Star horses align for 10th QIPCO British Champions Day
A host of the world’s finest horses are entered for what is set to be a blockbuster 10th edition of QIPCO British Champions Day at Ascot on Saturday 17th October.
Potential runners include the current Longines World’s Best Racehorse Ghaiyyath, who has an entry in the QIPCO Champion Stakes, and Palace Pier, who recently preserved his unbeaten record with a commanding performance in the Prix Jacques le Marois at Deauville.
The roll-call of entries for the richest raceday in Great Britain and the only day to feature four Group 1 prizes, also includes this year’s British Classic winners Kameko, Love and Serpentine, 2020 Irish classic winners Siskin, Peaceful, Santiago and Even So, plus two of this year’s French Classic winners, Fancy Blue and Mishriff.
The evergreen Magical is bidding to become the first horse to win races at three different QIPCO British Champions Days – she currently sits on two alongside Frankel and Cracksman.
Prize money for this year’s QIPCO British Champions Day, which this year celebrates its 10th anniversary, will stand at £2.5million, retaining its position as the richest raceday in Great Britain, despite the impact of coronavirus.
Four-time champion trainer John Gosden has a strong hand of 19 entries in total for the day, including the likes of Stradivarius, Enable, Mishriff and Enbihaar alongside the aforementioned Palace Pier.
Gosden is tied with Aidan O’Brien as the trainer with the highest number of winners at QIPCO British Champions Day with eight and he praised the raceday in its 10th anniversary year for attracting a younger crowd to the sport.
He said: “It was a very bold initiative from QIPCO and Ascot when British Champions Day was conceived, and it has worked very well. It’s done a great job confirming champions, and it’s provided a great wrap up to the European season before the Breeders’ Cup.
“One thing I noticed when I walked the track last year was that a younger crowd goes to Champions Day, so I hope we have spectators by then.
“There’s some overlap of course with the Royal Ascot crowd, but it’s in the diaries of a slightly different group and the average age when I was walking through the grandstand was in the twenties or thirties. There were teenagers too, and that’s a very healthy thing. It’s a good fun day out, and a great chance to see a lot of high-class horses.”
Andrew Balding, who is targeting QIPCO 2000 Guineas winner Kameko at the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes (sponsored by QIPCO) on the day said: “QIPCO British Champions Day has been a fantastic initiative and a credit to everyone involved. It’s been fantastic to have a British-based European championship with such tremendous prize money, and it’s something for us to be really proud of.
“If you look back over the roster of past winners since it started in 2011, I think you will find that the best horses, by and large, have been crowned champions.”
Charlie Appleby hopes to have his first QIPCO British Champions Day winner this year and outlined the importance of the day to everyone involved in British racing.
“QIPCO British Champions Day has fitted really well into the calendar and provided a great crowning event for racing’s champions with championship events over a wide range of distances,” Appleby said.
“It’s a priority event for everyone in our business, and to have a horse with a live chance is very exciting for all involved. We haven’t had a winner there yet, but we haven’t had many runners because we don’t go to these championship events on a wing and a prayer.
“Wherever Godolphin goes around the world we want to be going with a live shot, and this year I hope we might have three of them at Ascot in Ghaiyyath, Pinatubo and Space Blues.”
QIPCO Champion Stakes: Group 1
The QIPCO Champion Stakes is the richest race in Britain this year and promises to feature a mouth-watering clash between Prix Du Jockey Club winner Mishriff, who would be bidding to give John Gosden a third win in the race in four years, and the world’s best racehorse Ghaiyyath, who is unbeaten this year and took York’s Juddmonte International Stakes in sensational style just a couple of weeks ago. The pair head a stunning field of 42 entries, which also includes potential challengers from France in the shape of Sottsass, Persian King and Skalleti.
Gosden committed Mishriff to QIPCO British Champions Day last week and he is looking forward to the Prince Faisal-owned three-year-old’s bid to follow in the footsteps of Cracksman, who proved such a star for the stable and landed two runaway wins in the race.
