British Champions Day 2017: A dazzling cast is set to line up for the seventh QIPCO British Champions Day at Ascot on 21st October after the latest forfeit stage.
Britain’s richest raceday, with £4.3 million of prize money on offer, remains the target for 35 Group 1 winners who between them have won 67 races at the highest level. They include headline acts such as Ribchester, Cracksman, Harry Angel, Churchill, The Tin Man, Barney Roy, Order of St George and Big Orange.
Others still in the mix for the spectacular finale, which features four Group 1 races, a Group 2 and the richest mile handicap in Europe, are Caravaggio, Winter and Beat The Bank.
HARRY ANGEL FLYING HIGH AMONG STAR CAST FOR SPRINT
QIPCO British Champions Sprint Stakes (£600,000) Group 1
Harry Angel, currently rated the best sprinter in the world on official ratings, heads a superb cast of 25 still in the mix for the QIPCO British Champions Sprint Stakes.
Four other speedsters with Group 1 wins to their name – Caravaggio, The Tin Man (winner of the race last year), Quiet Reflection and Limato – are also still engaged.
Clive Cox is delighted with the well-being of Harry Angel who is no bigger than 6/4 in the ante-post betting to extend his winning sequence on QIPCO British Champions Day having landed the Darley July Cup at Newmarket before following up with a stunning four-length success in the 32Red Sprint Cup at Haydock last time.
“He’s come out of the Haydock race absolutely super and I’m very pleased with him,” Cox said. “The timescale between his races – from July Cup to Haydock, and then from there to Champions Day – is perfect and I’m less concerned about what the ground might be than I was before Haydock.
“Thankfully, he’s won his races very cosily and for that reason I hope we’ve been able to maintain a fairly healthy edge on him. Our biggest concern was going to the July Cup after Royal Ascot but that worked out fine.”
Harry Angel, owned by Godolphin, has been beaten on both his starts at Ascot this season – on his reappearance when trying to concede 4lb to Blue Point in the Group 3 Merriebelle Stable Pavilion Stakes and then when runner-up, beaten three quarters of a length, to Caravaggio in the Commonwealth Cup at the Royal Meeting.
However, Cox does not regard the course as a potential chink in his flagbearer’s armour and says there were mitigating reasons for those reverses.
“The first time he was making his reappearance and was quite revved up, having only the third race of his career,” Cox said. “Then, in the Commonwealth Cup, he was so well that he ran a little bit too fresh. It was a very competitive race and Caravaggio was right on the day, but in the meantime I’d like to think we’ve taken a step forward mentally and physically. I could not be more pleased with the progress he has made.”
A total of 25 remain in contention for the £600,000 feature after the latest forfeit stage, and with regard to the likely opposition, Cox said: “It was great to see Quiet Reflection back on track last time, along with Caravaggio at the Curragh. Then there’s The Tin Man, whose best performances have been at Ascot – it’s his territory. I have great respect for all the other competitors but I would not be swapping Harry Angel for anything.”
Others in the frame include Brando, winner of the Prix Maurice de Gheest; Tasleet, who chased home Harry Angel in the Sprint Cup, having split The Tin Man and Limato in the Diamond Jubilee Stakes at Royal Ascot; Signs Of Blessing and Blue Point.
Blue Point and Limato could clash beforehand in the Group 3 John Guest Bengough Stakes at Ascot on Saturday.
“Blue Point will go to Ascot on Saturday and we will then make a call about QIPCO British Champions Day,” Charlie Appleby, his trainer, said. “He has come out of Haydock very well. Take nothing away from the winner that day – he’s exceptional – but Blue Point was coming off a break and, to be honest, he’d done a bit too well. He has come forward a good bit mentally and physically – it’s woken him up again. Rather than throw ourselves back in at the deep end again and go straight to Champions Day, we thought we’d go to Ascot and take it from there.”
CRACKSMAN HEADS STELLAR ENTRIES FOR THE QIPCO CHAMPION STAKES
QIPCO Champion Stakes (£1.3 million) Group 1
A stellar cast of 14 Group 1 winners remain entered for the most valuable mile and a quarter race in Europe with Cracksman, Winter, Barney Roy, and Highland Reelsome of the stand out names of 26 horses that remain.
Cracksman, is set to be a fascinating contender having won his last two starts by an aggregate of almost ten lengths and will be looking to follow in the hoof prints of his sire, Frankel, who won the QIPCO Champion Stakes on his final start in 2012.
The last filly or mare to win the race was Pride, in 2006, but many will fancy the prolific Winter to halt their barren run, with Aidan O’Brien hinting this will be the target for his QIPCO 1000 Guineas, Tattersalls Irish 1000 Guineas, Coronation Stakes and Qatar Nassau Stakes heroine. O’Brien’s other possible contenders include Highland Reel, who has won six of the 19 Group 1 race he has contested around the world.
Godolphin have enjoyed a fabulous year and Sheikh Mohammed’s operation have five entries to juggle, including the Richard Hannon-trained Barney Roy, winner of the St James’s Palace Stakes, who has been a model of consistency in many of this summer’s top races, as well as John Gosden’s Jack Hobbs, third in the past two renewals of the QIPCO Champion Stakes.
Decorated Knight and Poet’s Word, the first two home in last month’s QIPCO Irish Champion Stakes, are among others to stand their ground.
CHURCHILL BEING PRIMED FOR RIBCHESTER BATTLE
Queen Elizabeth II Stakes (sponsored by QIPCO) (£1.1 million) Group 1
A bumper 29 horses remain engaged in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes (sponsored by QIPCO) with 11 having won at least one Group 1 contest.
