The long-anticipated clash of the season looks set to be on with star milers Solow and Gleneagles set to lock horns on Britain’s richest raceday, the £4,264,385 QIPCO British Champions Day, at Ascot on Saturday 17th October, following the unveiling of the five-day entries at a livestreaming event at Tattersalls in Newmarket today (Monday).
Other star attractions include one of Europe’s top-rated sprinters, Muhaarar, whilst there is set to be a tantalising clash between Classic winners, Covert Love and Simple Verse in the QIPCO British Champions Fillies’ and Mares’ Stakes.
Premier Enclosure tickets for this spectacular fixture have sold out but Grandstand Admission tickets are still available for £30, with a small number of free student tickets also available. Please visitwww.britishchampionsseries.comto purchase.
The thrilling action on track kicks off at the earlier time of 12.45pm with the Group 2 QIPCO British Champions Long Distance Cup and gates on the day open at 10.30am.
The card then features four consecutive Group 1 races – the first time such quality has been on offer at a British meeting – before drawing to a close at 3.45pm with the second running of Europe’s richest mile handicap, the £250,000 Balmoral Handicap (sponsored by QIPCO).
Sheikh Fahad Al Thani of sponsors QIPCO said: “We are very proud that QIPCO British Champions Day has cemented itself as one of the leading race days of the year in the European and World calendars. We are very happy to see international participation too.
“We try to support racing, we love racing, it’s always been in our blood. Year on year we try to improve and see better horses and that’s what we’re getting now. We hope to have a winner [in the Qatar Racing colours], that’s the main goal from the start of the season, to get a winner or two on Champions Day.”
Jack Hobbs, the Irish Derby winner, heads a 15-strong entry for the last of seven QIPCO British Champions Series races in the Middle Distance division, the £1,358,7509 QIPCO Champion Stakes over a mile and a quarter.
There has been one supplementary entry at a cost of £75,000, the Group 3 Winter Hill Stakes winner, Racing History, while Cirrus des Aigles is one of three potential French challengers and set to extend his record as the only horse to have competed at every running of QIPCO British Champions Day since its inauguration in 2011.
John Gosden, trainer of Jack Hobbs, said: “We deliberately freshened him up after the Irish Derby. He’s a big rangy colt.
“The Classic horses have been on the go from February 1st and have done enough by the end of June. We were pleased with his comeback at Kempton, it was a nice race and nice day out for him. It’s a contentious race as ever and that kind of money attracts lots of key horses.
“I think the key is the draw. If you get drawn wide you hit that bend at Swinley Bottom very fast. We want to be drawn 1-8, let’s hope nobody feels hard done by.
“He won over the mile and quarter first time out when green before getting a bit lost in the Dante. He then ran over 1m 3f last time and he has a lot of tactical speed. His father was at his best at 1m and a quarter, so he’s happy with both.
“We’re lucky it’s drying, it’ll ride on the slow side of good but it shouldn’t be too much of an inconvenience for the horses.”
David Simcock, trainer of The Corsican, said: “He’s come out of his race [at Newbury] very well and we’re happy with him. He did a good piece of work on Saturday and we’re all systems go.
“He’s at his best on fast ground and his Prince Of Wales’s run, when he got stopped in his run, would have been his best run so far. He’s improved since then, he’s running over his best trip and we’re looking forward to running him.
“We’re quietly confident in this horse, he’s getting quicker and improving all the time. Jack Hobbs is the stand out horse and a fair way above the majority of the field. And the draw is going to be massive – I’d like a 1-5 draw.”
The duel between Solow and Gleneagles, which was first hoped for back in July in the Qatar Sussex Stakes only for Gleneagles to be scratched, could finally take place on Saturday as both horses are among the 12 entries remaining for the Group 1 £1.1 million Queen Elizabeth II Stakes sponsored by QIPCO which is run over Ascot’s straight mile.
Other top contenders here include the brilliant winner of the Group 2 Celebration Mile at Goodwood, Kodi Bear, plus the Group 1-winning juvenile, Elm Park, who will be dropping back in trip having run in the Investec Derby over a mile and a half in June, and a pair of multiple Group 1 scorers from the Andre Fabre yard, Esoterique and Territories.
Kevin Buckley, the British representative for Coolmore Stud, owner of Gleneagles, said: “He’s in very good form and will do a little piece of work during the week. We’ll keep our eye on the weather and we’ve got our fingers crossed and hopefully he’ll run.
He was ready for the Sussex, then the Jacques Le Marois and then we looked at the Juddmonte and the Irish Champion – it’s been disappointing and it’s been very difficult.”
Clive Cox, trainer of Kodi Bear, said: “He’s very much at home on the ground and he’s had a nice chance to freshen up since the Celebration Mile. I’m thrilled with the progress he’s shown throughout the year. He’s been very convincing albeit this is another step up. We’re hoping for a big run on Saturday.”
Muhaarar will bid for his fourth consecutive Group 1 victory in the QIPCO British Champions Sprint Stakes over six furlongs – a race which has attracted 21 entries including Muhaarar’s Charlie Hills-trained stablemate, Strath Burn.
