QIPCO British Champions Day 2023

High quality entries for Dettori’s European swansong at QIPCO British Champions Day

Some of the stars of global Flat racing are among the entries for what is set to be a breath-taking running of QIPCO British Champions Day at Ascot on Saturday 21st October – a day which will be Hall of Fame jockey Frankie Dettori’s final raceday in Europe.

The equine cast of entries for the richest raceday in Great Britain features the star of the summer in Paddington, winner of four Group 1s including most recently the Coral-Eclipse at Sandown and the Qatar Sussex Stakes at Glorious Goodwood. 

The Aidan O’Brien-trained colt is entered for both the QIPCO Champion Stakes, the richest mile and a quarter race in Europe, with a value of £1.3 million and the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes (sponsored by QIPCO), the richest mile race in Europe (£1.1 million).

The three remaining pattern races on the card each offer a prize fund of £500,000, meaning prize money for this year’s QIPCO British Champions Day will total £4.1 million, cementing its position as the richest raceday in the British calendar and the only day to feature four Group 1 prizes.

Entries also include the unbeaten Prix du Jockey Club (French Derby) winner Ace Impact and the last two Betfred Derby winners in Auguste Rodin and Desert Crown, as well as other Group 1 stars in the shape of the impressive Prince of Wales’s winner Mostahdaf and star sprinter Shaquille, winner of both the Commonwealth Cup and the Pertemps Network July Cup this season.

Four of last year’s QIPCO British Champions Day winners are set to defend their races in the shape of Bay Bridge (QIPCO Champion Stakes), Emily Upjohn (QIPCO British Champions Fillies & Mares Stakes), Kinross (QIPCO British Champions Sprint Stakes) and Trueshan (QIPCO British Champions Long Distance Cup). Last year, Trueshan became the first horse to win a race three consecutive times at QIPCO British Champions Day, and the Alan King-trained star will be looking to extend that record this year.

This year’s QIPCO British Champions Day will be an unmissable event with one of world racing’s best-known figures in Dettori riding for the last time in Great Britain and Europe.

Racing’s greatest showman is hoping for one last flying dismount at a meeting which has yielded many magic moments, including the likes of two-time QIPCO Champion Stakes winner Cracksman, recent Hall of Fame public vote winner Stradivarius (QIPCO British Champions Long Distance Cup winner in 2018) and two winners last year in the shape of Emily Upjohn and Kinross.

“It was very good last year with Emily Upjohn coming back to win after a long layoff and then Kinross, my favourite horse, winning first the Prix de la Forȇt at Longchamp and then 13 days later the QIPCO British Champions Sprint.

“I was a bit disappointed with Inspiral, who blew the start and it was a non-event in the QEII but she could be back and I’m sure John and Thady (Gosden) will have something for the race this year. It is a race that has been lucky for us.

“Another highlight was Cracksman, who gave me a first win after years of trying in the QIPCO Champion Stakes in 2017 and won it again the next year.”

One of the all-time greats of the turf has chosen Ascot for his home farewell, appropriately as the Royal racecourse has witnessed some of Dettori’s greatest moments.

His ‘Magnificent Seven’ at Ascot in 1996 when winning all seven races, including the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes on Mark Of Esteem, remains the most iconic racing event in living memory. Four winners at Royal Ascot this year took his total to 81 at the meeting and total prize-money in all Ascot races past a phenomenal £27m in his 36 years in the saddle.

Dettori, 52, said: “QIPCO British Champions Day is a great concept with great prize money. Racing for the kind of money which the rest of the world is doing more regularly.

“It was very hard to pick my last day riding in England. I had thought about Newmarket the week before but Ascot is my favourite track with so many great memories. It is going to be a special day and my family is going to be there.

“I don’t want to take the gloss off the day. The day is about the best day’s racing and not about my last day riding here before I go to America for the Breeders’ Cup and then Australia and Hong Kong before retiring at the end of the year.”

QIPCO Champion Stakes (£1.3million): Group 1

Bay Bridge faces new Group 1 challengers in his bid to repeat last year’s success in the QIPCO Champion Stakes, not least his stablemate and 2022 Derby winner Desert Crown and this year’s French Derby winner Ace Impact.

