Champion Stakes to be richest race run in Britain this year

The Qipco Champion Stakes is set to be the richest race run in Britain this year, with £1.2million up for grabs on October 16.

With prize-money for this year’s Qipco British Champions Day totalling £4m, the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes will be run for in excess of £1m and the three remaining Pattern races on the card will each offer a prize fund of £500,000.

In all, prize-money across the showpiece fixture will increase by 60 per cent on 2020 levels, which were impacted by the covid pandemic.

Addeybb and Tom Marquand won last year's Champion Stakes
Addeybb and Tom Marquand won last year’s Champion Stakes (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

John Gosden has enjoyed Champions Day success with the likes of Stradivarius and Cracksman and said: “We are very grateful to Qipco and British Champions Series for putting up such a valuable raceday. It is so important for British racing that there is internationally competitive prize-money on offer for owners who are the bedrock of our sport.

“Champions Day has quickly become one of the most important racedays in the global racing calendar and with such generous prize-money, I am sure that it will continue to thrive.”

Richard Hannon, who won the QEII with King Of Change in 2019, said: “You always want to have runners on Qipco British Champions Day and it’ll be even more important this year with such fantastic prize money on offer.

“All credit to Qipco and the team for making it happen – it’s a real boost for everyone in the game.”

Rod Street, chief executive of British Champions Series Ltd, said: “We are absolutely delighted to have restored prize-money on Qipco British Champions Day to £4m.

“It is crucial to the long-term future of British racing that we are able to offer globally competitive prize-money and are hugely grateful to our sponsors, Qipco, for making this a reality and for their continued support and commitment.

QIPCO British Champions Day – Ascot Racecourse
The Queen presents winning jockey Sean Levey with the trophy after King Of Change won the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes (Simon Cooper/PA)

“Champions Day has always attracted the world’s finest racehorses and with such a valuable racecard, we look forward to welcoming the sport’s superstars back to Ascot once more on October 16.”

Sheikh Fahad bin Abdullah Al-Thani, director of Qipco Holding said, “We are proud to sponsor Qipco British Champions Day, the most valuable day in the British racing calendar, and are pleased that this year’s raceday, which marks the 10th anniversary of our sponsorship, will be run for £4m.

“The day has established itself at the pinnacle of the global racing calendar and it is only fitting that the prize-money reflect that.”

Breeders’ Cup bid next on the agenda for Tarnawa

Dermot Weld has confirmed Tarnawa will head to the Breeders’ Cup meeting at Keeneland following her victory in the Prix de l’Opera at ParisLongchamp.

The four-year-old will have the choice of the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf or the Turf, where she would take on colts and geldings.

Weld admitted leaning more towards the Turf should the ground be firm as it is over her optimum distance of a mile and a half compared to the mile and a quarter of the Filly & Mare race.

“The present plan is Champions Day will come too soon because she has had a busy couple of months,” Weld told Sky Sports Racing.

“She was a good winner at Group level here in Ireland in August and I just feel the extra time to the Breeders’ Cup would be beneficial.

“No decision will be made yet whether it will be the Filly & Mare or the Breeders’ Cup Turf.

“I would like to see nearer to the day. It will be early November and I’ve been in Kentucky when they’ve had snow at that time of year, so don’t take it for definite the ground would be firm.

“Those factors will come into my mind.

“If it was fast ground, we might look more at the mile and a half (Turf).

“You must remember she’s won three Group races over a mile and a half. She is very effective over that distance.”

Weld reported Tarnawa to have taken the Opera in her stride.

“She came back immediately after the race yesterday evening,” said the County Kildare trainer.

“She’s in great shape and was out in the field this morning and was as happy as could be.

“She’s a very good filly to win those two Group One races (Prix Vermeille and Opera), so competitive, back to back – (it) was a big achievement.

“We weren’t sure she’d handle the ground with the speed she has, whether she would as effective on that surface, was my concern.”

While Tarnawa may not be heading to British Champions Day at Ascot, Weld has yet to decide whether his dual Irish St Leger heroine Search For A Song goes for the Qipco British Champions Long Distance Cup.

“The decision will be made whether she goes to Ascot on Champions Day for the Long Distance Cup,” he said.

“We’ll look forward to training her next year and win another Irish St Leger with her.

“She’s not the easiest lady in the world. Things just didn’t go her way earlier in the year. She has had her moments. It was a matter of regaining her confidence and that’s what we achieved.”

Skalleti enters Champion Stakes equation following Dollar delight

Skalleti became the first horse to win back-to-back renewals of the Qatar Prix Dollar since Cirrus Des Aigles seven years ago when staging a late show at ParisLongchamp.

The five-year-old came from the clouds to cut down Patrick Sarsfield and land the Group Two spoils by a length and a quarter for trainer Jerome Reynier and jockey Maxime Guyon.

Raging Storm made the running and soon set up a six-length advantage which he maintained into the straight, where Frankie Dettori set sail for home on Patrick Sarsfield.

It looked like Joseph O’Brien’s four-year-old was heading for victory, but Skalleti got a dream run on the far rail to nail the leader, with Dariyma two and a half lengths away in third.

“With a pacemaker like that, we know in the final straight he was going to go backwards and we didn’t want to take him along the rail, so he had to be squeezed a little bit between horses,” Reynier told Sky Sports Racing.

“He got the go from Maxime Guyon to chase Dettori’s horse. I was thought it was going to be a tough task, but he had so much to give and he has been very impressive this year once again in this race.”

Reynier is keen to run Skalleti in the Qipco Champion Stakes at Ascot on October 17 if he can find somewhere to house him in England due to the coronavirus restrictions.

“He is in very good shape and we want to try the Champion Stakes in two weeks’ time, but logistically it is not easy because we have to send him without his staff and he is a very special horse and he needs to be in really good care,” said the Marseilles-based handler.

