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Stars ready to come out for ninth QIPCO British Champions Day

17 Oct 2019

The Ultimate Raceday attracts 2019's big names competing for over £4 million prize money at Ascot

The ninth edition of QIPCO British Champions Day at Ascot on Saturday has attracted another glittering cast of equine stars.

Britain’s richest raceday, which boasts prize-money of more than £4 million, has drawn a stellar 84 runners for its six races, which will feature many of the top sprinters, milers, middle-distance and staying horses in training.

No fewer than 22 Group 1 winners, with 42 Group 1 wins between them, have been declared, with Classic winners Magna Grecia, Anapurna, Phoenix Of Spain, Star Catcher, Capri and Kew Gardens rubbing shoulders with other star names such as Stradivarius, Benbatl, Magical, Lord Glitters, Coronet, Advertise, Hello Youmzain, One Master and The Tin Man.

 

Japan will also be represented on QIPCO British Champions Day for the first time via Deirdre, who won the Qatar Nassau Stakes at Goodwood in August, while The Revenant will fly the flag for France in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes (sponsored by QIPCO).

Leading trainer Richard Hannon will also represented in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes via King Of Change, the QIPCO 2000 Guineas runner-up, having attended last year’s meeting merely as a spectator.

“I don’t like going racing when I don’t have any runners but made an exception for QIPCO British Champions Day last year,” he said.

“It’s a fantastic day and is what it should be. The prize-money is excellent, everybody is there and it’s at the right track. We’ve got to support it with the best horses we have, and I think everybody does. It’s a show of the best horses and the best people that racing has to offer, and they do it very well.”

Champion Trainer John Gosden’s powerful squad are among a glittering cast set for the ninth edition of QIPCO British Champions Day at Ascot on Saturday.

Gosden’s team of ten, includes the favourites for three of races on the day – Stradivarius (QIPCO British Champions Long Distance Cup), Star Catcher  (QIPCO British Champions Fillies and Mares) and Lord North (Balmoral Handicap sponsored by QIPCO) and are among 84 runners, with no fewer than 22 Group 1 winners standing their ground for Britain’s richest raceday.

Gosden enjoyed an impressive treble on the day last year when Cracksman (QIPCO Champion Stakes), Roaring Lion (Queen Elizabeth II Stakes) and Stradivarius (Long Distance Cup) all justified favouritism. Asked if he could again win half of the races on a card carrying more than £4 million in prize-money, Gosden said: “I don’t think so, no! Have a treble on Champions Day and imagine you are going to do that again? You might be smoking your socks if you think that! We’ll be thrilled if we have a winner.”

Saturday will be the ninth edition of QIPCO British Champions Day and Gosden paid tribute to the day saying: “It’s gone from strength to strength in so many ways. It was recorded yesterday by Julian Muscat [in the Racing Post] how many high-class horses have run at the meeting and we’ve had good ground, fast ground and genuine good to soft a couple of times.

“We’ve just walked into more rain [on this occasion] but look what happened at Longchamp; that went heavy in 48 hours. It is autumn, it can happen, but I think we’ve still got some very good horses running from all around Europe.”

Stradivarius is set to defend his crown in the QIPCO British Champions Long Distance Cup. The outstanding stayer, owned and bred by Bjorn Nielsen, has not lost for two years and extended his winning sequence to ten under Frankie Dettori with an easy success in the Magners Rosé Doncaster Cup last month.

Earlier this summer Stradivarius won a second Matchbook Yorkshire Cup, a second Gold Cup, a third Qatar Goodwood Cup and a second Weatherbys Hamilton Lonsdale Cup – exploits that secured his connections a second Stayers’ Million bonus offered by Weatherbys Hamilton. If successful on Saturday he would become the first horse to win six races that fall under the QIPCO British Champions Series umbrella in one season, a feat that even Frankel did not manage.

Gosden said: “He’s been in very good form since the Doncaster Cup. He breezed yesterday morning and worked on Saturday, and Frankie was very happy with him.

“I have made it clear that I will be walking the inner flat track in the morning, which I did last year for him. I shall then discuss everything with Mr Nielsen. Last year we discussed it and decided to run and I hope that it’s the same this year.”

