Poet's Word spells out value
Generally speaking, I've no problem backing odds-on horses in the top races as the cream usually rises to the top in the Group Ones. Indeed, regular readers will know that one of my favourite Group One strategies is simply backing the top-rated horse in the race, provided it's rated above 120.
That simple approach has produced a profit in nine of the last ten years even though many have been odds-on. But just like outsiders, there can be good and bad value in favourites and backers of Churchill (priced 10/11 at the time of writing) should proceed with some caution (6.45 Leopardstown).
While the list of previous Irish Champion Stakes winners includes some outstanding horses, so too does the list of animals that were beaten in this, often at short prices. Since the turn of the century, for example, Galileo (4/11), Hawk Wing (8/11), Rip Van Winkle (8/11), Al Kazeem (9/10) and Australia (30/100) were turned over and considering Churchill has been beaten in his last two races despite going off as favourite, I reckon he's opposable at the prices, even though he's the best horse in the race.
The dual Guineas winner put in a good run when second to Michael Stoute's Ulysses at York having flopped at 1/2 in the St James's Palace Stakes previously, but Leopardstown is a bit stiffer over a mile and a quarter and this could test his stamina.
Priced around 8/1, Stoute might be able to sabotage the favourite-backer's party once again and Poet's Word is a far cheaper option for those looking for a decent return on their stake.
He's versatile across a range of distances and ground conditions and while 10lbs is a huge amount to make up on ratings, his first Group success last time in the Betfred Glorious Stakes at Goodwood proved he's progressive.
We've another odds-on horse, Winter, in the Matron Stakes (5.35) but I was slightly concerned to hear Aidan O'Brien tell my colleague Johnny Ward on the Punter's Platform that she'll "come on for the run" with the autumn in mind for her.
French raider Qemah could be the value option instead. Trained by Jean-Claude Rouget, the Danehill Dancer filly finished third in this last year but she had been a little unsettled in the parade ring and probably didn't show what she's capable of.
She showed a cracking turn of foot to win a Group Two at Ascot in the summer and her latest effort when fourth in a Deauville Group One is overlooked as the race turned out a little messy.
At Haydock, Harry Angel is a worthy favourite at 2/1 in the Group One 32Red Sprint Cup Stakes (2.25). A course and distance winner here in May where he broke the track record, he won a high-quality renewal of the Darley July Cup at Newmarket last time much to my frustration as I'd backed Caravaggio at 10/11.
Morando is tipped around 9/2 in the Group Three 32Red Mile (3.35 Haydock). Third at this level at Leopardstown last time out in a race where he got involved far too late, I was particularly impressed with his Listed win at Windsor previously in which Hear Comes When (which has since won the Sussex Stakes) was third.
To Dibba looks an each-way steal around 13/2 for the Appletiser Stakes Handicap at Ascot (3.55).
A consistent sort that can be trusted to give you a run for your money, he's up 5lbs for his head-second to Whatsthemessage in a decent handicap at Hamilton last time, having traded near 1/10 in-running.
The form looks good with that horse going on to win another handicap there last week, making it four on the trot.
2.05 Kempton: Midterm
2.25 Haydock: Harry Angel
3.35 Haydock: Morando
3.55 Ascot: To Dibba (e/w)
4.25 Kempton: Invincible Army
5.35 Leopardstown: Qemah
6.45 Leopardstown: Poet's Word