QIPCO CHAMPION STAKES (GROUP 1)
Total prize money £1,300,000
Prize money breakdown: 1st £737,230; 2nd £279,500; 3rd £139,880; 4th £69,680; 5th £34,970; 6th £17,550
Conditions: 1m2f, 3YO+
Last Year’s Winner:
Jockey: Pat Smullen • Trainer: Dermot Weld • Owner: Newtown Anner Stud • Breeder: Newtown Anner Stud
Dermot Weld’s faith in his late-maturing four-year-old was fully justified as Fascinating Rock came with a powerful late challenge to cut down Irish Derby winner Jack Hobbs and hold off the final threat of ace filly Found. Weld, who has won more QIPCO British Champions Day contests than any other trainer, revealed afterwards that he had been eyeing this race all year long.
QIPCO Champion Stakes to be run on Inner Flat Course in 2016
The Group 1 QIPCO Champion Stakes will be run on a newly demarcated Inner Flat Course which, it is anticipated, will deliver the best possible ground available.
Additional running rails will create a bespoke track, not subject to summer watering, on the inside of the usual flat track rails. As a result, the start of the race on this track will move back approximately 80 yards allowing for a longer run to the first bend and likely reducing the significance of the draw. The change marks the conclusion of a project to investigate the possible deployment of rain covers.
Ruth Quinn commented: “The BHA directive for Flat racing is always to race on the best possible ground available (aiming for good to firm) […] we feel that this option presents the greatest scope to improve the quality of the race, now and in the future.”
2016 Series Winners in the Middle Distance Division
The Investec Coronation Cup (1m 4f, 4YO+), Epsom Downs, 4th June – Postponed
Investec Derby (1m 4f, 3YO), Epsom Downs, 4th June – Harzand
Prince of Wales’s Stakes (1m2f, 4YO+), Royal Ascot, 15th June – My Dream Boat
Coral-Eclipse (1m 2f, 4YO+), Sandown Park, 2nd July – Hawkbill
King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes (1m 4f, 3YO+), Ascot, 23rd July – Highland Reel
Juddmonte International (1m 2f, 3YO+), York, 17th August – Postponed
QIPCO Champions Stakes (1m 2f, 3YO+) Ascot, 15th October –
October 2016: AIDAN O’BRIEN SAYS FOUND IS MOST GENUINE HORSE HE’S EVER SEEN
Almanzor and Found, who had six other Group 1 winners behind when dominating the finish of the QIPCO Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardstown last month, will meet again in the £1.3 million Group 1 QIPCO Champion Stakes – Europe’s most valuable mile and a quarter race.
The former, with an official rating of 127, is now the highest-rated horse in Europe, while the latter has since landed the Qatar Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe at Chantilly, when her trainer, Aidan O’Brien, made history by saddling the first three home.
The pair head a tremendous 11-strong field for the richest mile and a quarter race in Europe. Recent winners include the mighty Frankel, who won the 2012 renewal on his final start before being retired to stud, having won all 14 of his races.
O’Brien has made a habit of not just winning recent big races but also training the runner-up (and in the case of the QIPCO 1000 Guineas and the Arc the third home as well) and, in addition to Found, he runs US Army Ranger, who chased home Harzand in the Investec Derby at Epsom in June but has failed to reproduce that form in two subsequent starts.
The first four home in last year’s running of the QIPCO Champion Stakes – Fascinating Rock, Found, Jack Hobbs and Racing History – return and, in total, there will be six Group 1 winners in action. Between them, they have won eleven races at the highest level.
Aidan O’Brien, trainer of Found, winner of the Qatar Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe 11 days ago, and having her 14th Group 1 race in the past two years, said: “The Arc was always her [principal] target. All the other races were on the way to the Arc. She takes her races so well. We did it last year [run in the Irish Champion Stakes, Arc and Champion Stakes] and she’s been fine since France. It’s the way she is.
“We all knew a long time ago that there’s something different about her. She’s incredible, really, the most genuine horse I’ve ever seen. She empties the tank every time. The problem is not to let her empty too quick – she goes right to the bottom of herself. It’s very unusual.”
John Gosden, trainer of Jack Hobbs, third in the race last year but absent since late April after sustaining a stress fracture to his pelvis in April, said: “It’s not a dissimilar situation to that of Shalaa [who runs in the QIPCO British Champions Sprint Stakes] in that he sustained a very similar injury in the Jockey Club Stakes – and he has had to fight his way back.
“He worked well at Kempton [late last month] – I was delighted with his work around there – and he is fit and ready. He has strengthened well and having the summer off has given him time to develop.
“He’s in great order for it and he’s not a type that’s ring-rusty, but I’m very aware of the task in hand because I think the best three-year-old in Europe [Almanzor] is favourite. I thought his win in the Irish Champion was the finest race of the year, as has been proved by the Arc result straight away. From that point of view we know what task is, but I’m looking forward to getting him back on the track.”
Clive Cox, trainer of My Dream Boat, who won the Prince of Wales’s Stakes at Royal Ascot in June and was fifth in the Irish Champion Stakes last time: “There were eight Group 1 winners in the Irish Champion Stakes – it was probably the best race I’ve had the privilege to run a horse in. He’s had a nice time from that race to here and I’m very pleased with him.
“He’s shown best ever level of form at Ascot, which is good, and he maintained his form at this time last year. Some horses go off the boil at this time but last year he definitely kept a spark about him. We are very much looking forward to the race.”
Sir Michael Stoute, trainer of Midterm, runner-up in the Prix Niel at Chantilly last month after four months off with a hamstring injury, said: “He’s fine. His run in the Prix Niel did him the power of good. I’d say a well-run ten furlongs will suit him well.”
History of the Race
With £1.3 million in prize money, the QIPCO Champion Stakes over 1 mile 2 furlongs (2,000 metres) is the most valuable ten-furlong race in Europe. Following on from iconic races like the Investec Derby and King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes sponsored by QIPCO, this is the final, pulsating showdown in the British Champions Series Middle Distance division.
The race brought a great heritage with it from Newmarket, where it had been run from its inception in 1877 until 2010. But the dramatic injection in prize money that accompanied its move to become the glittering highlight of the new QIPCO British Champions Day has changed its status completely.
Each of the ve renewals in the race’s new surroundings have produced top-quality elds and thrilling nishes. The rst set the bar high, with French raider Cirrus Des Aigles getting the better of Aussie superstar So You Think with two champion mares, Snow Fairy and Midday, further behind. For quality and drama few races could ever match the 2012 running, when Frankel completed his career unbeaten despite unsuitable ground and a very slow start from the stalls.
2013 saw Farhh prevail in a three-way battle, while in 2014 we were treated to a spine-tingling duel between Al Kazeem and Noble Mission, who ultimately came out on top for Lady Cecil. Last year, QIPCO British Champions Day dream team Dermot Weld and Pat Smullen (who have each enjoyed four winners on the day over the past ve years) pounced late to land the spoils with Fascinating Rock.