A substantial increase in sponsorship from Qipco, possibly as much as £10m, has ensured that British Champions Day at Ascot will be a fixture in the racing calendar for at least the next five years. If it continues to build on the success of the first such event in 2011 then it will become a permanent conclusion to the British flat racing season.
The most valuable race day ever in this country offered £3m in prize money last year, and that sum looks set to rise incrementally to £4m by 2016. The deals will also see the Qatar based organisation extend its sponsorship of Goodwood’s Sussex Stakes for the next five years.
In a statement released through the BHA, Sheikh Hamad bin Abdullah Al Thani, chief executive of Qipco said, “This new deal highlights our commitment to the sport in this country and our desire to make Qipco British Champions Day the best day’s flat racing in the international calendar.”
One change already under active consideration is to upgrade the status of some of the races on the card, which would offer the possibility of the card having four Group 1 races, something never done here in Britain. First on the list for consideration are the Fillies and Mares stakes and the Sprint, both currently Group 2. Rod Street, chief executive of the British Champions Series said, “If they meet the qualifying criteria they should be given every consideration by the European Pattern committee. We shall formally be requesting upgrades and asking the BHA to give us its support.”
If those upgrades receive approval the change could be introduced next year, and matched with the ability of Champions Day to attract the very best horses – last year six of the ten highest rating horses took part – offers further evidence that the status of the event is attraction enough, and the absolute highest prize money isn’t needed. Even with £4m prize money Champions Day will offer less for its most valuable race (Champions Stakes at £1.3m) than that in Europe, the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe with £3.1m, or America, the Breeders’ Cup Classic with £3.2m.