Ten top finishes in the 2017 Champions Series
29 Dec 2017
We look back at some of the outstanding finishes that helped light up this year's Champions Series
Barney Roy, left, and Ulysses were locked together as one at the end of the Coral-Eclipse in July. Picture: Racingfotos.com
There was no shortage of drama in this year’s QIPCO British Champions Series with a number of photo finishes to determine tight outcomes. Here were ten of the best, in the order they have unfolded.
The first race in the Long Distance category of this year’s Series could not have been any more exciting with about a length covering the first five home. Dartmouth, owned by Her Majesty The Queen, prevailed by a neck from Simple Verse – the pair separated by the width of the track just to make it even trickier to initially establish who had snatched the honours. Small margins can make big differences in the sport. The Queen picked up a first prize of £93,571, while Godolphin, owners of fourth-placed Endless Time, got £8,844.
A humid afternoon at Epsom turned stormy just before the Oaks and the fillies’ Classic was run in heavy rain, with thunder and lightning rolling around the course. A frantic early gallop led to the race being run in a record time and it developed into a gripping duel from two out between Enable and Rhododendron. Initially the pair were locked together but, in the closing stages, Rhododendron, the 8-11 favourite, wilted. It was a case of the further the better for Enable, who galloped on relentlessly to pull five lengths clear.
As the biggest Derby field for 11 years galloped towards the winning line it looked certain that Cliffs Of Moher, the shortest-priced of Aidan O’Brien’s six challengers, was going to win in the hands of Ryan Moore. However, after mastering market rivals Cracksman and Eminent, both sons of Frankel, Cliffs Of Moher was unable repel his unconsidered stablemate, Wings Of Eagles, who powered past under little known Padraig Beggy to spring the biggest surprise in the premier Classic since Snow Knight obliged at 50-1 in 1974.
Any shortlist of most exciting Champions Series race of the year would have to include this epic clash over two-and-a-half miles which made for compelling viewing for 4min 22sec – longer if you count the number of times replays were shown as the judge tried to determine whether front-running Big Orange had won, or if Order Of St George, defending his crown, had caught him in the final strides. The print showed the courageous Big Orange had triumphed by a short head.
Churchill and Order Of St George had suffered odds-on defeats earlier at Royal Ascot and, about a furlong out, bookmakers must have thought that a third Aidan O’Brien hotpot was going to get beaten as Caravaggio had given market rivals Harry Angel and Blue Point a head start. However, the then unbeaten colt, who traded at 5-1 in-running, got the job done – clicking into turbo to win going away by three quarters of a length.
The most incident-packed Coral-Eclipse ever? Three jockeys ended up in hot water with the stewards, the winning trainer was fined £1,000 for his horse entering the parade ring late and Eminent, who finished fifth, tried to bite Decorated Knight, who was sixth. Meanwhile, Ulysses and Barney Roy flashed past the post as one – the former clinging on by a nose as Barney Roy closed on him all the way to the line.
Churchill was a late withdrawal after heavy rain had changed the going from good in the morning to very soft by mid-afternoon and, in his absence, Ribchester was expected to dominate. However, after making the running, the 8-13 favourite was unable to put his stamp on the race and it was Here Comes When, a seven-year-old, who took advantage under Jim Crowley. Ribchester rallied but was still a neck down at the finish.
A rousing finale, with Montaly, having his first run in a Champions Series race, getting his head in front right on the line under an exultant PJ McDonald. Montaly had a nose to spare over Dartmouth, who had won the Yorkshire Cup by a neck at York earlier in the year. St Michel was only half a length farther back in third, with dual Series winner Sheikhzayedroad not far behind in fourth.
Lady Aurelia, the 10-11 favourite, showed her customary dash and looked the winner virtually all the way. Indeed, crossing the line, Frankie Dettori, her jockey, was certain she had won – saluting the crowd and placing a finger on his lips. However, it was Marsha, owned by the 10,000 members of the Elite Racing Club, who had prevailed by a nose.
A thrilling renewal of the world’s oldest Classic with the three at the head of the betting – Capri, Crystal Ocean Stradivarius – serving up a fantastic finish. Capri, the Irish Derby winner, kept on willingly under Ryan Moore to prevail by half a length, in the process giving the jockey a full set of Classic triumphs. Crystal Ocean took second by a short head from Stradivarius.