He said: “Cracksman was a pretty smart horse, winning the Ganay and the QIPCO Champion Stakes twice, and winding up getting a very, very high rating. Hopefully Mishriff is of a similar level. We don’t know yet of course who he will meet in the QIPCO Champion Stakes, but if Ghaiyyath is there he’s there.”
Gosden, whose entries for the race include three-time King George VI & Queen Elizabeth QIPCO Stakes winner Enable, Prince Of Wales’s Stakes winner Lord North, last year’s St Leger winner Logician, and the fillies Mehdaayih, Nazeef and Terebellum added: “Mishriff has been around the place a bit, having run this year in Saudi Arabia, and then at Newmarket, Chantilly and Deauville, but his races have been quite well spaced, which does no harm, and he’s taken the travelling very well.
“We debated about where to go with him next, but he’s been very happy at a mile and a quarter and we see that as his trip, so the QIPCO Champion Stakes looks the race for him. His pedigree doesn’t exactly scream any more than that, but if he stays in training perhaps he will. That decision will be made a little later, and it will be entirely up to his owner Prince Faisal.”
A firm decision on Ghiayyath’s participation has yet to be made, but a clash with Mishriff in the QIPCO Champion Stakes remains a distinct possibility for the five-year-old, whose wins over the same distance of 1m 2f in the Coral-Eclipse and the Juddmonte International have been officially recognised as the two best on turf anywhere in the world this year.
Appleby said: “He’s got four options, and they are the Irish Champion Stakes, the QIPCO Champion Stakes, the Arc and the Breeder’s Cup. That’s two at a mile and a quarter and two at a mile and a half, and I’d like to think he’d be favourite for any of them bar the Arc.
“He was exceptional at York and has come out of the race very well, but he put in big sectionals at every stage and so we are monitoring him on a daily basis and keeping everybody informed. We don’t have to make a decision quite yet.”
He added: “It doesn’t have to be just one of those races either – far from it. It could be Irish Champion and on to the QIPCO Champion Stakes or Arc for example. Any combination is possible.”
Aidan O’Brien took the QIPCO Champion Stakes for the first time last year with Magical, who features once again alongside last year’s Grand Prix de Paris and Juddmonte International winner Japan, this year’s Investec Derby winner Serpentine and nine others in a typically powerful entry from Ballydoyle. The QIPCO 1,000 Guineas and Investec Oaks winner Love, who completed a Group 1 hat-trick in the Darley Yorkshire Oaks, is also entered.
O’Brien said: “It’s a long way away but Magical would be a possible again. She would have the Fillies & Mares as an alternative, but I would have thought the QIPCO Champion Stakes would be her race again.
“Japan is another possible, although we are looking first at the Irish weekend. Love has an entry too, and also in the Fillies and Mares, but obviously we are looking at the Arc first with her.”
William Haggas is looking forward to running last year’s runner-up Addeybb, who enjoyed a fabulous spring in Australia, when landing a hugely lucrative Group 1 double in the Ranvet Stakes and the Longines Queen Elizabeth Stakes. The six-year-old has been freshened up since his Royal Ascot second to Lord North in the Prince Of Wales’s Stakes.
Haggas said: “Addeybb will be my main runner on QIPCO British Champions Day. He’s not going back to Australia again until March, so this is very much his target.
“He had a break after Ascot as we felt he’d been on the go a long time, and we are gradually cranking him up in preparation. He’s working well, and he’ll have a run somewhere first, although I’m not sure where yet.
“The QIPCO Champion Stakes is going to be quite a race if they all turn up, and a lot will depend on the ground, but Addeybb has done really well for his break and I’m looking forward to it. I’m very happy with him.”
Alpine Star, who trailed closely behind Palace Pier in the Jacques le Marois and was also a convincing winner of the Coronation Stakes at Royal Ascot, is also entered with Jessica Harrington seeking her first QIPCO British Champions Day winner.
