The winners of no fewer than 64 Group 1 races, including 15 European Classics, have been entered for the £4.1m QIPCO British Champions Day at Ascot on Saturday 17th October, the nation’s richest raceday and the first time that a single British card has featured four Group 1 races.
Amongst the 232 entries (attached) for a quintet of Pattern Races are the outstanding three-year-olds from both the Middle Distance and Mile divisions of QIPCO British Champions Series, Golden Horn and Gleneagles; the best older miler in Europe, Solow; and the new sprint sensation, Muhaarar.
A strong continental presence is assured, with 16 French trainers having entries plus four from Germany, while there is the added bonus of a rare challenger from Singapore in the shape of Emperor Max.
Rod Street, Chief Executive of the British Champions Series, said: “We’re delighted with the strength and depth of this year’s QIPCO British Champions Day entries which include some of the most exciting horses in training from across Europe and even as far afield as Singapore, making it a truly international affair.”
“With an enhanced £4.1 million in prize money on offer this year, the day has become one of the most exciting in the global calendar and a fitting event on which to crown our sport’s champions.”
“Earlier in the year we were thrilled to announce that QIPCO had extended their sponsorship of British Champions Series and British Champions Day for the next 10 years and this investment will be key in further helping us to grow and maintain it as Britain’s richest raceday.”
QIPCO Champion Stakes (Group 1)
The £1.3m QIPCO Champion Stakes is the richest mile and a quarter race in Europe and has attracted 46 entries, up from 37 last year.
Potential runners include the Prince of Wales’s Stakes winner, and last year’s third-placed horse, Free Eagle, the evergreen Cirrus des Aigles, together with the unbeaten Derby winner, Golden Horn, recent King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes hero, Postponed, and Time Test, a hugely impressive scorer in the Tercentenary Stakes at Royal Ascot.
The Grey Gatsby who ran creditably at Royal Ascot and most recently in the Coral Eclipse, is entered for Kevin Ryan whilst an international line-up of entries includes dual Guineas winner, Gleneagles (who also holds an entry in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes sponsored by QIPCO), while Germany could rely on its own Guineas victor, Karpino.
The highest money-earner in the history of European racing, Cirrus des Aigles, is the only horse to have run in all four renewals of QIPCO British Champions Day since its inception in 2011 and is set to make it five straight appearances in the QIPCO Champion Stakes. He won it in 2011 and has subsequently finished second twice and fifth last year.
Winner of the Group 1 Prix Ganay back in May but not seen on a racecourse since suffering a fetlock injury a few weeks later, his trainer, Corine Barande-Barbe, said: “Cirrus des Aigles is recovering well from his injury and is on schedule to run in the Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardstown as a prep race for the QIPCO Champion Stakes at Ascot, with the Prix Dollar a possibility in between the two.”
“Champions Day is always a great occasion with exceptionally strong competition, especially in the QIPCO Champion Stakes.”
Queen Elizabeth II Stakes sponsored by QIPCO (Group 1)
The richest mile race in Europe (£1.1 million), has attracted 36 entries with Richard Hannon no doubt having high hopes of improving a place or two with last year’s placegetters, Night of Thunder and Toormore. However, the race named after the British monarch could again have a French conqueror.
The cross-Channel raiding party could include the 2014 French 2000 Guineas winner, Karakontie, this year’s French 1000 Guineas and Coronation Stakes scorer, Ervedya, and Gleneagles’s closest pursuer from this season’s QIPCO 2000 Guineas, Territories.
But it will be led by Solow, who has already plundered two QIPCO British Champions Series mile races this term and hails from the yard of Freddy Head which landed this event in 2014 with Charm Spirit.
Head said: “Solow is very well and he has come out of last week’s victory in the Qatar Sussex Stakes looking beautiful. The plan is to wait for the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes now – it will not matter if it rains in October.”
“He will not run again before QIPCO British Champions Day because, as a gelding, there are no suitable races for him while the only possible prep race comes on Arc day which is a bit too close to Ascot.”
“It is very difficult to compare Charm Spirit and Solow as they are different ages. Charm Spirit was a very good horse and it is tough to choose between the pair.”
QIPCO British Champions Fillies & Mares Stakes (Group 1)
The £550,000 contest, one of the richest all-aged fillies & mares races in Europe, was won last year by the David Simcock-trained Madame Chiang who is again among the 52 entries. This confirmed soft ground performer has had limited opportunities during this campaign but recently finished fourth in the King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes (sponsored by QIPCO).