Ribchester, officially rated Europe’s best miler sets a very high standard, having won three Group 1 races this season. His opponents could include the first three home in the QIPCO 2000 Guineas – Churchill, Barney Roy and Al Wukair. Taareef and Zelzal, like Al Wukair, could represent France.
Here Comes When, who defeated Ribchester in the Qatar Sussex Stakes, and the rapidly progressing Beat The Bank are on course to represent Andrew Balding, who is hoping to cap a record-breaking year with a flourish on QIPCO British Champions Day.
The Kingsclere trainer also has Montaly (QIPCO British Champions Long Distance Cup), Donjuan Triumphant (QIPCO British Champions Sprint Stakes) and Horseplay (QIPCO British Champions Fillies & Mares Stakes) pencilled in to run, together with Naval Warfare and Isomer in the £250,000 Balmoral Handicap (sponsored by QIPCO).
Beat The Bank, as short as 4-1 with some bookmakers for the QIPCO-sponsored Queen Elizabeth II Stakes, has emerged as one of this season’s most exciting milers and enhanced his reputation with a runaway win in the Group 2 Shadwell Joel Stakes at Newmarket last week. Here Comes When, a general 25/1 chance, has deliberately been rested since edging out Ribchester in the Group 1 Qatar Sussex Stakes at Goodwood in early August.
“Beat The Bank is an intended runner,” Balding said. “He’s very exciting and I’d say his performance at Newmarket was probably his best yet, although I also thought he was also very impressive at Goodwood the time before. You can only beat the horses you are up against.
“Oisin [Murphy, his jockey] is adamant he will be better on better ground but he seems versatile in that regard. His one blip was at Royal Ascot but he had a dirty scope afterwards and obviously wasn’t himself. He just ran very flat and hopefully we can put a line through that.
“Here Comes When is in good form and goes straight to the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes. We were thinking of running him in Italy [after his Goodwood win] but decided we were best keeping him fresh for Champions Day.”
ELSWORTH HOPING DESERT SKYLINE CAN GO DISTANCE ON CHAMPIONS DAY AS STAYING STARS SET FOR REMATCH
QIPCO British Champions Long Distance Cup (£450,000) Group 2
The QIPCO British Champions Long Distance Cup promises to be a fantastic first contest on QIPCO British Champions Day with Big Orange and Order Of St George, set to clash once more after their epic battle in the Gold Cup at Royal Ascot.
The pair are due to line up against two of the new generation of staying horses with Stradivarius, winner of the Qatar Goodwood Cup, and Desert Skyline, the Doncaster Cup victor, also standing their ground.
David Elsworth, the trainer of Desert Skyline, said “He’s come out of his win at Doncaster fine and we are looking forward to running him on Champions Day. It’s a little bit ambitious, but then again so was running him in the Goodwood Cup [where he was third] and Doncaster Cup.
“He’s run a series of good races this year – his Doncaster win coming after a fantastic effort at Goodwood Cup behind Big Orange and Stradivarius. We all know how good Big Orange is and Stradivarius showed his class in the St Leger [when a close third to Capri].
“I think he’s had a fairly tough campaign – opposition-wise rather than the number of runs he’s had – but he is in great form and should again run well. We will pull up stumps afterwards and next year come back and win the Goodwood Cup.”
Elsworth believes that, in terms of self-belief, Desert Skyline will derive great benefit from coming from last to first under Silvestre De Sousa, the Stobart Champion Jockey-elect, to land the Doncaster Cup.
“Three-year-old stayers have to go through a barrier and when he went to go first time [at Doncaster] he thought ‘I can’t do this’ and then suddenly he realised he had them beat. That will be great for his confidence. Next year he will be stronger and more confident – because he will have been round the block.”
The other 27 horses that remain engaged include Sheikhzayedroad, who is on course to defend his crown, and Montaly, who produced a career best to win the Weatherbys Hamilton Lonsdale Cup Stakes at York on his penultimate start for trainer Andrew Balding. He said: “I probably ran him a little bit too soon [last time] in the Doncaster Cup, where he was flat, but the QIPCO British Champions Long Distance Cup looks perfect for him. He loves soft ground and hopefully he will run well there.”
JOHN GOSDEN HOPING FOR ANOTHER HAPPY JOURNEY
QIPCO British Champions Fillies & Mares Stakes (£600,000) Group 1
Journey was an emphatic winner of the QIPCO British Champions Fillies & Mares Stakes last year for John Gosden and Frankie Dettori, but no horse has won back-to-back renewals of any race on Champions Day.
One obvious stumbling block is Bateel, who beat Journey fair and square in the Group 1 Qatar Prix Vermeille last time and has now won seven of her 12 races.
The other 17 entries include seven other Group 1 winners – Queen’s Trust, Left Hand, Seventh Heaven, Smart Call, Hydrangea, Rhododendron and Winter.
In addition to Journey, Gosden has also indicated that Ribblesdale winner Coronet, who was a close fifth in the William Hill St Leger last time, will represent him.
Horseplay finished fourth to Enable in the Investec Oaks in June before filing the same position in a Group 2 contest at Saint-Cloud on 2nd July.
She has been absent since and her trainer Andrew Balding explained: “She had a setback, but at the moment we are in good shape to try and make it to Champions Day with her. Her Oaks run looks pretty good now and she handles cut in the ground, if it comes up like that on the day.”
All quotes courtesy of QIPCO British Champions Series.