Champion Stakes betting tips: Crystal Ocean fancied over Cracksman at Ascot

Horsebetting.com experts give their 2018 Champion Stakes betting tips for the big 1m 2f Group 1 prize on British Champions Day. Crystal Ocean is rated the value bet to win for Sir Michael Stoute at Ascot on Saturday, 20 October. John Gosden’s Cracksman, who bolted up in this on similar going 12 months ago, is feared most on his swansong. Stablemate Monarchs Glen, meanwhile, makes more appeal than most each-way, so is taken to the make the frame after a break. Read all about these horses’ hopes of Group 1 glory in our 2018 Champion Stakes betting tips preview.

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Odds
11/4
Selection
Crystal Ocean
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Paddy Power logo
Odds
1/1
Danger
Cracksman
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Odds
14/1
E/W
Monarchs Glen
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Crystal Ocean is Stoute value in Champion Stakes

Crystal Ocean is 4lb and upwards clear of his seven rivals in the Group 1 Champion Stakes over 1m 2f on British Champions Day at Ascot, so looks the value bet to land the spoils. Trained by Sir Michael Stoute, the four-year-old is a typical late blooming sort from his yard and should have no problem with dropping back in trip here.

This son of Sea The Stars found form towards the end of his Classic campaign last season when chasing home the re-opposing Capri in the St Leger at Doncaster and beaten just half-a-length. He finished a short-head in front of subsequent leading British stayer Stradivarius and two lengths ahead of Melbourne Cup hero Rekindling.

That run demonstrated there were definitely races to be won with Crystal Ocean this season but, rather than go up in trip, he has made a name for himself as a middle-distance horse. After holding on well to deny Fabricate by a short-head on reappearance in a Group 3 at Sandown where there was cut in the ground over this trip, he bolted up by six lengths in a similar grade affair at Newbury.

Crystal Ocean was then back on the upgrade when running out a commanding winner of the Group 2 Hardwicke Stakes at the royal meeting here over 1m 4f. Off the back of that fine effort, connections were perfectly entitled to go for the King George where he engaged in a titanic tussle to the line with stablemate Poet’s Word and just went down by a neck in the end.

That Group 1 form always has to be treated with the utmost respect, and Crystal Ocean then chased home dual Arc de Triomphe winning heroine Enable in a Group 3 on the all-weather at Kempton. Stoute has saved him for this rather than go to Longchamp, so he comes into it fairly fresh.

As these exploits have earned him the top rating of 129 in this line-up, Crystal Ocean sets a clear standard. He is also two from three at the trip, has won on soft ground before and the tough conditions underfoot here mean the stamina demonstrated in runs over further is another plus.

With jockey William Buick, who is operating at a 25 per cent strike rate in the last 14 days at the time of writing, taking over once again in the saddle, there’s plenty of reasons we fancy Crystal Ocean for this. At the odds on offer, he thus appeals most in our 2018 Champion Stakes betting tips.

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Cracksman feared most on final start

John Gosden won this 12 months ago with Cracksman, who was very impressive in similar conditions that he gets trying to defend his crown. Many are supporting a fairytale end to the four-year-old son of Frankel’s racing career and he’s the clear pick of the trio engaged by his trainer, so is feared most and respected.

Cracksman has won seven of his 10 starts, and is three from three on soft ground. He was unlucky not to win a Classic last season when a length third to surprise Epsom Derby winner Wings Of Eagles and then beaten a neck in the Irish equivalent at The Curragh by the aforementioned Capri.

Although then bolting up by six lengths in the Group 2 Great Voltigeur Stakes during York’s Ebor Festival, Cracksman swerved the Leger and instead plundered the Prix Niel over in France at Chantilly. He then put in a career best over course and distance in this race last year when powering clear from the two marker to slam Poet’s Word by seven lengths.

There’s no doubt Cracksman absolutely sluiced up in the soft ground and was an equally ready winner on reappearance in the Group 1 Prix Ganay at Longchamp. Those displays earned him a career high rating of 130, but only a superb piece of horsemanship by regular jockey Frankie Dettori prevented him from being turned over at Epsom in the Coronation Cup.

Salouen was just worn down by a determined ride from Dettori up the stands’ side rail as Cracksman did barely enough to touch off the runner-up by a head. It was a far from ideal prep for the Prince Of Wales’s Stakes back over this trip at Royal Ascot, and Poet’s Word easily got the better of him to avenge that 2017 British Champions Day defeat.

When it was clear Cracksman couldn’t get to the winner, Dettori didn’t knock him about and eased him towards the finish. Although beaten 2 1/4 lengths, the front two pulled eight lengths clear of the third home Hawkbill which gives the form a solid look.

We haven’t seen Cracksman since but, on a form line through Poet’s Word with Crystal Ocean, there are reasons to take him on with the Stoute runner here. In light of his last two displays, Cracksman is plenty short enough irrespective of his form on the going; so, while he is obviously respected, he’s also worth taking on.

Monarchs Glen appeals each-way

It’s a little too obvious to put the aforementioned Aidan O’Brien trained dual Classic winner Capri up each-way, but there’s better value available on Gosden’s Champion Stakes second string Monarchs Glen. The four-year-old is a course and distance winner and on the same mark of 118 as the Irish raider, but far fresher and looks to have been saved for this, so has considerable claims of making the frame.

Like more illustrious half-brother stablemate Cracksman, he does have winning form on soft ground over this trip. This other son of Frankel held on well under pressure to score by a short-head in a Listed affair at Goodwood last autumn, before following-up to win going away at the finish in the Group 3 Darley Stakes at Newmarket.

Monarchs Glen has been very lightly-raced since, not taking well to a winter trip to Dubai when never better than mid-division and beaten 28 lengths when 14th to Bentbatl in the Group 1 Dubai Turf at Meydan over a mile. The gelding needed stepping back up in trip and resumed winning ways when eased to Listed level in a hot renewal of the Wolferton Stakes over course and distance at Royal Ascot.

After making headway and despite not getting a clear run two out, Monarchs Glen was switched to lead at the furlong marker and ran on well to score by a cosy length from Euginio. Dettori rode him that day and could afford to ease him down close home, so he was value for more than the winning margin.

The runner-up has come out and since won twice, including a Group 3 last time out; the third home – stablemate Muntahaa – ran a huge race under a welter burden to land the valuable Ebor Handicap at York; and the fifth and ninth have also scooped Group 3 successes.

That is incredibly strong form for the grade and there are thus plenty of reasons to upgrade Monarchs Glen for the victory. Rab Havlin takes the ride here and is operating at a strike rate of just shy of 20 per cent in the last fortnight at the time of writing; so, although this demands more, they look a bit of each-way value to make the frame.

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