14 Oct Somewhere for the weekend
All roads to lead to Ascot on Saturday 15 October for the £3m QIPCO British Champions Day, Britain’s richest ever raceday. This sensational climax to the QIPCO British Champions Series provides a fantastic opportunity for the Flat racing stars of 2011 to compete on one of the world’s greatest stages.
The sensational line-up of stars on the track as the five championship races unfold will be accompanied by an exciting schedule of events and activities behind the stands, all combining to make QIPCO British Champions Day a raceday to remember.
The Five QIPCO British Champions Series Categories
For horseracing’s speed merchants, the QIPCO British Champions Series Sprint category comprises three races over the minimum distance of 5 furlongs (1,000 metres) – the Betfred Temple Stakes (Haydock, 21 May), King’s Stand Stakes (Royal Ascot, 14 June) and Coolmore Nunthorpe Stakes (York, 19 August) and four races over 6 furlongs (1,200 metres) – the Golden Jubilee Stakes (Royal Ascot, 18 June), Darley July Cup (Newmarket, 9 July), Betfred Sprint Cup (Haydock, 3 September) and the finale on QIPCO British Champions Day, the QIPCO British Champions Sprint Stakes (Ascot, 15 October).
There’s nothing quite like the sight of a big field of sprinters, bursting out of the starting stalls and thundering over the turf at full pace in the rush for the winning line. Some horses are clearly bred for sprinting, while the pedigree of others may hold out hope for them being able to stretch their stamina to a mile, generally considered a more prestigious distance in thoroughbred racing. If their stamina fails, they can always make a quick return to sprinting.
Top class milers really matter in thoroughbred racing, very much like 1500 metre runners in athletics. It is as three-year-olds that horses’ abilities are really put to the test – the five Classics are exclusively for that age group – and most of Europe’s best three-year-old colts (fillies can also run, but very rarely do) will contest the QIPCO 2000 Guineas over a mile (1,600 metres, Newmarket, 30 April), the race that launches the QIPCO British Champions Series. It was the highest ranked mile race in the world last year.
Older horses have their first QIPCO British Champions Series Mile race in the JLT Lockinge Stakes (Newbury, 14 May) followed by another at Royal Ascot, the Queen Anne Stakes (14 June). That same day at Royal Ascot there’s a second three-year-olds only mile race, the St James’s Palace Stakes (14 June).
The last three races in the Mile category pitch the three-year-olds against their older rivals in the QIPCO Sussex Stakes (Goodwood, 27 July), the Shadwell Joel Stakes (Newmarket, 23 September) and the big mile championship decider, the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes on QIPCO British Champions Day. With prize money dramatically boosted to £1million this year, it will be the richest mile race ever run in Europe.
With races ranging in distance from 1¼ (2,000 metres) to 1½ miles (2,400 metres), the QIPCO British Champions Series Middle Distance category is the most important of them all, full of hugely valuable, iconic races. If you are a middle distance champion, you have really made it on the Flat racing scene, hence horses that have already excelled over a mile may be tried over a middle distance trip to see if their stamina will hold out.
The category kicks off at Epsom with the Investec Coronation Cup (3 June) and the race that everyone has heard of, the Investec Derby (4 June). The former is for four-year-olds and up, while the latter is the world’s most famous Classic, for three-year-olds only. Both are over the same 1½ mile trip.
The Prince of Wales’s Stakes over 1¼ miles (Royal Ascot, 15 June) is for four-year-olds and up and then comes the first of four races when the age groups clash, the Coral-Eclipse Stakes (Sandown Park, 2 July) also over 1¼ miles. Next up is the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes over 1½ miles (Ascot, 23 July), followed by the Juddmonte International over 1¼ miles (York, 17 August). Then all roads lead to QIPCO British Champions Day at Ascot on 15 October for what will be the richest horse race ever staged in Britain – the £1.3m QIPCO Champion Stakes (1¼ miles).
In the QIPCO British Champions Series Long Distance category come the stamina-sapping races for horses that can stay the trip – the stayers. They may not be prized for breeding purposes in the way that their more illustrious middle distance, mile and sprinting counterparts are, but they can serve up some fantastic races and, because they often race for many years, racing fans can really get to know them.
The category opens with the Emirates Airline Yorkshire Cup (York, 13 May) over 1¾ miles (2,800 metres) and then it’s on to the big one, the Gold Cup at Royal Ascot (16 June) over a mammoth 2½ miles (4,000 metres). Both these races are for four-year-olds and up, but the three-year-olds can take them on in the Artemis Goodwood Cup (28 July) over 2 miles (3,200 metres), the Lonsdale Cup (York, 18 August), also over 2 miles, and the Doncaster Cup (9 September) over 2¼ miles (3,600 metres).
The three-year-olds have their own race with the last Classic of the season, the Ladbrokes St Leger (Doncaster, 10 September) over a distance just in excess of 1¾ miles (2,900 metres to be exact). Then it’s on to QIPCO British Champions Day and the QIPCO British Champions Long Distance Cup over 2 miles, which will provide a fitting finale to the category.
Fillies & Mares
The very best fillies (female horses up to the age of four) and mares (those aged five and above) may sometimes take on their physically stronger male counterparts at the top level of racing, but they also have their own Group 1 races over a mile and middle distances so that they can prove their ability against their own sex.
The QIPCO British Champions Series Fillies & Mares category starts with three races for three-year-olds only – the first fillies’ Classic, the QIPCO 1000 Guineas (Newmarket, 1 May) over a mile (1,600 metres); the second fillies’ Classic, the Investec Oaks, over 1½ miles (2,400 metres); and the Coronation Stakes (Royal Ascot, 17 June) over a mile.
The three-year-olds clash with the older fillies and mares in the four races that follow – the Etihad Airways Falmouth Stakes (Newmarket, 8 July) over a mile; the Blue Square Nassau Stakes (Goodwood, 30 July) over 1¼ miles (2,000 metres); the Darley Yorkshire Oaks (York, 18 August) over 1½ miles; and the finale on QIPCO British Champions Day, the QIPCO British Champions Fillies & Mares Stakes, also over 1½ miles.