Escobar to maintain fine Balmoral record

Ascot selections Saturday 16th October

We have reached Champions Day, the final flagship meeting of the British flat season and we have an excellent programme of races, with the jockeys title also in some doubt. I have selections from four of the races on the card.

Ascot 2.00: Creative Force

If William Buick is to bring up his first jockeys title he will need early winners on the card and CREATIVE FORCE gives him a strong chance to do just that in the Sprint.

This horse showed what he can do on this straight track and of soft ground when winning the Jersey Stakes at the Royal meeting over 7f. Whilst he has not won since there have been excuses for his defeats. 6f on fast ground and a sharp track was against him in the July Cup, but a 2l defeat to Starman was no disgrace.

He was then a close second to Kinross at Goodwood, and stumbled at the start in the Haydock Sprint Cup – on a track that favours front-runners that left him with too much to do from an early stage. I like his running style for this stiff 6f and with the going of no concern he looks the solid each-way option.

Ascot 2.35: Invite

Clearly Snowfall is a worthy short-priced favourite, but that is primarily based on her form in the first half of the season. Whilst she ran well enough in the Arc, that was not the very best of Snowfall and that was a hard race just two weeks ago. Therefore preference at a bigger price is for INVITE.

She hacked up by 10l in a Doncaster handicap in May for previous trainer Marco Botti, but stepped up again on her first run for Andrew Balding when landing a listed race at Chester on last month. Fully at home with cut in the ground, this represents another big step up in class, but there is no reason to think she can’t compete and veteran rider John Egan retains the partnership having steered her to both those wins this season.

Ascot 3.50: Dubai Honour

Trainer William Haggas holds a strong hand with three runners to take on the two favourites in the race. Whilst last year’s hero Addeybb returns, I fancy the much younger DUBAI HONOUR.

This is a very progressive 3yo who has graduated from a valuable handicap win on fast ground at the Newmarket July meeting, to two Group 2 wins on softer conditions in France. He came with an inexorable run in the Prix Dollar a fortnight ago to win that contest going away, and has earned the right to take his place at the top table here. There is no telling yet how good he can be and there is no doubt that he is improving with every race.

Adayar had a hard race in the Arc, whilst Mishriff has been beaten on both starts here, including badly in this race in 2020. Therefore it makes sense to look elsewhere and the potential of Dubai Honour makes him stand out.

Ascot 4.30: Escobar & King Leonidas

Perhaps my strongest fancy of the day is left to last as I think ESCOBAR has been waiting for this valuable prize all year long.

Second in 2018 and a decisive winner off just a pound lower mark, defeating subsequent Group 1 winner Lord North in 2019, a fast run mile on soft ground is just what Escobar needs. He is reunited with Adam Kirby today, who steered him to that win on this card two years ago, and was on board when he finished a fine second in a Sandown listed race last month. Third here in the spring in the Victoria Cup, he did not quite have the pace to get involved here over 7f at the last meeting, but the extra furlong will bring his stamina more into play this afternoon.

As an alternative KING LEONIDAS makes plenty of appeal. I suspect this colt will prove to be far better than a 103 rated horse in time, he just hasn’t had much chance to prove it. He won his first two starts in novice company at Newmarket, the first on soft ground. He then flopped in the Jersey Stakes at Royal Ascot last year, but there was clearly something amiss as we did not see him again for almost 18 months.

That comeback run at Newbury was full of promise and James Doyle was very sympathetic on the returning 4yo, so hopefully the bounce factor won’t come into play. Doyle is back on board today and I think a stiff mile could be ideal conditions for him.

Recommended bets:

1pt each-way – Creative Force – 2.00 Ascot – 13/2 Paddy Power, Boylesports

1pt each-way – Invite – 2.35 Ascot – 7/1 general

1pt each-way – Dubai Honour – 3.50 Ascot – 7/1 general

1pt each-way – Escobar – 4.30 Ascot – 20/1 William Hill, BetVictor (1/5 odds 1st 5)

1pt each-way – King Leonidas – 4.30 Ascot – 13/2 general (Betfred 1/5 odds 1st 7)

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