The five-year-old upstaged both the brilliant Baaeed and the 2021 Derby winner Adayar in a pulsating finish a year ago, with the race going on to be recognised as the best race in Europe in the 2022 Longines World’s Best Horserace rankings.

Bay Bridge will need more of the same if faced by this year’s three-year-old stars Ace Impact and Paddington, the latter who also holds a Queen Elizabeth II Stakes (sponsored by QIPCO) entry. Trainer Sir Michael Stoute bridged a 22-year gap between race winners with Bay Bridge last year after Kalanisi struck at the start of the millennium. Both Bay Bridge and Desert Crown have the same set of entries in the run-up to QIPCO British Champions Day.

The Juddmonte International, Irish Champion and Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe are the other three races under consideration for the Newmarket stable’s stars.

James Savage, Stoute’s assistant trainer, said: “Bay Bridge is in great form but we are waiting for some good ground. He won’t be running on fast ground and wouldn’t be going to York or Ireland if that was the case. Then it would be France or back to Ascot for the Champion.

“Desert Crown is also in great form and the Juddmonte International and the Irish Champion at Leopardstown is the initial plan before Ascot.”

Some 34 horses from across Europe have been entered for Europe’s most valuable mile and a quarter race, including no fewer than 17 individual Group 1 winning horses who, between them, have accumulated 28 wins at the highest level.

Mostahdaf joined the Group 1 elite with his impressive win in the Prince of Wales’s Stakes at Royal Ascot on his last outing.

Angus Gold, Shadwell’s racing manager, said: “He is on course for the Juddmonte International and then we will be watching the weather for Ascot.”

Betfred Derby runner-up King Of Steel, third in the recent King George VI & Queen Elizabeth QIPCO Stakes, could drop back in distance for the QIPCO Champion Stakes, having won the 1m 4f King Edward VII Stakes at Royal Ascot. While he also holds an entry in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes (sponsored by QIPCO).

Trainer Roger Varian said: “King of Steel had a hard race at Ascot but he came out of it well and I’m very pleased with him and he deserves an entry in the QIPCO Champion Stakes.”

My Prospero, beaten under a length in third by Bay Bridge in last year’s race, also features among the entries.

There is a strong entry of five horses from France, led by the unbeaten three-year-old Ace Impact, who won the Prix du Jockey Club (the French Derby) in June.

Ace Impact is rated just a pound behind Paddington in the Longines World rankings and a pound ahead of Derby winner Auguste Rodin and Bay Bridge to make for a winner takes all showdown at Ascot.

Also entered from across the channel is last year’s Grand Prix de Paris winner and Irish Champion Stakes runner-up Onesto and the three-year-old Horizon Dore, trained by Patrice Cottier, who has won over 10 furlongs twice in France this season, most recently in the Group 2 Prix Eugene Adam at Saint-Cloud last month.

Queen Elizabeth II Stakes (sponsored by QIPCO) (£1.1 million): Group 1

A rematch between Paddington and Facteur Cheval, who fought out the Qatar Sussex Stakes finish at Goodwood last week, is on the cards as the pair head the 28-strong entry for the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes (sponsored by QIPCO).

Paddington, rated the best three-year-old in the most recent Longines World rankings, was making it six races unbeaten this year at the Qatar Goodwood Festival, with the last four of those wins Group 1s. He has also been given the QIPCO Champion Stakes entry ahead of a possible next run in the Juddmonte International at York.

Facteur Cheval is firmly on course for the race though after being unlucky in running at Goodwood. The four-year-old was forced to switch onto the slower midtrack as his younger rival held the favoured stands’ rail position. Connections are hoping to reverse placings at Ascot.

Trainer Jerome Reynier, searching for a first winner in Great Britain, said: “The Queen Elizabeth II Stakes (sponsored by QIPCO) was always going to be his next and last race of the year. It is his main aim as he goes on all types of ground  and is getting bigger and stronger all the time.”

Reynier, who trains in his home city of Marseille in the south of France, is a rare visitor but went close to QIPCO British Champions Day success when Skalleti was second to Addeybb in the 2020 QIPCO Champion Stakes. Skalleti once again has an entry in this year’s QIPCO Champion Stakes.

France is also represented by Big Rocks, runner-up in the French Derby for trainer Christopher Head, who is searching for his first winner in Britain.