Pyledriver, a Royal Ascot winner this year who also impressed when winning the Group 2 Great Voltigeur at York last month, is also entered.
Queen Elizabeth II Stakes (sponsored by QIPCO): Group 1
Palace Pier will bid to establish himself as Europe’s Champion Miler in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes (sponsored by QIPCO), the richest mile race in Great Britain this year and one which the peerless Frankel won by four lengths when QIPCO British Champions Day was launched in 2011.
In what is widely being recognised as a vintage year for milers, John Gosden’s Kingman colt heads an entry of 39 horses which include the QIPCO 2000 Guineas winner Kameko, the Irish 2000 Guineas winner Siskin, last year’s outstanding two-year-old Pinatubo, and the dual Royal Ascot winner Circus Maximus.
Palace Pier staked his claim to champion miler honours when beating Alpine Star, Circus Maximus, Persian King and Romanised in the Prix Jacques Le Marois at Deauville on 16th August, having beaten Pinatubo and QIPCO 2000 Guineas runner-up Wichita in the St James’s Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot.
Gosden will be bidding for a fifth win in the race following Observatory (2000), Raven’s Pass (2008), Persuasive (2017) and Roaring Lion (2018) and is relishing the prospect. He said: “Palace Pier will go straight to Ascot for the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes. He took his race at Deauville well, and he’s been in good order since. I don’t think the ground there was ideal for him, but he coped with it.”
Kameko will revert to his best trip after a frustrating summer and bid to repeat the success of owner Qatar Racing’s 2018 champion Roaring Lion.
Trainer Andrew Balding confirmed: “Kameko will go straight to Ascot for the QIPCO Queen Elizabeth II Stakes, and then I think the intention is to keep him in training next year. He’s had an amazing year, but it’s been a very frustrating one too and I don’t think he’s achieved yet what he’s capable of achieving. We have played the hand that was dealt to us though, and I don’t think any of us have any regrets.
“It started just as we had hoped and planned in the QIPCO 2000 Guineas, and we are looking forward to going back to a mile again on QIPCO British Champions Day as the form book tells you that he’s very, very good at that distance.
“He didn’t get home behind Ghaiyyath in the Juddmonte International, but he looked very good again up to a point, and that was in probably the best race run in the world all year and on ground that was probably a little slower than ideal. He’s just the most fantastic horse to train.”
Ger Lyons is keen to run Siskin, who was third behind Mohaather and Circus Maximus in the Sussex Stakes, and has one eye on him staying in training next year. He said: “Siskin has never been beaten by a horse of his own age and is the best three-year-old miler so far as I’m concerned.
“He’s been in good order since he was third to the best older miler Mohaather in the Sussex Stakes at Goodwood, and he has options in the Prix de la Foret in France, the Boomerang on Irish Champions Day and of course the QEII.”
Pinatubo returned to the winner’s enclosure in Deauville’s Prix Maurice De Gheest, following defeats in the QIPCO 2000 Guineas and the St James’s Palace Stakes. Officially rated the best two-year-old since Celtic Swing 25 years earlier, at 128, surpassing even that awarded to Frankel at the same stage, he remains a top-class colt despite losing his air of invincibility.
He is on course for Longchamp’s Prix Du Moulin first, and if he wins, he will be a serious contender for the QEII.
Appleby said: “It will be Longchamp first, but we’ve only been touched off by Palace Pier in the St James’s Palace so the QEII will be the obvious option if we decide that he’s seeing the mile out.”
Circus Maximus, who has won twice at the track over the same distance of a mile (St James’s Palace Stakes in 2019 and Queen Anne Stakes this year) heads Aidan O’Brien’s entries.
He said: “Circus Maximus is a strong possible for the QEII and then we have a couple of horses who are heading first for the Boomerang at Leopardstown, like Arizona for example, but could go on to Ascot depending on what happens.”
