The excitement continues to build as we are now less than a week away from Champions Day at Ascot.
The Qipco British Champions series began in 2011 and incorporates 35 top flat races, starting with the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket. There are five championship categories, these being, Sprint, Mile, Middle Distance, Long Distance and Fillies & Mares.
The series takes place at the best tracks in the UK, including Goodwood, York, Ascot, Epsom and Newmarket. Champions Day is the climax with prize-money of £3.75 million. Many of the best flat horses in Europe are sent to contest this end of season spectacular. Frankel famously finished his career at this great event.
Over the previous two years, soft ground has prevailed. With the forecast suggesting a week of showers, some heavy, it is extremely likely that Champions Day will again take place in testing conditions.
The Long Distance Cup over two miles gets the show started. The Irish have won the race on all three previous occasions. Two of those winners had won an Ascot Gold Cup.
It is great to see that most of the series winners are entered here. Estimate, Leading Light and Brown Panther are likely to be at the head of the market. Aidan O’Brien confirmed that his Ascot Gold Cup winner is expected to run and “is in good form.” Though he did go on to say that he had done little since his Irish St Leger defeat. He was beaten comfortably that day by Brown Panther on quick ground, over the shorter trip of 1m6f.
Estimate arrives after a win in the Doncaster Cup. The Queen’s horse could only manage seventh in this race last year. Pale Mimosa was ahead of her that day and beat her again at York in August.
The likelihood of soft ground will be a great concern for fans of Cavalryman. His stamina is sure to be tested to the very limit. Harris Tweed ran a huge race when second last year, and will certainly enjoy the surface. He’s been a little disappointing so far this season and needs to bounce back to form.
Gatewood is another interesting entrant. John Gosden’s son of Galileo would be trying the trip for the first time. Only just beaten at Deauville in his last run, it would be a big ask for him to stay the extra half mile on soft ground.
Much could change between now and the weekend. Let’s just hope that a strong field is assembled and the race is as thrilling as last year, when just a nose separated first and second.