Triple Time, who gained his first Group 1 honours in another QIPCO British Champions Series race with an upset in the Queen Anne Stakes at Royal Ascot, is also entered with eyes on the prize.

Trainer Kevin Ryan said: “He’s been in great from since Ascot. That was his first run of the year and he’s bound to improve for it – it has taken the freshness out of him. 

“He likes Ascot and he will be perfectly at ease on good to soft ground. We didn’t think Goodwood would suit him so didn’t go for the Sussex. He goes to Deauville for the Jacques Le Marois next.”

Classic winner Chaldean is another contender, looking to restore his reputation after disappointing in France in July.

The QIPCO 2000 Guineas winner was no match for Paddington in the St James’s Palace at Royal Ascot after his Newmarket triumph but has enjoyed a midsummer break back at his owner’s Banstead Manor Stud.

Trainer Andrew Balding said: “He has enjoyed a break since France and came back at the weekend. Hopefully the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes (sponsored by QIPCO) is the aim. It’s how we get there is yet to be decided.”

Tahiyra, the Coronation Stakes and Irish 1,000 Guineas winner, has been entered by Dermot Weld along with Homeless Songs, winner of last year’s Irish 1,000 Guineas. Nashwa, third in the Qatar Sussex Stakes after her hugely impressive Tattersalls Falmouth Stakes success, is another leading filly with a double entry, also in the QIPCO Champions Stakes.

El Drama and three-time Group 1 winner Inspiral, fifth and sixth in the race last year, are entered again with El Drama having moved to trainer Karl Burke last month from Roger Varian. 

QIPCO British Champion Fillies & Mares Stakes (£500,000): Group 1

Last year’s winner Emily Upjohn heads a strong entry from the training team of John and Thady Gosden for this year’s QIPCO British Champions Fillies & Mares Stakes.

The stable has won three of the last seven renewals with Frankie Dettori riding all three, but he could have a difficult choice this year as Emily Upjohn is one of five entries from the Clarehaven stables. Last year’s Lancashire Oaks winner Free Wind, Pretty Polly winner Running Lion, disappointing Ribblesdale favourite Al Asifah and Sweet Memories are also entered.

Thady Gosden said: “It’s been similar to last year with Emily Upjohn. She ran well at Epsom to win the Coronation this year before a slight blip in the King George at Ascot. That happened last year but she has come out of the race well.”

Two of the stable’s three winners were three-year-olds in Star Catcher (2019) and Emily Upjohn last year while Journey was also the last successful four-year-old in the race in 2016.

Aidan O’Brien, who won back-to-back renewals with Hydrangea and Magical in 2017 and 2018, also has 11 entries headed by Savethelastdance, runner-up in this year’s Oaks like Emily Upjohn before her, and Warm Heart, the Ribblesdale Stakes winner at Royal Ascot.

The Ballydoyle trainer said: “Savethelastdance is training well and we are looking at the Yorkshire Oaks at York next for her.”

Karl Burke’s two entries Poptronic, the Lancashire Oaks winner, and Novakai, winner of the Listed Aphrodite Stakes at Newmarket, are also bound for the Yorkshire Oaks first.

Burke said: “Both would handle a bit of cut in the ground. Poptronic stays a bit further and Novakai, who was Group 1 placed at two, needed the step up to a mile and a half last time and improved for it and saw it out well.”

Other notable entries include Betfred Oaks sixth Heartache Tonight, half-sister to the 2020 winner Wonderful Tonight and Via Sistina, beaten a neck by Poptronic in the Lancashire Oaks. She also holds an entry in the QIPCO Champion Stakes.

QIPCO British Champions Sprint Stakes (£500,000): Group 1

A thrilling showdown between Commonwealth Cup winner Shaquille and last year’s QIPCO British Champions Sprint Stakes winner Kinross is on the cards after both featured in the 39 entries for this year’s race.

Shaquille remains unbeaten at three in his meteoric rise to the top of the sprint division this year, climaxed by a last-to-first dash to glory in the latest QIPCO British Champions Series sprint race that was the Pertemps Network July Cup at Newmarket’s July course.

Trainer Julie Camacho said: “We have given him an easy couple of weeks since Newmarket – he has been on the go since December when we got him qualified for the all-weather finals.

“He’s back cantering and seems in good form. Haydock’s Sprint Cup is the plan, not the Nunthorpe, and then back to Ascot for QIPCO British Champions Day.

