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GREAT DAY OUT: Ascot plays host to Champions Day on October 18

Ken Pitterson is a leading professional within the racing industry, and makes a living backing horses.The Voice of Sport’s (TVOS) John Portch caught up with the respected pundit who runs the rule over British Champions Day which takes place at Ascot on October 18...

VOS: What is so special about British Champions Day at Ascot?
KP: It’s when all the best horses who have competed throughout the flat season do battle in the most important race meeting of the season.

How have punters responded to the British Champions Series this summer?
We’ve had big crowds at most of the meetings. I’ve been to quite a few and they’ve gone down really well.

What will the atmosphere be like on the day?
The weather can make or break Champions Day. If the sun’s out it makes a big difference in flat racing. Loads of people will turn up and you hope for moments such as when Frankel won the Champions Stakes in 2012 to finish his race career unbeaten. Champions Day is starting to build a bond with the public.

How exciting is the day for trainers, owners and jockeys?
It’s tremendous, from the huge sums of money involved to the chance to showcase their talent on that day in producing horses to perform and win some big pots. The meeting attracts some of the best jockeys from Ireland and England.

Who are your favourites on the day?
I really fancy Free Eagle, a three-year-old trained by Dermot Weld, who is set to run in the Champions Stakes. After a year out he impressively beat Australia at Leopardstown last month. He comes in fresh and Weld has a fantastic record at Ascot.

In the first event I think last season’s Gold Cup winner Estimate has a good chance as long as the ground is not too soft. If the ground is soft then a horse I like the look of is Viztoria, who has very good form on soft ground and runs well at this time of year.

The competition’s going to be very hot but these horses may be at their very best in this meeting. Horses that are going to be A1 come the day.

How do you pick a winner in the paddock?
The most important thing is to look for a relaxed horse, one that looks well in its coat, that’s not on its toes and using up all its energy in the paddock as it’ll take it out of them during the race. They’ve all had hard seasons so you wouldn’t want to see a horse that’s sweating a lot. You’re looking for a cool demeanour as they’re walking around the paddock. You also want to make sure that a horse you back has good form on the prevailing ground, whether it’s good to soft or soft ground because that’s very important at this time of the year.

What would you say to encourage people to attend?
Just come to appreciate the day itself. You don’t have to have a bet but you can take in the racing and the atmosphere. You’re going to be the best jockeys and the best horses. As long as it’s not a wet and horrible day it’s a great sport to be involved in.

QIPCO British Champions Day at Ascot is on October 18. Info and tickets www.britishchampionsseries.com

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