QIPCO British Champions Day 2023

Eustace eager for first QIPCO British Champions Day runner with Docklands in Balmoral Handicap

Trainer Harry Eustace is looking forward to saddling his first QIPCO British Champions Day runner when his Ascot specialist Docklands runs in the £200,000 Balmoral Handicap (sponsored by QIPCO) on Saturday 21st October.

A winner twice over Ascot’s straight mile in the first half of the year, including in the hugely competitive Britannia Handicap for three-year-olds, the colt features among 63 entries for the tenth running of the race, and it has long been his target.

Eustace, who is in his third season since taking over from his father James and whose team goes from strength to strength, confirmed: “The Balmoral Handicap is very much the plan and has been for a while. His Ascot record speaks for itself and he’s shown there that he handles both soft and quick ground. 

“When he ran in the Group 3 at Goodwood last time I think he was compromised by sitting last in a very tactically run race that was run on going that made it tough to make up ground. It was a better run than the bare visuals suggest and I’ve no doubt that he’ll make up into a Group horse, but for the money on offer, and being at Ascot, the Balmoral was the obvious race for him.”

He added: “It will be very exciting to have a first runner on QIPCO British Champions Day, and it’s exciting too for his owners O T I Racing, who are big international players and will have him to race in Australia at some stage, probably for their Spring Carnival next year, which would be October/November.

“I would have thought that Hayley (Turner) will ride, and she rides the straight track at Ascot particularly well.”

Also entered is last year’s Britannia second Saga, owned by King Charles and Queen Camilla, and success for the Listed-placed four-year-old would raise the roof, especially if he was a last ever QIPCO British Champions Day ride for soon-to-retire Frankie Dettori. Saga is one of two entries for the Gosden stable (the other being the Godolphin-owned Unforgotten), which is due a change of luck after five Balmoral placings, including seconds with Gm Hopkins and multiple Group 1 winner Lord North.  

David O’Meara, who has won the Balmoral Handicap three times, has made his usual strong entry. His 2019 winner Escobar, who has run at the fixture for the last five years, would be unlikely to make the cut off his current rating, but O’Meara has five other possibles including Balmoral regulars Orbaan and Rhoscolyn as well as Bopedro, who was unlucky in running in a valuable handicap at Leopardstown last time.

The Leopardstown race was won by Broadhurst, who is one of three Irish-trained entries and would be a rare runner in the race for Aidan O’Brien. Ireland has had only ten runners but won with the Jessica Harrington-trained Njord in 2020.

Roger Varian, who won with Sharja Bridge in 2018, has three possibles, including the former Britannia winner Perotto, who gained a second straight mile success at Ascot at last month’s Shergar Cup.

Other key entries include David Menuisier’s Lincoln winner Migration, Jack Channon’s Golden Mile winner Johan, and the Ralph Beckett-trained Hunt Cup runner-up Sonny Liston.

The weights, which will be published on 26th September, are likely to be headed by Richard Hannon’s Witch Hunter, who has a mark of 115 following last month’s Group 2 win in Newbury’s Hungerford Stakes. According to the race conditions he is likely to be allotted 10st 3lb.