Balding hopes to deliver Power surge on Champions Day
Leicester City's late owner Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha achieved a fairytale Premier League title success but he also had big ambitions in racing and on Saturday four of his horses bid for glory on British racing's richest raceday Champions Day at Ascot.
His blue and white colours -- running under the King Power title -- have enjoyed success this season with over 50 winners and £1million ($1.3million) in prize money.
Saturday's meeting comes almost a year since Vichai was killed along with four others in a helicopter crash shortly after taking off from Leicester's stadium.
The cast for Champions Day, whilst not boasting world beaters like Enable, still has sufficient talent to thwart trainer Andrew Balding's hopes of welcoming back a King Power winner in what is England's richest raceday with over £4million in prizemoney on offer.
"The 'Chairman' (Vichai) loved Ascot we (he and King Power's other trainers) had a mandate to run horses there in the big races and we are maintaining that tradition," Balding told AFP.
Balding, who has had over 120 winners this season from his 190 strong stable, said he had been very lucky to be in the "first foray" when selected by the Thai duty free magnate.
His quartet on Saturday -- Cleonte in the Stayers, Donjuan Triumphant in the Sprint, Happy Power in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes and Fox Tal in The Champion Stakes -- are all horses Vichai treasured.
"'The Chairman' was the driving force," said Balding.
"All those running on Saturday were purchased by him and named by him.
"We (at the stables) have all felt a desire to fulfil his ambition to provide good winners.
"We do not reflect on his death but we think of him when there are winners and the joy it would bring him."
- 'Very smart horse' -
Balding, the son of retired trainer Ian who was most notable for training the legendary Mill Reef who won the 1971 Epsom Derby and Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, said he was not running them for the sake of it.
Or to please Vichai's son Aiyawatt 'Top' Srivaddhanaprabha, who has assumed the reins at both the football club and the racing operation.
However, Balding believes he is more likely to be present in the director's box at Leicester's home match with Burnley on Saturday than be in the paddock at Ascot.
"They (the runners) are at big prices but deserve to be there and it has always been the intention to run them," said Balding.
"They like give in the ground which they will certainly get."
Balding, 46, says Fox Tal is his pick of the quartet in the nine runner Champion Stakes which is worth over £770,000 to the winner and Japan's Deirdre and fellow mare Coronet -- trainer John Gosden bidding for a third successive win in the race -- are class acts but eminently beatable.
"Fox Tal is one we rate very highly," said Balding.
"He does lack the experience of the other runners because of a very long lay-off but he is a very smart horse and will be even better next year."
Gosden provides the one genuine superstar of the meeting in stayer Stradivarius who will put on the line his 10-race unbeaten run stretching back to when he finished third in the Long Distance Cup -- the race he contests on Saturday and which he won last year -- two years ago.
However, due to incessant rain Gosden says he will walk the track on Saturday to ensure conditions are bearable for Stradivarius.
"I shall then discuss everything with Mr (Bjorn) Nielsen (his owner)," said Gosden.
"Last year we discussed it and decided to run and I hope that it's the same this year."
© 2019 AFP