Sam James enjoyed his biggest day in the saddle, with Poptronic all heart to deliver a surprise victory in the Qipco British Champions Fillies & Mares Stakes at Ascot.
A winner of the Lancashire Oaks earlier in the season, Karl Burke’s four-year-old was sent off at an unfancied 22-1 after disappointing in Group One company the last twice.
However, she showed her quality on British Champions Day and having been to the fore throughout in the hands of James – who was striking at Group One level for the first time – she had plenty in the tank as those from a positions further back presented a stern challenge in the closing stages.
Both eventual second Bluestocking and the 3-1 favourite Jackie Oh in third stayed on stoutly to push Poptronic all the way inside the final half-furlong, but they could not get by the gutsy northern raider, who finished a neck clear at the winning post. Frankie Dettori had to settle for fifth place with Free Wind.
James said: “What a day, I can’t believe it. It’s a bit surreal. I’d like to thank the owners and Karl. It didn’t go right the last day in France when she was a bit buzzy, but she’d shown her ability to beat Sea Silk Road at Haydock and she went and won a Group One.
“She is a little bit on her toes, but Karl does a great job with her and so does Kelly (Burke’s daughter), so a lot of credit goes to her as well.
“She’s a good mover so you wouldn’t think softer ground would help, but all she does is gallop. She jumped really well today, I didn’t want to be in front, but I was able to get a breather at a crucial time. No one came and joined me, so I thought I would have a chance and she was very tough.
“I knew turning in she’d be thereabouts, given how she quickened at the three, and she was able to fight them all off.”
He added: “I’d not even ridden at Champions Day before so to have a winner is surreal. All thanks to Karl for putting me on these horses, there are plenty of other lads queuing up to ride her.”