QIPCO British Champions Day 2023

Paddington ‘working lovely’ as he heads for QIPCO British Champions Day clash with Tahiyra

A mouthwatering clash in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes (sponsored by QIPCO) between Paddington and Tahiyra remains on the cards after the five-day confirmations were revealed today for the 13th edition of QIPCO British Champions Day at Ascot on Saturday.

The likes of Nashwa, Inspiral, Big Rock, Triple Time and QIPCO 2000 Guineas winner Chaldean could also take their place in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes, in what is set to be one of the races of the season.

The most valuable raceday in Great Britain with prize money of £4.19 million also remains on the agenda for Mostahdaf in the QIPCO Champion Stakes, who was tied second in the most recent Longines World’s Best Racehorse rankings with Arc winner Ace Impact.

Trueshan is entered for the QIPCO British Champions Long Distance Cup, aiming to extend his incredible record at QIPCO British Champions Day by becoming the first horse to win a race four times. Other winners from last year Kinross (QIPCO British Champions Sprint) and Bay Bridge (QIPCO Champion Stakes) are also set to defend their crowns.

The main international challengers come from France in the shape of Horizon Dore, favourite for the QIPCO Champion Stakes and Big Rock, who is entered for the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes (sponsored by QIPCO).

QIPCO British Champions Day on Saturday is set to be legendary jockey Frankie Dettori’s final raceday in Europe and he said of the day: “It’s a premier raceday where we crown our Champions of the year and it will be my last day of riding in England. I don’t want to take the gloss of QIPCO British Champions Day, it coronates the best horses of the year – the best Fillies, Colts, Milers, Middle Distance and Long Distance horses.

“It will be very emotional, but I am set to have four or five decent rides on the day. So, I’ll try to keep my emotions in check until after my last ride, but obviously all my friends and family will be there. I’m sure I’ll shed a tear on the day, but at the moment I’m really trying to focus on the races and give my friends and family something to shout about on the day.”

Trainer John Gosden, who has enjoyed considerable success at the meeting with Dettori, both in his own name and with his son Thady, said: “QIPCO British Champions Day is always a great meeting and one of the first things you notice when you get there is all of the young people it attracts. It’s a much younger crowd than you get at Royal Ascot, which has to be good for the sport, and I’m very much pro the meeting.

“Frankel lit up the day, first of all over the mile and then a year later over a mile and a quarter when Henry [Cecil] had finally tamed him. It’s always great racing and we’ve had some great days there with Cracksman, Stradivarius and Roaring Lion, and particularly with the fillies in the mile and a half race.

“It can get a bit squeezed in the calendar but the timing is very good this year, as it’s 20 days from the Arc, rather than 13 days from it.” 

Supplementary entries were made at the five-day entry stage for the Ralph Beckett-trained Angel Bleu in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes (sponsored by QIPCO) and Term of Endearment in the QIPCO British Champions Fillies & Mares Stakes, who provides trainer Henry de Bromhead with a first runner at the finale to the British Flat racing season.

The Going is currently Soft on both the Straight Course and Round Course following 23mm of rain from Wednesday to Monday morning. The forecast is dry until Wednesday when 15mm to 20mm is forecast through to Saturday.

As a reminder, the race conditions for the three Round Course races (1m2f, 1m4f and 2m races) permit for the switch to the Inner Flat Course if ‘Heavy’ is set to appear in the Going description. This is subject to verification from an independent panel and that decision to switch must be made no later than 8am on the day of racing.

Much will depend on how much rain falls but given the current forecast, both tracks will be set up for racing and Going descriptions with GoingStick readings for both will be provided on Tuesday, 17th October. The situation will be constantly monitored.

QIPCO CHAMPION STAKES (£1.3 MILLION): GROUP 1

Roger Varian hopes that Frankie Dettori will enjoy the perfect send-off when he partners Derby runner-up King Of Steel for the first time in public in another red-hot renewal of the afternoon’s main feature.

The 11 confirmations for the £1.3m climax to the Middle Distance category of this year’s QIPCO British Champions Series include last year’s winner Bay Bridge, as well as the impressive Prince Of Wales’s and Juddmonte winner Mostahdaf and his equally talented stable-mate Nashwa, plus rising French star Horizon Dore. 

Additionally, Aidan O’Brien can call upon Paddington and Point Lonsdale, although the former is reportedly a more likely runner in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes (sponsored by QIPCO).

Varian is in positive mood about Amo Racing’s giant three-year-old King Of Steel, who was most recently seen finishing a very close fourth behind his old rival Auguste Rodin in the Irish Champion Stakes.

He said: “Regardless of whether Frankie is signing off or not, I think he’ll suit the horse, and I think the race will suit him too. He came and rode him and he was happy with him. It won’t be an easy race, but both horse and jockey go there in good form. I wouldn’t swap him.

“He’s been training great and he looks terrific. They tell you when they are right, and he’s telling us right now. The Breeders’ Cup isn’t completely off the table, but the QIPCO Champion Stakes at Ascot comes first of course and that’s where our focus lies.”