Century Dream, third to Roaring Lion two years ago, is a worthy contender for Simon and Ed Crisford after Saturday’s impressive win in Goodwood’s Ladbrokes Celebration Mile, and last year’s third Safe Voyage is also a likely runner again, having looked better than ever when giving One Master a three-and-a-half-length beating in the Group 2 City Of York Stakes.
Trainer John Quinn confirmed: “Safe Voyage is due to go to Leopardstown next on Irish Champions Weekend, but another crack at the QEII is high on his list. He beat some of the best milers around when he was third last year.”
QIPCO British Champion Fillies & Mares Stakes: Group 1
The winner’s enclosure on QIPCO British Champions Day has welcomed owner/breeder Anthony Oppenheimer and his family for a presentation three years running now. His hopes are high that the sequence will be stretched to four after Frankly Darling and Dame Malliot were both entered for the QIPCO British Champions Fillies & Mares Stakes, the richest race in the Fillies & Mares category of the 2020 QIPCO British Champions Series.
Cracksman put up two of the outstanding performances in QIPCO British Champions Day history by running away with the QIPCO Champion Stakes in 2017 and 2018, and last year it was Star Catcher’s turn to do the honours in the QIPCO British Champions Fillies & Mares Stakes. She did not disappoint, although the style of her victory could not have been in starker contrast.
Frankly Darling impressively won this year’s Ribblesdale Stakes at Royal Ascot while Dame Malliot provided Hollie Doyle with her first Group winner in the Princess of Wales’s Stakes at Newmarket in July.
Oppenheimer said: “QIPCO British Champions Day has become my favourite day of the entire year and I’m looking forward to it once again.
“Frankly Darling ran a bit free at York the other day, and that wasn’t her form at all, but she’d shown her liking for Ascot in the Ribblesdale and she would have a good chance if we can make sure she settles better.
“Dame Malliot is the other possibility, but she will probably be aimed at the Prix Vermeille at Longchamp first. She ran a fantastic race in Germany last time and it was just unfortunate that she had to make her own running.”
Donnacha O’Brien ended a relatively short but spectacular career in the saddle with QIPCO British Champions Day wins last year on Magical in the QIPCO Champion Stakes and Kew Gardens in the QIPCO British Champions Long Distance Cup. This year he is looking forward to having a runner at the raceday in his first season as a trainer with Fancy Blue, who has got him off to such a great start with her wins in the Prix de Diane Longines and the Qatar Nassau Stakes.
He said: “Fancy Blue is entered for both the QIPCO British Champions Fillies & Mares and the QIPCO Champion Stakes, but I think the Fillies & Mares is the more likely target for her.
“She’s likely to go first for the Matron Stakes at Leopardstown and then on to Longchamp for the Prix de l’Opera, but she could well end her season at Ascot on QIPCO British Champions Day. The Fillies & Mares would be a step up in distance for her, but I don’t think it will be a problem.”
Irish Oaks winner Even So also figures in another outstanding set of entries for the Fillies & Mares, which has Classic winners Dancing Rain and Simple Verse among its previous winners, as well as six-time Group 1 winner Magical.
Trainer Ger Lyons said: “The Fillies & Mares would be a very nice race for Even So, and it’s on her agenda. I’ve entered Lemista too, who is due to run in the Blandford Stakes first.
“Even So has been in great order since the Irish Oaks and she stays well and isn’t overly ground dependent. She has an entry at Longchamp in the Prix Vermeille first, but I’m not a big one for travelling to France and so I’m not sure about that. It all still has to be discussed with her owners, who have other fillies in this division of course, but she’s not in the Arc, as that can wait until next year.”
Aidan O’Brien has won two of the last three QIPCO British Champion Fillies & Mares Stakes and his eight entries for the race include Love, Magical and Peaceful.
