Preview Of British Champions Day 2014 At Ascot
Qipco British Champions Day is the culmination of the British Champions Series and features the finals of the five divisions of the series. First held in October 2011 the meeting was created by amalgamating several historic races from Ascot and Newmarket’s end of season cards. These were the Diadem Stakes and Queen Elizabeth 11 Stakes from Ascot and the Champion Stakes, Jockey Club Cup and Pride Stakes from Newmarket. In the new fixture, these became the finals of each of the divisions of the British Champions Series. While the Queen Elizabeth 11 Stakes and Champion Stakes retained their original titles the Diadem Stakes became the British Champions Sprint, the Jockey Club Cup became the British Champions Long Distance Cup and the Pride Stakes became the British Champions Fillies’ And Mares Stakes.
1.45 THE BRITISH CHAMPIONS LONG DISTANCE CUP ( GROUP 2 )
There are 7 races in the British Champions Long distance Series and vary in distance from the extended 1m 6f of the Ladbrokes St Leger to the 2m 4f of the Gold Cup at Royal Ascot making the 2m distance for the category final ideal. The race offers £300k in prize money and is a Group 1 contest in all but name, won most recently by Royal Diamond in 2013 following Fame And Glory ( 2011 ) and Rite Of Passage ( 2012 ).
62 Entries for this stamina test in which the first two in the Ascot Gold Cup, Leading Light and Estimate, are possible runners together with recent runaway Irish St Leger winner Brown Panther. Other interesting possibilities are Ebor winner Mutual Regard, the injury-prone 2012 winner Rite Of Passage and Doncaster St Leger runner-up Romsdal.
2.20 QIPCO BRITISH CHAMPIONS SPRINT STAKES ( GROUP 2 )
This 6f contest is the grand finale to the Qipco British Champions Series Sprint category and boasts prize money of £350k, up £100k on last year. Won 12 months ago by Slade Power who has proven himself to be the best 6f sprinter in Europe this season but Edward Lynam’s charge is unlikely to defend his title with a valuable race in the Far East a more likely objective. Deacon Blues was the first winner in 2011 while Maarek won in 2012 before going on to land the Group 1 Prix de L’Abbaye at Longchamp. There is every chance that the race will be upgraded to Group 1 status for it’s 4th renewal in 2015.
The two horses at the head of the ante-post market are G Force and Sole Power at 4-1 but with the latter needing decent ground to show his best, especially over 6f, the going on the day is sure to prove crucial. The same applies to recent impressive Portland Handicap winner Muthmir ( 10-1 Skybet ) and Betfred Sprint Cup third Music Master so on the basis that there is likely to be plenty of give in the ground by mid October the two to concentrate on at this early stage are Gordon Lord Byron and 2012 winner Maarek, available at 8-1 and 14-1 respectively with Coral.
2.55 QIPCO BRITISH CHAMPIONS FILLIES’ AND MARES STAKES ( GROUP 1 )
The climax of the seven-race Qipco British Champions Series Fillies and Mares category was elevated to Group 1 status in 2013 and the 1m 4f contest has prize money of £550k. The first running in 2011 was won by that season’s Oaks heroine Dancing Rain while the Irish filly Sapphire took the race in 2012 and 12 months ago the James Fanshawe-trained Seal Of Approval ran out a shock winner beating the likes of Oaks winner Talent and French filly Dalkala.
Of the 39 entries there is an even split between three-year-olds ( 20 ) and the older generations ( 19 ) and while Oaks winner Taghrooda is still in the mix a trip to France for the Prix de L’Arc de Triomphe is a more likely target. Tapestry, Tarfasha and Zarshana are interesting from the younger generation while Chiquita and Pomology catch the eye among the older brigade.
3.30 THE QUEEN ELIZABETH II STAKES ( GROUP 1 )
Established in 1955 and originally run in September the first three runnings went to French-trained challengers and the one mile contest was upgraded from Group 2 to Group 1 status in 1987. It was switched to October in 2011 when it became part of the British Champions Series when it’s prize money was increased fourfold to a massive £1 million. The great miler Brigadier Gerard and Rose Bowl are the only dual winners, both in the 1970’s, and other high-class horses to have proved victorious include Kris, Zilzal and Dubai Millennium. The first running under the British Champions banner in 2011 could not have worked out better for the innovation as the race went to the great Frankel who beat Excelebration in impressive fashion. The runner-up there went one better the following year in the absence of the Henry Cecil-trained champion while the most recent running was won by Olympic Glory.
This year’s race looked at the mercy of the latest miling star in Kingman until connections announced the colt a far from certain starter due to a throat infection since when the ante-post market has been suspended. If John Gosden’s charge turns up he is impossible to oppose as he has looked invincible since finishing a controversial second in the Qipco 2000 Guineas but if missing the race the likes of Toronado, Night Of Thunder, Olympic Glory and the French-trained Charm Spirit all enter calculations as would Investec Derby winner Australia if Ballydoyle decided to drop the colt back in trip.
4.05 QIPCO CHAMPION STAKES ( GROUP 1 )
Established in 1877 and run at Newmarket until 2011 when it became the middle-distance final of the British Champions Series. Now worth £1.3 million the race takes place over a distance of 1m 2f and boasts a long and distinguished history, being won by many great horses down the years. There have been several dual winners including Brigadier Gerard, Triptych and Alborada but only one horse has been successful on three occasions, Tristan in 1882/83/84. The French-trained popular gelding Cirrus Des Aigles won the first running in it’s new format in 2011 followed by the swan song of the unbeaten Frankel 12 months later, the latest renewal going to the Godolphin inmate Farhh.
Another great race is likely this year with a host of top class horses entered although many have Longchamp’s Prix de L’Arc de Triomphe as their first port of call including Investec Oaks winner Taghrooda and 2013 Derby winner Ruler Of The World. Four horses who look more than possible starters are Australia, Free Eagle, Cirrus Des Aigles and The Grey Gatsby. The most interesting contender is Free Eagle who had a lofty reputation as a juvenile until injury struck but on his first run for more than a year the Dermot Weld colt created a big impression when running out a most impressive winner at Leopardstown recently and the son of High Chaparral could yet fulfil his huge potential but the most popular winner would be the evergreen Cirrus Des Aigles who, granted cut in the ground, should take some beating at the 7-2 generally available.