Bay Bridge was most recently sixth behind Ace Impact in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe over a trip which stretched his stamina, but he has looked as good as ever this year when conditions have been right for him.

James Wigan, who owns the five-year-old in partnership with Ballylinch Stud, said: “It was a thrill to win the QIPCO Champion Stakes last year and to be able to try to do it again. Bay Bridge did a bit of work with Ted Durcan on Saturday and apparently went nicely. He will be running all being well.

“I thought he ran a very good race in the Arc. It was quite a tough race but he is a tough horse. I just think he didn’t quite stay. It is different at that level from winning over the trip at a lesser level like he did at Kempton.”

Plans for the Gosden pair of Mostahdaf and Nashwa hinge upon the weather, with John Gosden, who shares the licence with his son Thady, having warned at the end of last week that he wouldn’t want to see it too testing for Mostahdaf, in whose absence Nashwa would be more likely to run here than in the QEII, in which she is also engaged.

Gosden said: “Mostahdaf has won on soft, but we’ll have to see what the weather brings through the week. He ran in bottomless ground in the Arc last year and hated it, but if you get him on better ground he’s got a great turn of foot.

“Nashwa ran a huge race when third in the Irish Champion Stakes, where she was flying at the finish. She’s in great order, but a decision probably won’t be made about which race she runs in until later in the week, probably Wednesday as I don’t like leaving it until Thursday morning.”

The rapidly improving Royal Rhyme is ready to step up to Group 1 level after handicap and Listed wins that have brought an 18lb rise in rating.

Trainer Karl Burke said: “He is very ground dependent and wouldn’t want it any faster than good to soft. The ground is key to him and if it was heavy it would raise hopes even more. He has had his niggles, not being easy to train but is growing up and improving all the time.”

William Haggas has confirmed two horses with previous form in the race. He said: “Dubai Honour was second to Sealiway in the race two years ago and My Prospero third to Bay Bridge last year. I was pleased with their gallop at Newmarket on Friday.

“My Prospero will definitely be going to Ascot again, and we might put something on him there – maybe a tongue tie, maybe a pair of blinkers. He’s a really good horse, but we’ve found him quite frustrating. He’s not ungenuine, but we need to try something to find another half length or so.

“We’ll have to see how Dubai Honour comes out of his gallop. He needed that and there’s no time to give him another, so we are also looking at the Premio Roma, which is early next month. The timing is better there, but the Champion Stakes is the Champion Stakes.”

QUEEN ELIZABETH II STAKES (SPONSORED BY QIPCO) (£1,156,250): GROUP 1

Two outstanding Classic-winning three-year-olds from Ireland dominate the betting for the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes (sponsored by QIPCO), but this is a race in which France has a great recent record and Christopher Head hopes that Big Rock can follow in the footsteps of his father Freddy’s winners Charm Spirit (2014) and Solow (2015).

A winning run of seven races, including the Irish 2000 Guineas, the St James’s Palace Stakes, the Eclipse and the Sussex Stakes, came to an end for Paddington at York last time, but he is favourite ahead of the Irish 1000 Guineas and Coronation Stakes winner Tahiyra, who meets males for the first time after adding yet another Group 1 success in Leopardstown’s Matron Stakes last time.

The QIPCO 2000 Guineas winner Chaldean and five-time Group 1 winner Inspiral also have strong claims in a race in which 13 have been confirmed, in addition to which Angel Bleu has been supplemented. However, we should not underestimate the powerful French front-runner Big Rock, who was beaten only by the brilliant Ace Impact in the Prix du Jockey Club and who Head so memorably said once “has a heart like a nuclear reactor”.

Head, who has won three Group 1s in France this season with Blue Rose Cen, is from racing royalty in France but is itching to make his mark in Great Britain. He is confident Big Rock has what it takes to be involved and said: “We’ve had a very nice season with Blue Rose Cen, Ramatuelle and Big Rock, and I can’t wait to see Big Rock shine in a Group 1. The Queen Elizabeth II Stakes is a very prestigious race, and every time I have the opportunity to take a horse to England for a race like that I’ll jump on it as I really love it.” 

He added: “Big Rock has done well all season and has only been beaten by very good horses like Inspiral and Ace Impact. He can be competitive here, I have no doubt about that, and soft ground will be a plus for him of course.

“He always shows a lot of cardio and he can exhaust a lot of horses during the race with his pace, but the thing with going in front like he does is that there’s always a horse behind you who might beat you with a kick in the end. That’s what’s happened in his three Group 1s, and so we’ll talk with the owner and you might see something different.”

Big Rock has had an unusually busy season for a top miler and this will be his ninth race of the year. He also raced last November and December, and July was the only month since then when he hasn’t had a run. However, Head is confident he is fresh enough and confirmed: “With the season he’s had we’ve been working him accordingly since his last run.”