Roger Varian has entered last month’s British EBF & Sir Henry Cecil Galtres Stakes winner Gold Wand and Saturday’s Ladbrokes March Stakes runner-up Cabaletta. He said: “They are two very nice fillies who handle a mile and a half and cut in the ground.”
Rose of Kildare is a distinct possibility for the Mark Johnston stable. The Musidora Stakes winner put up a new career best behind Ghaiyyath in the Juddmonte International Stakes and Johnston does not anticipate the trip being an issue.
QIPCO British Champions Sprint Stakes: Group 1
Charlie Appleby is hopeful that Space Blues might provide him with a coveted first win on QIPCO British Champions Day when he challenges for top honours over six furlongs in the QIPCO British Champions Sprint Stakes, which is the richest sprint race in Great Britain this year.
Appleby has enjoyed top level success all around the world since taking over the reins at Moulton Paddocks in 2013, but it has so far eluded him on QIPCO British Champions Day.
Outlining a scenario in which Space Blues might miss Longchamp’s Prix de la Forêt and wait for the QIPCO British Champions Sprint he said: “Pinatubo will step back up to a mile again in the Moulin and if he doesn’t happen to win and we feel he’s definitely not seeing that mile out then he will be dropping back to seven furlongs in the Forêt. Then we would have to decide if we wanted to run both him and Space Blues in the same race.”
Appleby, who has also entered Pinatubo in the race, added: “Ascot could be a very good option for Space Blues anyway, as he won over six and a half furlongs at Deauville in the Maurice De Gheest and he handles soft ground well. The stiff six at Ascot on soft ground could just play to his strengths.”
While Battaash continues to dominate the sprint scene at the minimum distance, a clutch of rivals still have claims to top spot over six furlongs.
Commonwealth Cup winner Golden Horde is among them, and Clive Cox said: “The Champions Sprint is the target for Golden Horde, although we’ll be looking at the Haydock Sprint first.
“I’m looking forward to it because he clearly performs extremely well at Ascot. He’s always been a strong individual but I’m hoping there’s more to come.
“I do think it’s tough in the sprints against the older horses, and he’ll probably have to reverse form with Oxted for one, but the gap closes as the year goes on and so hopefully he’ll be really competitive. He’s a really hardy horse to deal with, and for a sprinter he’s extremely well mannered.”
The Darley July Cup winner Oxted has strong claims whilst Diamond Jubilee winner Hello Youmzain is another with strong credentials. He was below form in the Darley July Cup but was back to close to his best when going down by only half a length to Space Blues at Deauville.
Dream of Dreams, beaten only a head in the Diamond Jubilee, is also a leading candidate, Sir Michael Stoute’s six-year-old having registered a career best when a seven-length winner of the Unibet Hungerford Stakes at Newbury last time.
William Haggas has once again entered One Master, who last year found only Donjuan Triumphant too good when dropping back to six furlongs following a memorable second win in the Prix de la Forêt at Longchamp over her specialist distance of seven furlongs.
Haggas said: “One Master will go to Longchamp first, but I’ve given her a Champions Sprint entry too and that’s very much on the cards as well after her good second last year.”
Aidan O’Brien has Lope Y Fernandez entered for a race which he has yet to win. The three-year-old was third to Space Blues at Deauville last time. He said: “Lope Y Fernandez could go to Haydock this weekend but he’s a strong possible for the Sprint. It’s very much on his agenda.”
Roger Varian has entered four-times Ascot winner Cape Byron. He said: “Cape Byron hasn’t run yet this year but he’s coming back to form. He’ll probably run first in the Bengough Stakes, which he won last year, and would then be a possible for the QIPCO British Champions Sprint. He didn’t like the heavy ground last year, but he handles soft ground all right.”
We should also expect to see veteran The Tin Man, who won this race in 2016 and will be making his sixth successive appearance at QIPCO British Champions Day.
The Jessica Harrington-trained Millisle, successful last year in Newmarket’s Cheveley Park Stakes, heads seven entries from Ireland.
