A maximum field of 20 will bring the curtain down on the season’s most valuable raceday
A maximum field of 20 will contest the £100,000 Balmoral Handicap (sponsored by QIPCO), the race that brings down the curtain on QIPCO British Champions Day.
David O’Meara knows better than anyone what is required to win the mile contest as he won it with Escobar last year, plus scooped the 2017 running with Lord Glitters. Escobar was also runner-up in 2018, while his Firmament was third in 2016.
On Saturday, O’Meara relies on Orbaan, a winner at York in July, and Hortzadar, successful over a mile at Ripon and Goodwood this summer.
The Brian Meehan-trained Raaeq, owned by Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum, has headed the betting since romping home by five lengths in a 7f handicap at Ascot on 2nd October. The Kingman colt was having only his fifth run that day and is held in high esteem, but a three-year-old has yet to win the race.
Bell Rock (third) and Tempus (sixth) both ran well in the bet365 Cambridgeshire at Newmarket last time. Bronze Angel (2014), Musaddas (2015) and Sharja Bridge (2018) won the Balmoral Handicap after running in the Cambridgeshire beforehand.
Roger Charlton, the trainer of Tempus, struck with Yuften in 2016 and has another likely candidate in Blue Mist, who landed the Moet & Chandon International Stakes at Ascot in July. Like Tempus, he is owned by Prince Khalid Abdullah.
Aidan O’Brien will be hoping Keats, winner of a Listed race at Cork last time, can have the last word, while Jessica Harrington is represented by Njord, a close fifth in the Irish Cambridgeshire.
Connections of Kynren will be hoping he can make it third time lucky – he finished fifth in 2018 and sixth in 2019 – with other runners including course specialist Raising Sand and King Ottokar, an eye-catcher when fifth at Doncaster last time. Raising Sand is trained by Jamie Osborne and will be ridden by his daughter, Saffie, a promising 7lb apprentice jockey.
WHAT THEY SAY:
Aidan O’Brien, trainer of Keats
“We’ve tried to stretch him over further but each time he drops back to a mile he’s very comfortable at it. He looks to be off a nice enough mark even though he’s a three-year-old and he seems to been in good form since his last run.”
Brian Meehan, trainer of Raaeq
“He’s an exciting horse with a big future. He’s gone up to 108 but will be off 103, which hopefully gives him a head start, but in big handicaps such as this you’ve got to be cautious. His rating means he’s in stakes category now and I’ve no doubt whatsoever he is up to it. Ground-wise, he handled it the other day [soft going] and so that should be fine.”