We’ve already commented in these pages about the peculiar way Champions Day finishes with an apprentice handicap race. Now, Sheikh Fahad Al Thani, racehorse owner and a driving force in the QIPCO organisation, has reached the same conclusion.
You can understand the argument that it’s good to highlight future champions as well as the current ones, and the apprentice race was put into the programme with that in mind. Yet it never did fit naturally. All the other races were about equine champions across five different categories; the apprentice race was a showcase to display the talents of rising jockeys.
Now, the Racing Post has reported that Sheikh Fahad is keen to introduce a race for two year old horses, so that Champions Day would cover all age groups. It sounds a grand idea, but is one that will be more difficult to bring to fruition than it might have been a year ago.
Since then, the BHA has carried out some rescheduling of the other top end of season races to create Champions Weekend on 17-18 October (a Friday and Saturday). That sees three Group 1 races, including the Dubai Dewhurst Stakes, contested by juveniles, on the first of those days, but run at Newmarket. After giving up the Champion Stakes to Ascot just three years ago, the executive are hardly likely to hand over the Dewhurst.
Sheikh Fahad’s racing adviser David Redvers said in the Racing Post, “Champions Day has and always will be a work in progress. There are improvements that can be made and we are looking to make. Everything is open to suggestion.” Would that mean going so far as to set up a new championship category for the whole series? That might be going further than the QIPCO people have in mind at the moment, but there seems to me little point in having a race for two year olds that isn’t the culmination of a season’s competition.