Jennie Simcock, representing her husband, said: “The plan is for her to return to Ascot on QIPCO British Champions Day. It is a fantastic day to be involved in and last year was a very special win for her owner-breeder, Kirsten Rausing, and all her team.”
“We were very pleased with her King George run as it was not a long-intended plan to run there so the race will have brought her on. She has come out of it absolutely fine.”
Other potential contenders include a pair of this season’s Classic winners in the shape of Covert Love, who landed the Irish Oaks, and the Irish 1000 Guineas heroine, Pleascach. The Dubai Sheema Classic winner and Investec Coronation Cup runner-up, Dolniya, looks like the leading French candidate here, while the German-trained Italian Oaks winner, Lovelyn, may venture over from Cologne for trainer Peter Schiergen.
QIPCO British Champions Sprint (Group 1)
Upgraded from Group 2 since last year and given a massive 71 per cent prize money injection to reach its current value of £600,000, the QIPCO British Champions Sprint has been rewarded with the attraction of a Singapore raider, Emperor Max, and the bright young thing of European sprinting, Muhaarar, among its 48 entries.
Emperor Max will be only the second Singapore-trained horse to run in Britain – the first, Bocelli, finished down the field in the 2001 renewal of the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes.
Twice runner-up in Singapore’s top sprint, the KrisFlyer International Sprint, Emperor Max is owned and was bred by a pair of brothers, Gordon and Ernie Yau, who fell in love with British racing when studying at medical school in London.
“We love Emperor Max, he is like one of the family,” said Gordon Yau.
“We know it is a big ask for him to perform to his best after travelling around the world and racing on an undulating track for the first time,” Ernie Yau added. “But he never lets us down and it will be a great honour to have the horse that we bred competing at the prestigious QIPCO British Champions Day.”
The hopes of Ireland may centre around two previous winners of this race – Gordon Lord Byron (in 2014) and Maarek (2012), whilst sprint specialist Edward Lynam holds three entries with Anthem Alexander, Fort Del Oro and Gathering Power, and Dermot Weld enters Mustajeeb.
Trainer Charlie Hills holds the key to the home challenge with his stable star, Muhaarar, potentially joined by three other runners, Magical Memory, Strath Burn and Cotai Glory.
Muhaarar has already landed two QIPCO British Champions Series events this summer in the Commonwealth Cup and the Darley July Cup. And the other trio are classy performers too – Magical Memory ran away with the Stewards’ Cup last Saturday while Strath Burn and Cotai Glory are both Group 3 winners.
Hills said: “The boost in status and prizemoney has definitely made the QIPCO British Champions Sprint an even more attractive target and it is under serious consideration for Muhaarar. He is already a course and distance winner and soft ground would be fine for him.”
“Magical Memory has come out of the Stewards’ Cup really well but this would represent a big step up for him, so we will look for a Listed or Group 3 race beforehand. Strath Burn and Cotai Glory are three-year-olds going in the right direction and if things go right for them between now and October we may have a look at this race for them too.”
QIPCO British Champions Long Distance Cup (Group 2)
The £300,000 QIPCO British Champions Long Distance Cup has both last year’s winner, Forgotten Rules, and the reigning Ascot Gold Cup winner, Trip To Paris, among its 50 entries together with Big Orange and Quest For More, the two horses that beat Trip To Paris after a thrilling battle for last week’s Qatar Goodwood Cup.
Also engaged are the dual French St Leger hero, Tac de Boistron, the biggest prize money winner in British racing history, Red Cadeaux, and Michael Owen’s Brown Panther, who finally broke through at Group 1 level when landing last September’s Irish St Leger.
But, if there is to be a fairytale success here it will surely be down to Clever Cookie, the gelding bred by the mother of his North Yorkshire trainer, Peter Niven, who began his career competing for less than £2,000 in National Hunt Flat Races.
He has relentlessly risen through the ranks until contesting the King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes last time out, finishing fifth. Niven said: “The QIPCO British Champions Long Distance Cup has been the aim for Clever Cookie all season. He came out of the King George absolutely fine.”
“We took a chance that day and he was probably out of his depth slightly over a mile and a half. The Long Distance Cup is the perfect race for him in regards to trip and hopefully the ground will suit.”
“We thought about supplementing him last year but it came at the end of a busy campaign and at a great cost so we decided to swerve it. This year we will go with a fresh horse and hopefully go with a big chance.”
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