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That’s One Gutsy Gelding

Cirrus des Aigles wasn’t seen as much of a contender in comparison to the rest of the field in the QIPCO Champions Stakes (I), the climax race of Champions Day at Ascot, but boy did this gelding fire when it counted.

Breaking cleanly from the gate, Cirrus des Aigles shuffled back from contention early, but managed to turn it on full blast turning for home to pass leaders Nathaniel and Ransom Note. Dueling head-to-head with favorite So You Think, who sat just behind the leaders, all the way down to the wire, the five-year-old gelding edged the multi-G1 winner to take the $2 million-plus race while scoring a major upset and breaking the track record for 10 furlongs (2:02.52).

While the result was stunning, what was even more unbelievable was the aftermath of it all: Cirrus’s jockey Christophe Soumillon was the latest victim of Britain’s whip reform, as he used the stick on the gelding six times in the final furlong. The current limit is seven times total in a race, but no more than five times in the final furlong— which many jockeys argue is frequently the only time they really utilize the whip.

No doubt, the dark cloud of controversy dampened the Champions meet quite a bit and will probably affect current racing reform in Britain concerning the whip.

Third place in the Arc, Snow Fairy repeated for a very close third again in the race after being trapped on the rail.

Frankel Does It Again in QEII

I managed to pry myself out of bed early enough to catch the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes (I) at Ascot, and it was yet another exciting affair to catch Frankel in all his glory as he stretched his undefeated streak over class horses. 

The three-year-old son of Galileo was a picture of peace and perfection in a light gallop to the post, with jockey Tom Queally doing well to calm the horse and they were quickly loaded second-last with the filly Immortal Verse.

Straight out of the gate was the lightning pacesetter and half older brother to Frankel, the aptly-named Bullet Train, who set up a dizzying leading margin down the grass chute. In behind Bullet Train galloped highly-regarded Dick Turpin, second-favorite Excelebration, and then Side Glance with Frankel sitting in a stalking position behind them, Immortal Verse tracking in last. Longshot Dubawi Gold began inching up the field midway, but so was Frankel, with Tom Queally making sure his snug hold was not loosened on the eager colt.

With three furlongs to go, Queally set the hot favorite loose after Bullet Train, who was beginning to tire after stampeding away from the others. Excelebration tried to go with him, but Frankel’s infamous quick turn of foot separated him from the pack like a hot knife through butter. Frankel passed Bullet Train and opened up wide on the field, easily winning again by five or so lengths.

Excelebration caught for second, Immortal Verse third, and Dubawi Gold fourth.

It yet another undisputed win for the undefeated Frankel, who is arguably the world’s best miler, with a clear win over this strong group of graded winners. However, there’s another “what if” sprinkled over the performance due to the presence of the rabbit Bullet Train, but it was evident yet again that few horses can match the fast-striding Frankel coming down to the wire. Another great win for a magnificent horse, who I look forward to seeing again next year as a four-year-old.

Champions Day Highlights A Very Grassy Weekend

The turf racing world dominates the weekend of October 15 all around the world as dozens of champions compete for their last major win of the year while some still hope to nab a spot in the upcoming Breeders’ Cup. 

It’s England’s weekend to shine, so if you American kids want to catch the most action, you had better skip the Saturday morning cartoons. Undefeated Frankel [pictured] will greet Immortal Verse and a fistful of threatening Richard Hannon trainees in the mile-long Queen Elizabeth II Stakes (I). The colt is in tip-top condition and offers no apparent reason for a bad showing. The older horses Midday, Twice Over, So You Think, Snow Fairy, and more are set to clash in the Champions Stakes (I), a 1 1/4 mile event that is sure to settle the score among some of these champs, particularly those who did not show well in the Arc a couple weeks ago.

TVG coverage of the Ascot meet starts at 9am EST so don’t sleep in!

Over in Bacon Land aka Canada, Woodbine is hosting one of its familiar crown events in the Canadian International Stakes (I)— or as most know it, the last race Secretariat ever ran— with $1.5 million in Canadian bucks up for grabs. 2010 winner Joshua Tree [IRE] is gunning for a repeat win while popular invader Treasure Beach [GB] is out for blood.

Then in the United States, the beloved gray bullet known as Winter Memories is set to make her mama proud in the Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup (I) at Keeneland, a race Memories of Silver won in her glory days. But she won’t have it easy: several old foes will walk to the post along with a serious new one in Graham Motion’s Summer Soiree. Memories will need to tweak her race strategy a bit if she expects to catch the front-running Summer Soiree in the stretch.

Obsessively providing a comprehensive and personal glance at the sport of kings through original photography, handicapping analysis, editorials, and much more.

Tracks visited: Calder, Saratoga, Belmont, Suffolk, Aqueduct.

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