Cracksman can lead charge on day for favourites
Following its redevelopment, it took me a while to get to grips with the Ascot course which was relaid in 2005, but generally speaking, I find it a reasonably fair track to bet at on the Flat. Despite the bends, it can be somewhat galloping in nature and if the best horses can keep out of trouble, they usually run to form there.
That makes picking the winner somewhat easier than at other trickier courses, although it inevitably means backing lots of favourites, often at short prices. But in good-quality races, that's not necessarily a bad thing with the jolly producing a profit there in recent times.
Since 2008, backing the clear favourite in Group races at Ascot has produced 111 winners from 296 runners (38pc) and had you put a tenner on each, you'd be €60 better off today to traditional SP, or €187 to Betfair SP.
It's not a fortune but it's a fairly good place to start, although there are easier courses to find winning Group favourites with Sandown boasting a strike-rate of 49pc, and Goodwood not too far behind at 44pc.
The main point I'm making is that if you are opposing the favourite in a good-quality race at Ascot, you should have a strong reason for doing so.
I've had a brief look at today's other cards but with five Group races at Ascot, I'm sticking with the Berkshire venue today and I reckon the bookmakers could be punished with a number of winning favourites including Cracksman, which is 5/6 for the Qipco Champion Stakes (3.50).
I had told myself I'd hold off backing him until he proves himself again following his loss in the Prince of Wales's Stakes at the Royal meeting last time priced 2/5, but the main opposition comes from Michael Stoute's Crystal Ocean, which has been beaten in his latest two starts.
Crystal Ocean swerved the Arc in favour of this race, but this could be one of the last times we see Cracksman in action, and he missed a lot of engagements this summer because of firmer ground.
A winner of this race last year, blinkers are applied for the first time which is something I usually see as a negative, but in this case, it may just give him the edge he needs. Combined with the softer ground today, John Gosden's son of Frankel should prove hard to beat and is a worthy favourite.
I'm also keen on Gosden's Roaring Lion in the Group One Queen Elizabeth II Stakes (3.15), which is expected to go off around 2/1.
He took a while to get into the swing of things this year but he's matured a lot over the summer and put Saxon Warrior to the sword once again in a thrilling Irish Champion Stakes, in which Aidan O'Brien's colt hit 1/4 in-running on Betfair.
He drops back down to a mile for this, but the shorter trip is a plus with the ground set to be a little testing. The main threat to the bet comes from raider Recoletos, from Carlos Laffon-Parias's yard, having won the Prix du Moulin de Longchamp last time.
But it's not just about favourites today, and I reckon Harry Angel is a great-value bet around 11/2 in the Group One Qipco British Champions Sprit Stakes (2.0) for Clive Cox under jockey Adam Kirby.
I hate making too many excuses for a horse, but his poor record at this course is partly down to bad luck. He's also forgiven for his loss last time in the Sprint Cup Stakes at Haydock as he didn't break well, having got worked up at the start.
He got injured in the stalls at the Royal meeting but he's a top-class colt and has what it takes provided he gets a clean break.
Getting back to John Gosden's horses, Lah Ti Dar can help make it a great day for Clarehaven Stables with a victory in the Group One Qipco British Champions Fillies & Mares Stakes, priced around 5/4.
I backed her in the Leger in which she was runner-up to Kew Gardens, but it should be a different story here against her own sex.