“Maybe if we can find someone who can host him for a day or two in England before the race, maybe we will take this gamble.

“I have four boxes in Chantilly for two weeks and if we take the decision to cross the challenge and go for the Champion Stakes, he will be based in Chantilly and he won’t have to go very far to travel.”

Skalleti was slashed to 14-1 from 33-1 for the Champion Stakes with Paddy Power.

Valia came from last to first to run out a comfortable winner of the opening Qatar Prix Chaudenay.

Alain de Royer-Dupre’s lightly-raced three-year-old, wearing the colours of the Aga Khan, proved too good for the opposition in the Group Two over one mile and seven furlongs.

Christophe Soumillon was content to sit back as Mykiss cut out the pace while Ralph Beckett’s British raider Max Vega appeared to be in a good position only to be found wanting when the tempo increased in the final straight.

Valia made smooth progress to hit the front and draw away to score by two lengths from Nemean Lion. Step By Step was third with Max Vega fourth of the six runners.

De Royer-Dupre said: “Today was her first attempt at both the ground and the trip, but she has had an excellent run there. She is a classy filly.

“After she suffered some interference in the Vermeille, we couldn’t take the risk in running her in a race as high standard as the Arc.

“She has done that easily, even if the distance was a shade long. She will be better over 2,400 metres (12 furlongs), but we didn’t have much of a choice with our programme and we will continue to aim towards to the Prix Royal-Oak.

“Realistically, there are no other opportunities this year for her at Group One level.”

The Revenant lived up to both his name and billing with victory for the second year in succession in the Group Two Qatar Prix Daniel Wildenstein.

Pierre-Charles Boudot had Francis-Henri Graffard’s 4-7 favourite comfortably positioned in midfield until pulling out to challenge wide and ease to the front.

Ziegfeld gave chase but could get no closer than a length and a quarter at the line as The Revenant defied an absence of almost a year, since finishing second in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes at Ascot, to duly add his name to race’s list of dual winners.

Graffard said: “He is one of the horses we don’t run that often. Getting a horse ready to run is already complicated enough and even more so with good horses like him, you need other good ones to go with them and without putting too much stress on them either. I am happy with that.

The Revenant (in red) seen finishing second in last year's QEII at Ascot
The Revenant (in red) seen finishing second in last year’s QEII at Ascot (Simon Cooper/PA)

“His exercice rider knows him off by heart and assured me he was as well as when winning this last year. I was still a bit stressed but now I’m relieved.

“He is a super horse. We missed the early part of the season but we respected him and now he is paying us back.”

Simon and Ed Crisford struck for the British challengers in the preceding Haras de Bouquetot – Criterium de la Vente d’Octobre Arqana.

Their juvenile colt Jadoomi followed up last month’s Wolverhampton novice victory, easily bagging this valuable prize by seven lengths under Mickael Barzalona.

Extra Elusive aiming to underline Champion hopes at Newbury

Extra Elusive will attempt to book his ticket to next month’s Qipco British Champions Day at Ascot when he lines-up in the Dubai Duty Free Legacy Cup at Newbury on Saturday.

Connections of the Roger Charlton-trained gelding have one eye on the Group One Champion Stakes on October 17.

The five-year-old is on a hat-trick of Group Three successes after taking the Rose of Lancaster Stakes at Haydock and the Winter Hill Stakes at Windsor.

“He’s been very well and is a progressive sort and we are hopeful he will run a big race,” said Tony Nerses, racing manager to owner Imad Al Sagar.

“It is his third Group Three and we have to take the 3lb penalty. I don’t think that will disturb him.

“Somehow we have found the key to him. He is quite a happy horse. He has earned his confidence back.

“We are hoping he will go here and from there will go to the Champion Stakes.

“The plan is to go and take his chance with the big boys and see how we go. There is nothing to lose. You have to jump high sometimes.”

Extra Elusive will face just three rivals in his hat-trick bid, including the Mark Johnston-trained Elarqam, who is on a retrieval mission following his disappointing effort when bidding for back-to-back victories in the Group Two York Stakes.

Charlie Johnston, son and assistant to his father, said: “He has got a couple of below-par efforts to bounce back from. We were disappointed with his run at York as we expected better from him there.

“He has had a bit of time off since then and in terms of finding the right opposition to bring him back against, this looks a nice race to come back in.

“The Rose of Lancaster came a bit quick after York and there was nothing else obvious. This has been ringed on the calendar for about four weeks.

“He has been tipping away nicely at home for the last month and he seems fine. This will tell us what kind of hopes we can have for the autumn and where we see him going.”

Plenty of familiar names do battle for the other Group Three on Saturday’s card – the Dubai International Airport World Trophy.

The standard is set by the Charlie Hills-trained Equilateral, who was not disgraced in finishing sixth at the highest level in last Sunday’s Flying Five at the Curragh.

Clive Cox’s Tis Marvellous bids to follow up a recent win at Leicester, with the David Griffiths-trained veteran Ornate and James Tate’s filly Wise Words also in the mix.

The latter ran a fine race to finish fourth in the Scarbrough Stakes at Doncaster last week on what was her first competitive appearance in 12 months.

Tate said: “She ran a cracker after a year off at Doncaster and had no luck in running whatsoever.

“She’s come out of the race well and I’m hoping for another good run on Saturday.”

William Buick expects the return to five furlongs to play to the strengths of the Charlie Appleby-trained Lazuli.

The Classic-winning rider said: “He is a lovely horse. He won a Listed sprint at Sandown earlier in the season, but then he was disappointing next time.

“He ran well at Deauville last time over six furlongs. Coming back to five will suit him, I think.

“He is a horse we have not seen the best of yet – hopefully he will perform well on Saturday.”