Oppenheimer confident Cracksman can showcase talent
Owner Anthony Oppenheimer says it is time to find out how good Cracksman really is as he affirmed it was all systems go for his star colt to take part in Saturday's Qipco Champion Stakes at Ascot.
The £1.3 million showpiece is shaping up to be a cracker – and a rock-solid test for all those who line up – with Ulysses, Barney Roy and Brametot likely to be among Cracksman and Frankie Dettori's opponents.
Speaking on Monday, Oppenheimer underlined his admiration for Dettori, whose unavailability in the Arc was a factor in Cracksman not contesting Europe's richest race, which the jockey won for a record fifth time on John Gosden-trained stablemate Enable.
Oppenheimer had spoken of a desire to avoid a hard race following Cracksman's Prix Niel win but, when asked whether he harboured similar concerns about the Ascot feature, had an emphatic answer.
"There are many jockeys that could have ridden him in the Arc but it's very nice to have Frankie Dettori on him because he knows the horse so well," said Oppenheimer.
"Consequently I think we can be quite certain he won't go mad on the horse and will simply ride him to the best of his ability, which I hope gives us an advantage.
"He's not going to go completely mad and start hitting the horse all over the place to get fourth."
Fourth is not where bookmakers or punters expect Cracksman to finish as he was joint-favourite at around 3-1 with Ulysses on Monday evening.
Oppenheimer believes the outcome of Saturday's race will prove informative when it comes to planning Cracksman's 2018 campaign and is confident his horse will handle the drop in trip to a mile and a quarter, having raced over a mile and a half on his last four outings.
"We need to see how good he is now and measure him against the best horses," said Oppenheimer. "This is going to give us a very big clue about next year.
"The Champion Stakes looks a very exciting race and I think it's going to be very interesting. He's raced over a mile and a quarter once before at the beginning of his three-year-old career and won, and I think he'll go very well.
"He's much stronger and I'm told he is going very well indeed, much stronger, much faster.
"According to the reports I've got, he's so rambunctious that he needs a run, and there isn't anything else."
Gosden echoed Oppenheimer's optimism and revealed Cracksman to be some 17kg heavier than he was at the beginning of the campaign.
"He's still maturing and strengthening," he said. "There are a couple of factors I’ll watch – the draw is important, and so is the pace.
"We're coming back in distance and taking on older horses, which is something he hasn’t done before. He’s been running with three-year-olds only, in two Derbys, and the big Group 2s at York and Chantilly.
"He’s won over a mile and a quarter and is bred to be more of a miler. I think he’s got the pace for it."
Cracksman is one of 11 three-year-olds left in the race among 17 horses in all, including the fillies Hydrangea and Rhododendron, two of Aidan O'Brien's remaining eight entries.
Elsewhere O'Brien, who has 24 top-level wins to his name this year as he chases down Bobby Frankel's record 25, boasts five of the 14 confirmations for the British Champions Sprint, with Caravaggio in line for another clash with Harry Angel.
Harry Angel has risen through the ranks since being defeated by Caravaggio in the Commonwealth Cup at Royal Ascot to become the world's highest-rated sprinter, most recently winning the 32Red Sprint Cup at Haydock.
"The timescale between then and Champions Day is perfect," said trainer Clive Cox. "We’ve had a chance to see if Harry Angel’s in good order and to keep him in good order. He’s in a good frame of mind and we're very happy with him."
Hydrangea and Rhododendron also feature among 15 possibles for the Fillies & Mares Stakes, to which Park Hill winner Alyssa was supplemented for £35,000, while dual 2,000 Guineas hero Churchill appears set to line up against Queen Anne Stakes winner Ribchester in the QEII.
There is the potential for another big rematch in the Group 2 Long Distance Cup, where Big Orange and Order Of St George could deliver a follow-up to their thrilling Gold Cup clash in June. The Queen's Dartmouth was supplemented for the race for £18,000.
Officials at Ascot on Monday confirmed that while they intend for all round-course races to be run on the outer Flat course, the inner Flat course has been prepared in the event of heavy ground. The going was given as good, with good to firm places on the inner course.
Weather forecasters are predicting a largely dry and breezy spell into Tuesday evening, with showers then anticipated each day until Saturday.
Details of when that rain could come, and in what quantity, remain unclear due to uncertainty surrounding the development of a low pressure system.
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