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Queen Elizabeth II Stakes (sponsored by Qipco) preview

Next up on the Champions Day preview programme is the QE II Stakes. Plenty of class in this race, let's see what Owen Alsop has to say about it. Follow him via @owenalsop.

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The Queen Elizabeth II Stakes

The cream of the milers crop will step out at Ascot on Saturday for the final time this season, to determine who will be crowned as champion of the division.

The market is headed by the tenacious Dawn Approach who is looking to bow out on the highest of highs in what will be his last racecourse appearance.

Having been off since finishing down the field, with mucus on his lungs, in the Prix Jacques Le Marois, Dawn Approach has had plenty of time to recover from his busy early season schedule that took in the 2000 Guineas, the Derby, St James Palace Stakes, Sussex Stakes and the Marois and master handler Jim Bolger is sure to have his star right as rain come Saturday.

The highest rated horse in the field, Dawn Approach is unbeaten in two starts at Ascot and I think we will see the real Dawn Approach turn up, back to his best in the QEII. A general 2/1 shot, doesn’t represent great value however, and, with many feeling that Dawn Approach is on a retrieval mission here the 2/1 looks even barer. My heart tells me ‘Yes’, Dawn Approach is a superstar and a personal favourite, but my head is telling me at 2/1 ‘No’…good job I got on at 5/2 then!

Stiff opposition will come in the form of the Hannon’s ‘other’ miler, Olympic Glory. Finishing a fast second to the classy Moonlight Cloud in the Marois on seasonal reappearance, Olympic Glory was last seen being well beaten by another of today’s competitors, Maxios, in what was a strangely run affair. Olympic Glory will handle conditions at Ascot, but on their best form, Dawn Approach has him held and Maxios absolutely thumped the Hannon charge on Arc trials day. With this in mind, I won’t be taking the 4/1.

Maxios, one of many French raiders on Saturday, has been subject to a positive bulletin from trainer Jonathon Pease in the last couple of days. The ground will be right up his street and, at his preferable distance of a mile, Ascot goers will see a changed horse from the one that finished well beaten in the Prince of Wales back in June. Having been steadily backed all week, the value may have disappeared and, although holding major claims, I am going to look elsewhere in search of lining my pockets.

Elusive Kate is a classy, multiple Group 1 winning filly who relishes these ground conditions and, quite frankly, is overpriced at 14/1 generally. She did not give her true running in either of her last two outings, both of which were on unsuitably quicker ground than what she will encounter at Ascot. The only downside to his filly on Saturday is that she will not be gaining an easy lead from Dawn Approach’s pace maker Letir Moir. However, at 14/1 in ideal conditions for a multiple Group 1 winner…I am certainly prepared to take my chances with Elusive Kate.

Soft Falling Rain is an interesting entrant from the Mike De Kock stable who has been on the drift since fears arose about her ability to handle the soft conditions likely to be encountered at Ascot. For a horse that started favourite with some firms for this race in original markets, the 6/1 available now might represent great value for a horse that was last seen streaking away from rivals in the Nayef Joel Stakes at Newmarket. However, Soft Falling Rain was beaten fair and square on his British debut by John Gosden’s second string, Gregorian. With this in mind, the 40/1 about Gregorian, who also gets ideal conditions in the QEII is ludicrous and is certainly not a bad bet if the colt handles the back up from Arc day.

Of the remaining challengers, Gordon Lord Byron’s second behind Moonlight Cloud last time out is a nice piece of form but I fear, again, he may find one too good here, despite having the masterful Johnny Murtagh on his back.

Aidan O’Brien saddles Kingsbarns in what will be an eagerly awaited comeback since a disappointing seasonal debut – if you’re one for Ballydoyle hype then get stuck in at 20/1. It is hard to ignore the supplementary fee paid by connections of Top Notch Tonto earlier this week but, there won’t have been many stronger Group 1s run this season and I fear Top Notch Tonto may be outclassed.

SUMMARY
I would love to see Dawn Approach win the QEII and win it well, however, I don’t advise backing favourites and I certainly don’t advise backing favourites at short prices. If that’s your thing however, feel free to have a nibble at Dawn Approach around the 2/1 mark. My personal preference is for two each-way singles on Gregorian and Elusive Kate. At 40/1 and 14/1 respectively, they both relish conditions and are overpriced.

If each-way betting doesn’t agree with you then I would point you in the direction of Maxios at around the 5/1 mark to confirm the form with Olympic Glory and add a third Group 1 to his tally for the season.

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