Cracksman can end his brilliant racing career on a high by winning the Qipco Champion Stakes for the second year running at Ascot on Saturday.
The rain that has fallen this week has been manna from heaven for the soft-ground loving colt, who frustratingly had to sit out a crucial part of the season owing to the long, hot summer.
Rewind to 12 months ago, with the essential cut in the ground, and Cracksman served up probably his best-ever display when he routed the opposition as he came home seven lengths clear of Poet’s Word.
It looked like the John Gosden-trained colt was set to dominate in 2018, but that was not the case despite a blistering comeback success in the Prix Ganay at Longchamp in April.
Cracksman made heavy weather of overhauling Salouen in the Coronation Cup at Epsom and was then surprisingly beaten by Poet’s Word in the Prince Of Wales’s Stakes at Royal Ascot. That defeat was put down to him being distracted by the fillies returning from the previous race – although it was still a fine run, because the first two were eight lengths clear of Hawkbill in third, and the winner went on to land the King George back at Ascot.
It has been a long four-month wait since the Royal meeting, but Cracksman is reported to be in superb shape for his swansong and will wear blinkers for the first time to keep his mind on the job. He looks a good bet to headlight a cracking card.
Elsewhere, it is the fillies that could excel – with Lah Ti Dar, also from the Gosden stable, expected to hit the right note as she takes on her own sex after losing out to Kew Gardens in the St Leger.
It was a brave decision to take on the colts, and over an extended mile and three-quarters, and she was beaten more by experience than anything else. She can make amends in the Qipco British Champions Fillies & Mares Stakes.
Laurens can cap a magnificent season by taking her Group One haul to five in 2018, and six in all, by winning the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes.
Her latest success came only two weeks ago, but she has been giving trainer Karl Burke the right signs and persuaded him to supplement at a cost of £70,000 at Monday’s confirmation stage.
Laurens may be taking on the colts for the first time, but nothing fazes her – and her dogged determination to win can see her over the line again.
Aidan O’Brien added Flag Of Honour to the field for the Qipco British Champions Long Distance Cup at the five-day stage, and he too can be rewarded.
The Ballydoyle trainer looked to have a decent hand in the two-mile test to start with, so it could be significant he decided to supplement the Irish St Leger winner.
Brando appeals as a value selection in the Qipco British Champions Sprint Stakes.
Kevin Ryan’s valiant six-year-old has finished second in the July Cup and 32Red Sprint Cup this term, and his turn can come in what is a wide-open renewal.
Kynren has also been knocking on the door, and it can finally open for David Barron’s four-year-old in the Balmoral Handicap.
There is plenty of decent racing all over the country – with Evan Williams’ Silver Streak at the right end of the handicap in the feature Dunraven Group Welsh Champion Hurdle at Ffos Las, while sprint king Robert Cowell can send Storm Over to land the William Hill Catterick Dash Handicap for the second successive year at the North Yorkshire track.
ASCOT: 1.25 FLAG OF HONOUR (NAP), 2.00 Brando, 2.40 Lah Ti Dar, 3.15 Laurens, 3.50 Cracksman (next best), 4.30 Kynren (treble).
CATTERICK: 1.50 Sylvia’s Mother, 2.25 Arletta Star, 2.55 Vallarta, 3.30 Storm Over, 4.05 Al Destoor, 4.40 Zeyzoun, 5.10 Queen Adelaide.
MARKET RASEN: 1.40 Rococo Style, 2.15 Baddersley Knight, 2.50 Card Game, 3.25 Highway One O One, 4.00 Play The Ace, 4.35 Handy Hollow, 5.05 Aggressive.
STRATFORD: 2.30 Sunset Showdown, 3.00 Never A Word, 3.35 Atlantic Grey, 4.10 Return Flight, 4.45 She’s Gina, 5.15 Stormbay Bomber, 5.45 Lord Fendale.
WOLVERHAMPTON: 5.40 Motajaasid, 6.15 Haylah, 6.45 Mutarabby, 7.15 Reeth, 7.45 Looking For Carl, 8.15 Mostawfee, 8.45 Texas Radio, 9.15 Eva Docc.