The 2020 Flat season at Ascot comes to a close with QIPCO British Champions Day, the most valuable race day in the country and a brilliant showcase of the quality that exists throughout British racing. This is the tenth edition of the showpiece Autumn event and everywhere you look there are stories ready to capture the imagination.
Stradivarius, one of the true stars of the sport, opens the card bidding for a second victory in the QIPCO British Champions Long Distance Cup. The three-time Gold Cup winner has been the outstanding stayer over recent years and will be a warm order back up in trip after his run in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe. He has proven vulnerable at this time of year though, just touched off in this race by Kew Gardens last year, and dual Irish St Leger winner Search For A Song is an improving filly who could pose a genuine threat.
Dream Of Dreams heads the market in the QIPCO British Champions Sprint Stakes and he arrives here after an excellent season including victory in the Group 1 Sprint Cup. He was chased home that day by Glen Shiel who opposes again and could run well at a track he likes while One Master and Oxted have both won at the top level this season.
The QIPCO British Champions Fillies & Mares Stakes looks a fiercely competitive renewal and a case could be made for any number of the 12 runners. The Prix Vermeille at Longchamp in September looks the most obvious form line to start with where Dame Malliot was third behind subsequent Group 1 winner Tarnawa and Raabihah who ran well in the Arc.
Behind Ed Vaughan’s filly in the Prix Vermeille was Wonderful Tonight, who also went on to win a Group 1 on Arc weekend, and Even So, the Irish Oaks winner. Both reoppose but Dame Malliot arrives a fresher horse and will be a popular choice to give Hollie Doyle a first Group 1 winner.
If there is to be one standout equine star on the card this year it is most likely to be found in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes where the unbeaten Palace Pier bids to enhance an already burgeoning reputation. Victories in the St James’s Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot and the Jacques le Marois in France have earned him an official rating of 126, making him the second highest rated horse on the planet. On that evidence he should have no trouble adding another Group 1 to his CV but this is a deep renewal of one of the most prestigious mile races in the world.
French raider The Revenant went close in this last year and had an ideal preparation at Longchamp two weeks ago. Circus Maximus is a dual Royal Ascot winner including the Queen Anne Stakes this year while Nazeef continues to improve having won the Sun Chariot Stakes last time out.
Magical bids to become the 14th multiple winner of the Champion Stakes in the penultimate race after success last year for Aidan O’Brien. If she does win again, she will become the first horse to win three times on Champions Day after taking the Fillies & Mares Stakes in 2018. She will have every chance after producing a career-best effort to win the Irish Champion Stakes in September but Addeybb will pose credible opposition again while the Prince of Wales’s Stakes winner Lord North and French Derby winner Mishriff add real quality to the field.
In the concluding Balmoral Handicap, course favourites Raising Sand, Blue Mist and Kynren should all run well. Keats is a rare runner in a British handicap for Aidan O’Brien and has to be feared but Raaeq was ultra-impressive over seven furlongs here last time and runs under a penalty. The extra furlong looks sure to suit and he could take a lot of beating for the all-conquering Hamdan Al Maktoum and Jim Crowley combination.