02:14 GMT +318 November 2018
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    Champions Day at Ascot, Bold Czech Challenge and Football Predictions

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    Neil Clark
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    The British Flat racing season reaches its end of season climax on Saturday, with Qipco Champions Day at Ascot. How will the big races pan out? Probably the most important thing to bear in mind is the going, which will be quite testing following recent heavy rain. Focusing on the soft ground specialists should, therefore, pay dividends.

    The first race on the card, at 1.20 is the Long Distance Cup. Stradivarius has been outstanding in the staying division this year and deserves to be an odds-on favorite, but he was beaten into third (albeit by only a length), in the race last year so isn't bomb-proof. Each-way alternatives include Thomas Hobson, Willie Mullins' Doncaster Cup winner, and Mount Mariah, who ran a big race at odds of 50-1 in this last year and who's come in for market support this week.

    In the 2.00, the Champion Sprint Stakes, the market is led by the 2016 winner The Tin Man and the 2017 winner Librisa Breeze. Slight preference is for the latter but at much bigger odds don't rule out a good showing from Projection, who won a Group 3 on soft ground over course and distance two weeks ago.

    In the Champion Fillies and Mares at 2.40, Hydrangea could be each way value at around 8-1. Aidan O'Brien's filly has only beaten three horses home in her last two starts, but this will be the first time she's encountered soft ground since winning the same race twelve months ago.

    The QE2 at 3.00 is a mouthwatering clash of the best milers, and you could make out an each-way case for several of the runners. Roaring Lion has the best form and is the highest rated, and even though he is dropping back in trip, he still rates the likeliest winner. French raider Recoletos, a winner five times on ground ranging from good-to-soft to very soft, is, however, a big danger. Lord Glitters (who won on the card last year) and Addeybb have something to find on the book, but they'll definitely go on the ground. Laurens has been in great form, but the best each-way value in the field at around 14-1, could be Happily, whose last win was on the soft ground at Chantilly last October.

    The Champion Stakes at 3.50 should end up being a duel between last year's brilliant winner Cracksman and the King George second, Crystal Ocean,  but romantics will be hoping for a bold showing from the Czech raider- and 100-1 outsider Subway  Dancer. The story of this horse's journey to Ascot is a tale in itself. On Tuesday connections were informed by the British racing authorities that the horse was not eligible to run in the UK due to the rules requiring international runners to have samples collected analyzed beforehand. The quickest the various tests could be done was four days. The owner said the horse wouldn't be traveling as there was no point, but then the authorities got back in touch to say that the tests could be done in the UK in time for the horse to run. So Subway Dancer set off from France (where he had stayed following his last race), to travel via the Channel Tunnel, in a trailer,  to the UK. But the French authorities don't permit this, so instead Subway Dancer came by ferry. Marketa Hind reports that Martin Wolf, the owner, says his gelding is in his 'best ever form' and he's very positive about the race.  There's no problem if the Czech raider takes it up from the front, or comes from behind. It's worth noting that Subway's two wins have come on good to the soft and soft ground and his best run this year came when he was second to Talismanic in a Group 3 at Deauville. He faces a tall task to win as he's rated 21lbs inferior to Crystal Ocean,  but let's hope he can at least win back entry fees and travel expenses for his very sporting connections.

    Nations League Reflections

    We've just had the latest round of UEFA Nations League matches and what have we learned? Firstly, the decline of Germany wasn't just a freak event in the World Cup. Last weekend Joachim Low's men lost 3-0 in Holland, then on Tuesday, they lost 2-1 in France. You could say there was no disgrace in that last result against the World Champions but Germany have now won just three of their last 13 matches. How long can Low keep his job?

    England, by contrast, built on their promising World Cup with a 0-0 draw away at their semi-final conquerors Croatia, and then registered a historic 3-2 win in Spain. It was the first time England had won in Spain since 1987 and La Furia Roja's first home defeat in a competitive fixture for 15 years. Russia is another side who've built on World Cup success, registering a quick double against Turkey which has put them at the top of their group.

    For the Republic of Ireland and Scotland though there was more disappointment. Ireland has regressed since the 2016 Euros and is in danger of relegation from their group following defeat at home to Wales. It's not just the results that irk supporters, but the team's boring style of play- which has seen 9 of their last 12 matches produce less than 2.5 goals.  The embedded Paddy Power tweet below captures the frustration of Ireland fans with the current management perfectly.

    Playing in a more attacking way wouldn't guarantee better results, but it would be much more fun.

    Football Predictions

    The Premiership returns this weekend with the match of the round being Chelsea v Man Utd at 12.30pm on Saturday. Was United's come-from-behind 3-2 win vs Newcastle two weeks ago a genuine turning point, or will it prove to have been another false dawn?

    The trends stats favor the home side. Jose Mourinho has lost 1-0 on all three occasions he's returned to Chelsea as Man Utd manager and it's six years since his team's last League win at Stamford Bridge. Elsewhere Tottenham faces a potentially tricky fixture at West Ham, who they have lost away to three times in the last five season, while Eddie Howe's Bournemouth will be hoping to keep their cracking start going home to South Coast rivals Southampton. 

    Here are my Premier League, SPL and Friday night Championship predictions:

    EPL:

    AFC BOURNEMOUTH  3 SOUTHAMPTON 2

    CARDIFF 2 FULHAM 2

    CHELSEA 2 MAN UTD 1

    HUDDERSFIELD 0 LIVERPOOL 1

    MAN CITY 2 BURNLEY 0

    NEWCASTLE 0 BRIGHTON 0

    WEST HAM 2 TOTTENHAM 1

    WOLVES 1 WATFORD 0

    EVERTON 2 CRYSTAL PALACE 1

    ARSENAL 3 LEICESTER 1

    SPL:

    CELTIC I HIBS 0

    HEARTS 1 ABERDEEN 1

    LIVINGSTONE 2 DUNDEE 1

    MOTHERWELL 0 ST JOHNSTONE 1

    ST MIRREN 1 KILMARNOCK 3

    HAMILTON 1 RANGERS 3

    Championship: SHEFFIELD WEDNESDAY 1 MIDDLESBROUGH 1

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    horse racing, Qipco Champions Day, Ascot
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