The inaugural QIPCO British Champions Day at Ascot on Saturday has been widely judged a success. Rightly, in the last couple of days attention has focused on the winners of the individual races at Saturday's meeting, but what of the overall winners of the series of races, which have taken place throughout the season?
A total of 40 jockeys rode in the 35 races, with their mounts supplied by 46 different trainers. Tom Queally was top jockey with six wins and Henry Cecil leading trainer with seven wins. Frankel provided four of those wins for each of them. But overall there were 18 different jockeys who rode a winner in the series.
It's noticeable that none of the three contenders for this season's jockeyâ€™s championship had much success in this tournament. Paul Hanagan, Silvestre D'Souza and Kieren Fallon couldn't summon up a winner between them. Fallon finished 19th in the rankings with three seconds and three thirds, and D'Souza and Hanagan, who each rode two horses into third place, were amongst a group of jockeys sharing 32nd position. Let's spare a thought here for Seb Sanders, who was the only jock to finish out of the frame in all the races he contested.
The races were well shared out amongst the trainers too, with 16 of them preparing a race winner. However, the trainersâ€™ table shows a greater degree of polarisation than that of the jockeys. The leading five trainers across the series, Sir Henry Cecil, Mohammed Al Zarooni, Aidan O'Brien, John Gosden and Richard Hannon between them hoovered up 45 (43%) finishers in the first three. There were big stables which failed to register a single placed finish: Mick Channon, Jeremy Noseda, Andrew Balding, John Dunlop, Jim Bolger, Dermot Weld and Brian Meehan all suffering that particular fate.
The QIPCO series was divided into five championships for horses, a sprint category, the one-mile, middle distance and long-distance events, and a separate set of races for fillies and mares. Positions were decided not participation and finishing position in the races but on the official ratings achieved by the horses at any point during the season.
In the sprint category, Dream Ahead was rated highest on 128, a full eight points ahead of closest rival Deacon Blue. Dream Ahead also won two of the races in the series, the Darley July Cup and the Betfred Sprint Cup, which in my book makes him a worthy winner on both the participation and rating counts.
The middle distance championship was very evenly contested, with a different horse winning each of the seven races: the three-year-olds Nathaniel and Pour Moi; four-year-olds Rewilding and St Nicholas Abbey; five-year-olds So You Think and Cirrus Des Aigles; and old stager Twice Over at six. These seven, together with Workforce were covered by just six points in the ratings, with Nathaniel top on 128 a point ahead of Rewilding, with So You Think a further point behind.
The ratings suggest that the horses in the long distance championship did not exactly sparkle, although between them Fame And Glory and Opinion Poll in particular served up some cracking races. If the championship were decided on the basis of the series races themselves, Opinion Pollâ€™s two wins and three seconds would have made him a clear winner. But although he achieved a rating of 116, it was Masked Marvel's win in the St Leger which earned top ratings of 122 in this category. It took some time this season to establish the right distance for Masked Marvel to show himself to his best, for he was trained for and took part in this year's Derby, and did not race beyond 12 furlongs until July. Fame And Glory on 121 was ranked just one point behind Masked Marvel, and a race in which the two of them took part against each other may have given us a clear champion.
The fillies and mares championship is one that is always going to be difficult to unravel, because as well as races set aside for female racehorses, in many races they are able to compete against the boys. It was in mixed races in France that both Snow Fairy and Immortal Verse achieved their rating of 121 which put them top of the table. In Snow Fairy's case this was done through her third place in the Arc. A much improved performance from Immortal Verse in the Group 1 Jacques Le Marois Stakes earned her rating of 121. And on Saturday both were again competing in mixed races, finishing third in the Champion Stakes and the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes behind Cirrus Des Aigles and Frankel respectively. Only Midday, with two runner-up spots in the middle distance races and victory over Snow Fairy in the Nassau Stakes, one of the races set aside for fillies and mares, could get close in the ratings. It was the Nassau Stakes win where she achieved her rating of 120.
This of course just leaves the one-mile championship. There's so much that has been written about the sheer brilliance and dominance of Frankel that I cannot add to it. His rating of 135 is eight points ahead of closest rival Canford Cliffs, and five points ahead of Black Caviar, who races on the other side of the world. Frankel is horse of the season, probably horse of the decade, and certainly the most exciting horse I've ever seen racing on the flat. Frankel also won four of the races that made up the one-mile series.
Perhaps the best thing that can come out of the review of the Championsâ€™ Day and the first QIPCO series is to create a category for the horse of the series. That is under serious consideration for next year. Frankel would have won it this season and there's every possibility he will do so next year.