QIPCO BRITISH CHAMPIONS SPRINT STAKES (GROUP 1)
Total prize money £600,000
Prize money breakdown: 1st £340,620; 2nd £129,000; 3rd £64,560; 4th £32,160; 5th £16,140; 6th £8,100
Conditions: 6f, 3YO+
Last Year’s Winner:
Jockey: Paul Hanagan • Trainer: Charlie Hills • Owner: Hamdan Al Maktoum • Breeder: Shadwell
A fourth consecutive Group 1 success, but this was the victory that conclusively crowned Muhaarar as the very best sprinter seen anywhere in Europe last year. Concerns over the suitability of the ground and the tough campaign he’d faced to this point were blown away in a matter of strides soon after the furlong-pole. He coasted home under Paul Hanagan to beat Twilight Son by two lengths and cap a tremendous season which saw him claim most of 2015’s biggest sprinting prizes.
2016 Series Winners in the Sprint Division:
The King’s Stand Stakes (5f, 3YO+), Royal Ascot, 14th June – Profitable
The Commonwealth Cup (6f, 3YO), Royal Ascot, 17th June – Quiet Reflection
The Diamond Jubilee Stakes (6f, 3YO+) Royal Ascot, 18th June – Twilight Son
The Darley July Cup (6f, 3YO+) July Course Newmarket, 9th July – Limato
The Coolmore Nunthorpe Stakes (5f, 2YO+), York, 19th August – Mecca’s Angel
The Betfred Sprint Cup (6f, 3YO+) Haydock Park, 3rd September – Quiet Reflection
QIPCO British Champions Sprint Stakes (6f, 3YO+) Ascot, 15th October –
October 2016: SERIES SPEEDSTERS TO CLASH IN QIPCO BRITISH CHAMPIONS SPRINT STAKES
There are five Group 1 winners in the £600,000 six-furlong contest. Amongst them is Quiet Reflection who has provided some of this year’s feel-good moments with her victories in the Commonwealth Cup and 32Red Sprint Cup. Bought for £45,000, the Karl Burke-trained filly is owned by a ten-person Ontoawinner syndicate who include a school dinner lady, electrician and quantity surveyor – plus a couple of retired folk.
Henry Candy fields Twilight Son, the Diamond Jubilee Stakes victor, known as ‘Mr Angry’ at stables in Wantage because of his sometimes unhappy demeanour. However, the horse certainly knows how to make people smile on the racecourse and was an emphatic winner of the Prix de la Foret on his latest start at Chantilly.
Mecca’s Angel, the dual Coolmore Nunthorpe Stakes winner, trained by Michael Dods, cost even less and will be having her final start before going to stud. Shalaa, a dual Group 1 winner as a two-year-old who made a successful return at Ascot 12 days ago, and Signs Of Blessing, who scooped the Prix Maurice de Gheest last time, are also entered. The Tin Man, runner-up in the Sprint Cup, and the progressive Librisa Breeze add tremendous depth.
Karl Burke, trainer of Quiet Reflection, said: “I don’t think anybody has really given the filly the credit she deserves. There’s always been sideway glances and references to the ground – winning because it’s soft and not because she’s a very good filly. Good ground on Saturday would be perfect.
“Physically, she has kept getting stronger all year and she’s a completely different filly to when we took her to France in April, even though I thought she looked well at the time. We’ve had some coughing in the yard but if we can get her to Ascot in anything like the form she was in at Haydock then I think she will be the one all the others have to beat.”
Michael Dods, trainer of dual Nunthorpe winner Mecca’s Angel, who will be having her final race, said: “You dream about having horses like her. She’s done the whole yard a lot of good, she’s done Paul Mulrennan and myself a lot of good. We live in hope that we can find another one like her, but it will probably be impossible.
“It’s a stiffish six and nobody knows if she will stay but I’m encouraged that the two times she’s won at York [in the Nunthorpe] she’s been way around the corner before she’s been pulled up. Good ground, or good to soft, is perfect for her.”
John Gosden, trainer of Shalaa, who suffered a pelvic injury in the spring and was having his first run for a year when winning at Ascot 12 days ago, said: “He’s had a difficult year, it’s not been easy and a long road back since he sustained his injury in the spring – but full marks to the horse, who has a great mind on him.
“I’m happy with the way he has come out of his race at Ascot. He seems in great order and if we don’t get any rain I’m sure that will help greatly because he’s a horse with a lot of speed.
“I thought he was about 80 per cent right in terms of fitness and I think it will bring him on, though we are aware it could be a completely different class of race. He’s ready to run a great race in what is a fabulous Sprint, it really is.”
James Fanshawe, trainer of The Tin Man, said: “He has come out of his race Haydock well and seems in good form. I was relieved to see him run well there because I didn’t know how he would handle the [soft] ground. Tom [Queally] is anxious to get him to relax – he needs to switch off in his races. It looks an exciting race – as does the whole card put together. We are looking forward to it.”
Dean Ivory, the trainer of Librisa Breeze, said: “It’s one of the toughest races I’ve seen and ideally I’d prefer an extra furlong for him, but he likes Ascot and should come home strong.”
History of the Race
In 2015, the QIPCO British Champions Sprint Stakes was upgraded from Group 2 to Group 1 status and, in response to its enhanced prestige, the race’s value was boosted from £350,000 to £600,000 establishing it as Europe’s joint-most valuable sprint.
This six-furlong (1,200 metres) contest provides the grand finale to the seven-race QIPCO British Champions Sprint division. There are three Series races run over five furlongs (1,000 metres) and four, including today’s contest, over six furlongs. Many sprinters tend to specialise over one of these distances, but the true greats have the versatility to excel over both trips.
The QIPCO British Champions Sprint Stakes has evolved from the Diadem Stakes, which was first run at Ascot in 1946. The first running under its current name was won by Deacon Blues, trained in Newmarket by James Fanshawe, in 2011. The three subsequent scorers travelled across the Irish Sea to land the prize, before European champion Muhaarar scored for Britain last year.