He added: “Horses like him who can travel so well and then quicken up are rare, and it’s what make them a class apart. To do it at the end of these long races is a great attribute.”

Gosden has a second string to his bow in the QIPCO British Long Distance Cup in the shape of the lightly-raced Royal Line, who was a fluent winner of the Group 3 Sun Racing September Stakes at Kempton last month.

“He won on the all-weather last time but is a horse who loves soft ground, so no doubt he would not be too concerned by conditions underfoot,” Gosden said.

“Stamina-wise he is going into unknown territory, there’s no doubt about that. We haven’t run him over that far but he finishes his races out strong over a mile-and-a-half and gives the impression [he will stay].”

Gosden scooped the QIPCO British Champions Fillies & Mares Stakes with Journey in 2016 and was responsible for the second and third-placed horses last year. This time he launches a three-pronged attack with Star Catcher, Anapurna and Sparkle Roll all taking their chances.

Star Catcher has reeled off successive wins in the Ribblesdale Stakes, Kerrygold Irish Oaks and Qatar Prix Vermeille, while Anapurna, a daughter of Frankel who will be having her final race, won the Investec Oaks in June and secured another Group 1 prize when winning the Qatar Prix de Royallieu at Longchamp this month. Sparkle Roll, third to Star Catcher in the Ribblesdale, is part-owned by the raceday sponsors.

“Anapurna had a rough trip in the Vermeille [on her penultimate start] and showed great courage in the Prix de Royallieu,” Gosden said. “You don’t normally come back that quickly but in fairness she’s had a lot of the summer off. She had a big holiday from the Oaks through to the Vermeille, then the Royallieu. She did a half-speed yesterday morning and she seems bright and content in herself.

“Star Catcher has been great from the Ribblesdale onwards. She won the Vermeille in good style when she got a clear run of it; and she’s had a nice gaps in her races. She goes there with every chance.”

Star Catcher will be partnered with Frankie Dettori in the race. Gosden said, “I think it was a difficult choice for Frankie [choosing between the pair]. He had great difficulty choosing going into the Royallieu where one got the run of the race and one did not. And he found it a difficult choice again for Saturday, he really did, but he’s sticking with the filly who has had the longer time between her races.”

Of Sparkle Roll, he added: “She’s in tremendous form and will enjoy the ground and the trip. She’s had a funny old summer but she’s come back well in the autumn.”

Gosden has won the past two runnings of the QIPCO-sponsored Queen Elizabeth II Stakes with Persuasive and Roaring Lion and this time relies on King Of Comedy. The Kingman colt did not get the rub of the green when touched off in the St James’s Palaces Stakes at Royal Ascot in June before being beaten under two lengths in the Juddmonte International at York. However, on his latest start he was no match for Benbatl, who he meets again, in the Group 2 Shadwell Joel Stakes at Newmarket.

“He ran into a top horse in top form last time out,” Gosden said. “I was very impressed with Benbatl. He won in tremendous style – someone had to be second and it was us. I take nothing from the winner and think he will take all the beating again, but we’re running under somewhat different conditions. If we handle that ground then I think King Of Comedy will run a big race.”

The Kingman colt has looked a little awkward on occasions and Gosden said: “He’s been a little slow to come to himself but he’s going the right way now and we are happy with him. I put a sheepskin nosepiece on him last time just to try and keep his focus.”

Frankel won the 2012 QIPCO Champion Stakes on the final start of his thrilling career, and in the past two years one of his sons, Cracksman, has been a runaway winner of the race for Gosden.

This time the Newmarket-based trainer has declared Mehdaayih, who is herself a daughter of Frankel, plus Coronet, placed in the past two renewals of the QIPCO British Champions Fillies & Mares Stakes and winner of Group 1 races in France on her past two starts.

The last trainer to enjoy three successive Champion Stakes triumphs was Alex Taylor Jr, the Wizard of Manton, a century ago.

Gosden said: “Ever since Coronet won the [Darley Prix Jean] Romanet [at Deauville on August 18] we have been waiting to run her in the QIPCO Champion Stakes. We are very, very happy with her and, as I say, it’s been the plan for some time.

“We’ve been absolutely thrilled with her two Group 1 wins this year. She’s such a tough race filly and she will be retiring after this race.”