Other notable entries here include the horse who touched off Strath Burn in the Group 1 Betfred Sprint Cup, Twilight Son, and the first ever QIPCO British Champions Day runner from outside Europe, the Singaporean-trained Emperor Max. The Tin Man has been supplemented at a cost of £40,000, taking the race’s overall value to £632,505.
Charlie Hills, trainer of Muhaarar and Strath Burn, said: “Muhaarar needed a break, he had three pretty hard races in quick succession so we’ve freshened him up and I couldn’t be more pleased with him. We took him to Lingfield for a spin over 6 furlongs and Paul [Hanagan] was very happy. We’re going in pretty confident.
“He’s physically come on well and has a huge amount of talent, we know he likes Ascot. We’re happy with conditions, it’s on the slow side of good but a dry forecast will help.
“Strath Burn has thrived since Haydock. I couldn’t be more pleased with the way he looks. He did a great bit of work and will get better with age. He could run a big race on Saturday.
“Strath Burn and Muhaarar have never work together but I’m looking forward to Saturday. Whatever Strath Burn does this year is a bonus.”
Stephen Gray, trainer of Emperor Max, said: “He turned up in England last Saturday (October 3rd) and has been fantastic. It’s a new experience for us all and a big challenge but he’s the sort of horse who can do it. He has a great temperament and has settled in better than we did.
“We don’t know how his form will stack up but he’s a very good horse and has come second in two international sprints. We’ve taken our time with him and he’s had an English preparation with just three starts.
“Corey Brown rides him in Singapore and when you come on these ventures you come as a team. He’s ridden some fantastic races on him and if this works out we want Corey to be the one who was with him.”
The 2015 Classic winners Covert Love and Simple Verse are set to take each other on in an international renewal of the Group 1 QIPCO British Champions Fillies & Mares Stakes which has attracted 16 five-day entries from four different countries.
Covert Love, the Irish Oaks heroine, is set to reappear less than two weeks after landing the Group 1 Prix de l’Opera while Simple Verse will revert to taking on members of her own sex having seen off the colts in the Ladbrokes St Leger. John Gosden’s Journey is the solitary supplementary entry here (at a cost of £35,000) so the race will have a total value of £578,130.
Hugo Palmer, trainer of Covert Love, said: "She’s been amazing since the Prix de l’Opera. I’m bowled over by how fresh she’s been since she came back. She went to Paris and had what looked like a tough race and but she barely blew afterwards.
She lost 8kg in the whole thing and you can lose more than that racing at Newmarket. She’s taken everything well and is eating up.”
“She’s certainly outstayed Jazzi Top and I think if we’d had another half a furlong we’d have won more easily. I have no concerns coming back to a mile and a half."
“We didn’t make all in the Irish Oaks but she likes to go forward. We’re not going to get in to a battle for the lead but we’re happy to take it up.”
Ralph Beckett, trainer of Simple Verse, said: “She worked this morning and worked well. We’re very happy with her. We run. We know she’s beaten the colts but running against her own sex is the key to running in this race [instead of the QIPCO Long Distance Cup].”
“I think she’s improved as the year has gone on – she’s battle-hardened and a mile and a half won’t hold any concerns. She doesn’t seem dependent on ground. She won on fast in the summer.”
“I think she’s surprised herself [with her progress] never mind the rest of us. It’s been great fun and we’ve had a great trip – hopefully we can finish it off on Saturday.”
Fourteen horses remain in the Group 2 £345,000 QIPCO British Champions Long Distance Cup including three supplementary entries at a cost of £18,000 - Amour de Nuit, Gale Force and Hidden Gold.
Last year’s winner, Forgotten Rules is set to make the line-up as well as the recent Doncaster Cup winner Pallasator for trainer Sir Mark Prescott, who is also responsible for Amour de Nuit. Willie Mullins is another trainer who has multiple entries with Clondaw Warrior, Simenon and Wicklow Brave all still entered.
Agent Murphy, the Irish St. Leger runner-up, will be bidding for a fifth career success here. His trainer, Brian Meehan, said: “He’s been very consistent all summer. We’re pleased with him and he was consistent at the Curragh again the other day.
“The Irish Leger was a big target for him so it made sense to follow up here. He’s fine – he was good at Newbury with cut in the ground but he’s very versatile.
“It looks a very open race – he’s the horse they have to beat and he’s getting battle-hardened. He’s in really good shape. Looking at him a couple of days ago, I haven’t seen him look as good all year.”
Bronze Angel, the winner of last year’s inaugural £250,000 Balmoral Handicap (sponsored by QIPCO) is on target to bid for a repeat victory. 31 horses stood their ground at the five-day entry stage for this, Europe’s richest mile handicap.
Marcus Tregoning, trainer of Bronze Angel, said: “The Cambridgeshire was a non-event for him. He came out of it fine and went in to the field the day afterwards. He seems in great form, he has more weight than he used to have but he’s in good form.
“I think he’s as good as ever, Louis Steward will ride him again at Ascot and he gets on with him very well. We don’t always have a going day but he’s won two Cambridgeshires and an awful lot of prize money. He’s been a real flagbearer for us.”