With just over a month to wait, the Qipco Champions Day, horseracing’s newest innovation is already beginning to makes the mouths of horse racing fans everywhere salivate.
Champions Day will take place on Saturday 15th October at Ascot Racecourse and will feature five races, all in different categories with the winners of each being crowned King or Queen of that particular category.
The day starts with Qipco British Champions Long Distance Cup, which although being a new race and is only granted Group Three status, the prize money on offer is the second highest ever paid for an all aged long distance race. It will be run over two miles with a first prize of over £113,000 being granted to the winner. Amongst the runners expected to be in the field are Ascot Gold Cup winner, Fame And Glory along with Goodwood Cup winner, Opinion Poll, who was second behind Fame And Glory at Ascot.
Next up is the Qipco Fillies & Mares Stakes which will be run over 1½ miles which is aimed at crowning the best middle distance filly or mare. The race has taken over the place on the annual racing programme from the Group Two Pride Stakes, which was run at Newmarket and for the first year will be raced as a Group Two. However the prize money and race conditions clearly make it a Group One and the field of runners will reflect its real status. Horses of the calibre of Blue Bunting, Banimpire, Gertrude Bell, Midday and Snow Fairy will be expected to be in the field.
The third race of the day will be the Qipco Champion Sprint Stakes over six furlongs, which will take over from the Group Two Diadem Stakes and for the first year at least will be run as a Group Two. Prize money is over £250,000 with the winner claiming over £140,000 and the second nearly £54,000. It will be run over exactly the same course as the Golden Jubilee Stakes and is expected to attract the winner of that race as well as the other top sprinters around. Dream Ahead, already a dual Group One Sprint winner this season, from the David Simcock stable is likely to go off as the favourite.
One of the most eagerly awaited races on Champions Day will be the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes over one mile which has always informally been recognised as a race that will crown Europe’s Champion Miler. It has been boosted by a further £250,000 in prize money and now has a value of one million pounds with £567,000 going to the winner and £215,000 going to the second. It will become Europe’s richest ever mile race and one of the most valuable in the world. Undoubtedly, it will be the Henry Cecil trained, 2000 Guineas winner, Frankel who will go off as the favourite and who is being rapidly regarded as the best miler seen since the great Brigadier Gerrard, who won this race twice back in the early 70’s.
Last but hardly least will be the Group One Qipco Champion Stakes over ten furlongs which is set to become Britain’s richest ever race with prize money of over £1.3m on offer. It will overtake both the Epsom Derby and the King George V & Queen Elizabeth Stakes in terms of prize money with the winner receiving over £738,000 for his efforts and the runner up earning almost £280,000. The race was previously run at Newmarket.
Antepost favourite for the race is the Aidan O’Brien trained, Australian import, So You Think, but much will depend on who runs or not in the Arc de Triomphe which takes place two weeks previously. Others with an entry include Frankel, although he looks certain to race in the Queen Elizabeth Stakes, Sarafina current favourite for the ‘Arc’ could be in the field as well as the winner for the last two years, Twice Over.
This new feature meeting promises to be a huge success for British Racing and whilst it make take a couple of years to attract the international flavour of the Royal Meeting it can establish itself as a great day’s racing at the end of the season, providing an opportunity for trainers to run their horses ahead of a tilt at the Breeders Cup which is raced in early November every year.