QIPCO British Champions Long Distance Cup: Group 2
John Gosden is not ruling out champion stayer Stradivarius returning to Ascot on QIPCO British Champions Day to run for a fourth successive year in the QIPCO British Champions Long Distance Cup, although the Qatar Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe remains the six-year-old’s main target.
A three-time winner of the Gold Cup at Ascot and a record four-time winner of the Goodwood Cup, Stradivarius first ran in the QIPCO British Champions Long Distance Cup as a three-year-old, when third to Order Of St George. He beat Thomas Hobson 12 months later and then last year went down by just a nose to Kew Gardens, his first defeat in two years coming at the end of one of the most stirring battles seen on any QIPCO British Champions Day.
Gosden, who has also entered five-time Group 2 winner Enbihaar and last year’s St Leger winner Logician, said: “It will depend upon how we get on in the Arc, but Stradivarius is a tough horse and it’s not out of the question. I’ve found in this game that it pays to have a couple of extra entries up your sleeve in case something happens, but the plan right now is the Prix Foy and then the Arc.”
Fujaira Prince is set to be a fascinating challenger for Roger Varian. The talented grey has been expertly placed to land the Copper Horse Handicap at Royal Ascot and the Ebor Handicap at York on his only public appearances this year, and a new BHA mark of 114 puts him right in the mix, with the potential for still more to come.
Varian, who has yet to win one of QIPCO British Champions Day’s feature races, but took the Balmoral Handicap for Fujaira Prince’s owner Sheikh Mohammed Obaid Al Maktoum with Sharja Bridge two years ago, said: “He’s fine after the Ebor but we decided against entering for the Melbourne Cup.
“We have to take it day by day with him, but I’d like to see him at Ascot on QIPCO British Champions Day as he runs the track very well and he handles autumn conditions. He’s never run two miles but he relaxes so well that we would be hopeful he’d get it, and if he does he ought to be very competitive.”
Irish Derby winner Santiago heads the entries from the Aidan O’Brien stable, which is invariably strongly represented here and has already won the race three times with Fame And Glory (2011), Order Of St George (2017) and Kew Gardens (2019).
Santiago is currently favourite for the Pertemps St Leger at Doncaster on 12th September but could head on to Ascot, where he would be bidding to become the race’s first three-year-old winner. Irish Derby third Dawn Patrol, also in the St Leger, is another likely type.
O’Brien, who has also entered last year’s Investec Derby winner Anthony Van Dyck, said: “Santiago is obviously being trained for the St Leger first, and his preparation has gone well, but the QIPCO British Champions Long Distance Cup would definitely be a possibility for him after that. Dawn Patrol is another for the St Leger, and we usually find that we learn there which way to go with this type of horse.”
Andrew Balding is invariably strong in the staying department and he earmarked King Power Racing’s seven-year-old Morando for the race early in the season.
He said: “Morando has been trained all year with the QIPCO British Champions Long Distance Cup very much in mind, and although he has never raced at two miles before he’s won an Ormonde Stakes at Chester (beat last year’s Long Distance Cup winner Kew Gardens by eight lengths) and his running style suggests it’s well worth having a go at the trip. The key to him of course is that when the mud is flying he flies.”
William Haggas spoke in similar vein about Monica Sheriff, most recently a staying-on fourth to Fujaira Prince in the Ebor. He said: “Monica Sheriff could be quite lethal at Ascot if the ground is testing.”
Mark Johnston has entered Gold Cup and Goodwood Cup second Nayef Road and Saturday’s runaway Ladbrokes March Stakes winner Subjectivist. The pair are likely to have Doncaster on the agenda first, in the Doncaster Cup and the St Leger respectively, but the QIPCO British Champions Long Distance Cup will be a very tempting next stop.
The Gary Moore-trained Goshen, an 11-length winner at Ascot over hurdles in the Juvenile Hurdle in January, also receives an entry for the race.