Trainer Brian Ellison was last seen doing the rain dance on his Norton-based gallops, but he is hoping his next sighting will be in the winner’s enclosure on Champions Day at Ascot this Saturday.
The horse he is trusting to take him there is the apple of his eye, Top Notch Tonto, who is aiming to go one better than last year and claim first prize in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes.
After running a valiant second last year, Top Notch Tonto has failed to meet his trainer’s lofty expectations this season, but is in the midst of his favourite time of year and with a recent return to form he looks set to go very close in the million pound showcase.
Soft ground is the vital ingredient for Ellison’s stable star and with a poor forecast and the ever deteriorating ground in his favour, Ellison can afford to approach Ascot in a bullish mood.
He said: “His last two runs at York and Leopardstown were very good and the ground has come right for him. He’s doing good, he’s in great form and he’s doing it on the track now too, so we’re hopeful.”
As the forecast rain falls in Top Notch Tonto’s favour, his main market rivals Charm Spirit, Integral, Toronado and Night of Thunder will all be praying for dry weather before Saturday’s big race as they have all performed better on a sound surface.
But with the current ground conditions described as heavy there is absolutely no chance of that and I would be very surprised if the currently available 16/1 will be available on Saturday.
The selections main danger may well come from the all-firing David O’Meara yard in the form of Custom Cut, who has won his last five races on the bounce and has had to be supplemented for the race for a hefty £70,000, which would mean he has to finish in the first three just to make his entry fee back.
Custom Cut is not the only David O’Meara-trained horse to have to be supplemented for Champions Day at Ascot on Saturday as he has also shelled out a further £20,000 for his group 1 winning sprinter G Force to run in the Qipco British Champion Sprint Stakes.
Instantly promoted to favourite for the race, O’Meara makes no secret of his admiration for his stable star.
He said: “He’s better than anything I’ve trained before. He has a lot of ability, If he turns up with the same form as at Haydock he’ll be very difficult to beat. He’s favourite and deserves his place in the race.”
This is a clear signal of intent from the all-conquering Nawton handler, who is certainly on the hunt for more group race victories but I suspect the ground might have gone against him and he may have to wait a bit longer for G Force to claim his next victory.
One horse certain to relish the ground on Saturday is the Ed Walker-trained Lightning Moon, who has yet to taste defeat in three runs so far this season with all his victories coming with ‘soft’ in the ground description.
Fresh on the back of a group 3 success here at Ascot (soft) two weeks ago Lightning Moon has massive scope for improvement and is already been aimed at all the top races by his trainer next season.
Walker said: “His official rating of 112 after just three starts, must put him in with a good shout in the Qipco Champions Sprint, and it will be his last race of the season.
“Next year I dare to dream of races such as the Golden Jubilee, July Cup, Maurice De Gheest and Foret for him.
If he continues to make progress, as any horse should with racing experience, then these dreams may not be too unrealistic.”
For a trainer like Walker to openly state that he wants to win the best sprint races in Europe with a horse that has only ran three times clearly shows how well regarded he is at home on the gallops and for this reason alone I recommend a few pennies each way at the currently available 6/1.
Beadle’s top tips
Queen Elizabeth II Stakes Ascot 3.30 Top Notch Tonto 16/1.
British Champion Sprint Stakes Ascot 2.20 Lightning Moon 6/1.