British Champions Day, St Leger 2016


This race for Fillies and Mares is run over 1 mile 4 furlongs, and is for horses aged 3YO+. It is the category finale for the Fillies & Mares races in the British Champions Series, which are:


MAY: 1m QIPCO 1000 Guineas, £500,000 at Newmarket

JUNE: 1m4f Investec Oaks, £500,000 at Epsom

JUNE: 1m Coronation Stakes, £400,000 at Royal Ascot

JULY: 1m Tattersalls Falmouth Stakes, £200,000 at Newmarket

AUGUST: 1m 2f Qatar Nassau Stakes, £600,000 at Goodwood

AUGUST: 1m 4f Darley Yorkshire Oaks, £350,000 at York

OCTOBER: 1m 4f QIPCO British Champions Fillies & Mares Stakes, £600,000 at Ascot


The genealogy of the QIPCO British Champions Fillies’ And Mares’ Stakes dates back to 1946, when Ascot staged the Princess Royal Stakes for the first time. In 2008 it was renamed the Pride Stakes and moved to Newmarket, but it returned to Ascot under its current name in 2011.

The new race was given a boost in its very first year as it was won by none other than the Investec Oaks and Preis der Diana (German Oaks) winner, Dancing Rain, a dual Classic heroine having her final European start. Simple Verse was the second Classic winner to claim the spoils in its short recent history when successful in 2015. The race was awarded Group 1 status in 2013 and now boasts prize money of £600,000, making it Britain’s joint-most valuable fillies-only race.


Year – Horse – Jockey – Trainer

2011 – Dancing Rain – Johnny Murtagh – William Haggas

2012 – Sapphire – Pat Smullen – Dermot Weld

2013 – Seal Of Approval – George Baker – James Fanshawe

2014 – Madame Chiang – Jim Crowley – David Simcock

2015 – Simple Verse (pictured winning the St Leger at Doncaster) – Andrea Atzeni – Ralph Beckett

2016 – Journey – Frankie Dettori – John Gosden


If 2017 follows the same pattern as 2016, it will not be a case of whether Aidan O’Brien-trained runners win a race in the Fillies & Mares category of the QIPCO British Champions Series but, rather, how many?

Last year, O’Brien runners dominated the division and, between them, won five of the seven races. The brilliant Minding won the QIPCO 1000 Guineas, Investec Oaks and Qatar Nassau Stakes, while Alice Springs landed the Tattersalls Falmouth Stakes and Seventh Heaven scooped the Darley Yorkshire Oaks.

Had Alice Springs got going a bit earlier in the Coronation Stakes (she was a staying-on third) and Seventh Heaven not fluffed her lines in the QIPCO British Champions Fillies & Mares Stakes (she was sent out the 5/4 favourite) then O’Brien might have been toasting The Magnificent Seven.

The bad news for connections of rivals horses is that Minding, Alice Springs and Seventh Heaven remain in training.

Aidan O’Brien-trained Rhododendron is ante-post favourite for the QIPCO 1000 Guineas and Investec Oaks. And if she does not come up to scratch, the master of Ballydoyle also has llies such as Hydrangea, who has already visited the winner’s enclosure this spring, and Roly Poly to call on.

Not all the top fillies and mares are housed at Ballydoyle, though, and O’Brien is unlikely to have things all his own way.

Qemah, trained in France by Jean Claude-Rouget, was a fluent winner of the Coronation Stakes last year. Meanwhile, Journey, in the care of John Gosden, was a superb winner of the QIPCO British Champions Fillies & Mares Stakes, and the same trainer also has the services of So Mi Dar to call upon.

Simple Verse, the 2015 St Leger winner, has also been kept in training, although she seems more likely to have her sights trained on races that make up the Long Distance category.

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