, too, and came back after 14 months away to beat the very smart Hukum (good winner since) in the September Stakes at Kempton.
Fascinatingly, he went down by just a neck to Trueshan at Newbury just two years ago. Yet to tackle in excess of 14 furlongs but shapes as though it will be no issue. He may well be a major player.
Master Of Reality (Joseph O’Brien)
Fourth in the 2019 Melbourne Cup but only 15th last November in the same race. He was beaten half a length by Baron Samedi in the Vintage Crop at Navan in April.
Won a Listed race at Down Royal in July but comes here on the back of a distant last in the Irish St Leger.
Morando (Andrew Balding)
Fourth here last year but has been below that level this season in six starts and age is catching up with him.
Nicholas T (Jim Goldie)
Versatile and talented veteran who won the Northumberland Plate in July but has been way below his best the last twice.
Roberto Escobarr (William Haggas)
Lightly raced four-year-old who has been running well all summer and seemed to stay two miles when soundly beaten by Nayef Road at Newmarket last time. Very stiff task but drying ground would help.
Stradivarius (John & Thady Gosden)
A staying legend who rarely disappoints and has won six times here, including three Gold Cups. However, he has endured mixed fortunes in this particular contest, winning it in 2018 but beaten by Order Of St George when third in 2017 and a whisker by Kew Gardens in 2020.
Last year, he flopped badly for an uncharacteristic career low, when a combination of the race being just 13 days after his Arc seventh, plus the testing ground, proving too much. With his once considerable powers arguably beginning to wane now, it may just be too much for him again.
Trueshan (Alan King)
Could not have been more impressive in this 12 months ago when he announced himself as a stayer of the highest class with a seven-length drubbing of Search For A Song. It was the first time he had tackled two miles and he relished the testing conditions.
The ground won’t be as deep this time around but this campaign has been built on following a soft surface ever since, often being prepped to run but missing out on some top targets when the going has turned against him.
It all came right two weeks ago, however, and he looked awesome in the Prix du Cadran at Longchamp, comfortably outstaying Stradivarius over two and a half miles. Will this come too soon or can he go again? If he can, he’s very much the one to beat.
Princess Zoe (Anthony Mullins)
A rags to riches story who has hardly looked back since being “discovered” in Germany and being brought across to Ireland. Showed her courage and stamina when landing last year’s Prix du Cadran on deep ground but could only manage fifth, beaten around eight lengths by Trueshan, in this year’s renewal just under two weeks ago.
Versatile ground-wise, she handled a fast surface when an excellent second here in the Gold Cup back in June behind Subjectivist and two places ahead of Stradivarius. A solid contender.
Tashkan (Brian Ellison)
Likeable young stayer who is suited by soft ground and wasn’t disgraced in a Group Two at Longchamp last time. But he needs a lot of improvement to figure here.
The Mediterranean (Aidan O’Brien)
Has produced a string of good efforts this season, including when third in the St Leger and may have been feeling the effects of that when thrashed by Search For A Song last time.
Two miles ought to suit him on pedigree but he doesn’t look in the same league as the stable’s other three winners of this race, Fame And Glory, Order Of St George and Kew Gardens.
Mike’s big race verdict
A super renewal with plenty of depth and although there has been no rain around, the ground will be on the easy side. If TRUESHAN turns up in the same sort of form as he was in Paris a fortnight ago, he is going to be hard to beat. Search For A Song could get closer to him this time.
Hamish looks set to run well too and Princess Zoe can also challenge for the prize money. My heart, as always, is with Stradivarius but my head says not today. If this is to be his final race, I hope this wonderful racehorse does himself justice.