“I know Kinross will want very soft ground but Shaquille prefers softer ground than faster ground as he is heavy-topped. He has won on soft, albeit in a handicap.”

After Kinross proved his mettle at the age of six with Lennox success at Goodwood last week, his trainer Ralph Beckett said: “We will try to dance every dance – he’s a gelding, very clean-winded and needs no work; we don’t need to gallop him.

“He might go to Doncaster for the Park Stakes and the Forȇt at ParisLongchamp before Ascot.

“He is much better on softer ground and seven furlongs is his ultimate distance but the very stiff six at Ascot on soft ground suits him just as well.”

Karl Burke has entered Sunday’s Prix Maurice de Gheest runner-up Spycatcher and the filly Swingalong, who won the Group 3 Summer Stakes at York.

Although Spycatcher has raced predominately in France, Burke said: “If the ground turns up soft at Haydock he will run in the Sprint Cup there and the plan is onto Ascot for QIPCO British Champions Day. Swingalong wouldn’t want it soft and deserves the entry.”

The strong entry for the QIPCO British Champions Sprint Stakes also includes the one-two for the Queen Elizabeth II Jubilee Stakes at Royal Ascot this year in Khaadem and Sacred along with dual Royal Ascot Wokingham Stakes winner Rohaan.

Sandrine, the 2020 Albany Stakes winner at Royal Ascot, who won last year’s Lennox Stakes at the expense of Kinross, is another notable entry.

QIPCO British Champions Long Distance Cup (£500,000): Group 2

A repeat of last year’s exciting finish to the opening race of QIPCO British Champions Day is on course with Trueshan and Coltrane, separated by a head, featuring among the 48 entries for the QIPCO British Champions Long Distance Cup.

Trueshan and Hollie Doyle, who will be aiming to make it four wins in a row in the race, have become part of the QIPCO British Champions Day furniture since their runaway first success when Derby winner Serpentine and Stradivarius trailed in their wake three years ago.

Trainer Alan King said on this year’s entry: “We took the view after the Sagaro at Ascot in May (fourth behind Coltrane) to give him a break and not keep him on the go like last year, waiting for his ground and not getting it.

“It’s been frustrating watching the weather turn in his favour last week. The plan is to go for the Cadran again on September 30 and then hopefully for his fourth win in the QIPCO British Champions Long Distance Cup.

“He won both two years ago when there was only two weeks between them and there is three weeks this time and he has had his wind done. I just hope we don’t get an Indian summer now!”

Trueshan still needs two more race wins to match Further Flight’s record in what was previously known as the Jockey Club Cup, as the popular grey won the then Group 3 run at Newmarket from 1991 to 1995.

Coltrane’s trainer Andrew Balding is relishing a rematch with old rival Trueshan, having bested him in last year’s Doncaster Cup and this year’s Sagaro Stakes at Ascot.

“He didn’t have the ideal trip through the race last year,” said the Kingclere trainer. 

“But Trueshan would have beaten him however he had been ridden that day. Coltrane has shown he likes Ascot and we will give it another go.”

John Gosden and Frankie Dettori have won the race twice in its Ascot lifetime with Flying Officer (2015) and Stradivarius, the Ascot Gold Cup holder in 2018.

Gosden, now joint trainer with his son Thady, has entered this year’s Ascot Gold Cup winner Courage Mon Ami and Queen’s Vase winner Gregory as well as last year’s third Trawlerman.

Thady Gosden said: “Both Courage Mon Ami and Gregory have progressed well as stayers this year. Courage Mon Ami just couldn’t handle the ground at Goodwood.”

Quickthorn, who romped away so impressively with the Goodwood Cup last week, is also entered, along with the previous Goodwood Cup winner in Kyprios.

The latter has not been seen since his unbeaten 2022 which included the Gold Cup at Royal Ascot, Goodwood Cup and Prix du Cadran. He is one of 14 entries for the race from Aidan O’Brien, who has won the race three times with Fame And Glory (2011), Order of St George (2017) and Kew Gardens (2019).

Champion Irish jumps trainer Willie Mullins has entered Melbourne Cup favourite Vauban, who has also won three Grade 1s over hurdles, and Absurde, who finished first and second in the Copper Horse Handicap over course and distance at the Royal Meeting.