Aidan O’Brien is upbeat about Paddington, who could be joined by the stable’s Irish 2000 Guineas runner-up Cairo and still has the Champion Stakes option. He said: “We are very happy with Paddington. He’s had a break and he’s working lovely. Adrian (Maguire) rides him every day and is very happy with him. Seamus (Heffernan) rode him work on Friday and he was very happy too.”

There are no negatives from the Tahiyra camp either, and the filly’s sole defeat – her half-length second to Mawj in the QIPCO 1000 Guineas – received a timely boost when the winner made an impressive return at Keeneland at the weekend. 

Trainer Dermot Weld was short and to the point when confirming her readiness for taking on the colts. He said: “Tahiyra is very well. I am satisfied with her for Ascot on Saturday.”

Andrew Balding is also very positive about  Chaldean’s chance and said: “I couldn’t be happier with him. He had a gallop at Kempton last week and he was impressive, as I hoped he would be. He’s working with great zest and goes there in good shape.”

John and Thady Gosden have left Nashwa and Epictetus in the race alongside recent Sun Chariot winner Inspiral. Outlining plans at the end of last week, Gosden senior said: “Inspiral and Nashwa are both intended runners at this stage but obviously Nashwa is also in the QIPCO Champion Stakes. We are going to be very much in a ground watch situation. It’s going to be a big factor. 

“Inspiral is in great order. She’d only really had two and a half races before the Sun Chariot, and she took the race very well, but if she runs here then I don’t think she’ll be going to the Breeders’ Cup as well as that would be three runs in 28 days.

“A decision probably won’t be made about Nashwa until later in the week, probably Wednesday as I don’t like leaving it until Thursday morning.”

Kevin Ryan has confirmed both shock Queen Anne Stakes winner Triple Time and QIPCO 2000 Guineas second Hi Royal at the five-day confirmations stage.

QIPCO BRITISH CHAMPIONS FILLIES & MARES STAKES (£531,250): GROUP 1

Roger Charlton will have what is likely to be his last chance to add another Group 1 to a glittering CV when impressive recent Princess Royal Stakes winner Time Lock steps up in class here, for at the end of the year he will be handing over to his son Harry, with whom he has shared the licence for the last two years. 

Aidan O’Brien, who has previously won this race with Hydrangea and Magical, has plenty to choose from here. He confirmed at Newmarket that he plans to run Jackie Oh, who ran a career best when running the outstanding French filly Blue Rose Cen to a neck in the Prix de l’Opera at Longchamp on Arc weekend, but he has also confirmed Boogie Woogie, Red Riding Hood and Unless.

The confirmations also include the Princess Royal second and third, Sweet Memories and Running Lion, as well as their much shorter-priced stable-mate Free Wind, who was second in the Yorkshire Oaks and is the intended mount of Frankie Dettori. John Gosden has suggested that all three could run.

Ralph Beckett’s Irish Oaks second Bluestocking is among the other leading possibles, but plans for George Boughey’s classy come-from-behind filly Via Sistina remain fluid as she was also confirmed for the QIPCO Champion Stakes. 

Henry De Bromhead’s Term Of Endearment has been supplemented, making 19 possibles in all. However, the race has a maximum field of 14.

QIPCO BRITISH CHAMPIONS SPRINT STAKES (£500,000): GROUP 1

Last year’s winner Kinross and the top three-year-old sprinter Shaquille head 18 confirmations for what looks an open-looking QIPCO British Champions Sprint.

Kinross has been a dual Group 2 winner this year and arrives in similar form to last year, having gone close last time in the Group 1 Prix de la Foret at Longchamp, a race which he won last year. He will be ridden again by Frankie Dettori.

Shaquille staked his claim to be regarded this year’s champion sprinter when overcoming slow starts for top level wins in the Commonwealth Cup and the July Cup, but no explanation has been forthcoming for a decidedly lacklustre effort at Haydock last time.

Karl Burke has two live chances with Spycatcher, a Group 1 second on very soft ground at Deauville, and Swingalong, who was third to Shaquille in the Commonwealth Cup.

The other possibles include Run To Freedom, who was second here last year and second again to Shaquille in the July Cup; Khadeem, the Queen Elizabeth II Jubilee Stakes winner at Royal Ascot; Sense Of Duty, who was unbeaten at six furlongs last year and needed her recent return over five; Sandrine, who was back to form at Doncaster last time; and Rohaan, a five-time course and distance winner and fourth in this race last year.

QIPCO BRITISH CHAMPIONS LONG DISTANCE CUP (£500,000): GROUP 2

Trueshan could be facing his toughest opponent yet when he bids for an extraordinary fourth successive win in the QIPCO British Champions Long Distance Cup, the £500,000 Group 2 which opens proceedings.

Alan King’s seven-year-old has looked right back to his best with recent wins in the Doncaster Cup and the Prix Du Cadran, but his three Long Distance Cups have been gained by a much reduced margin each time and on this occasion he is likely to meet not only Coltrane, who made such a race of it a year ago, but also the outstanding 2022 Gold Cup at Royal Ascot winner Kyprios.

Kyprios missed most of the season, but he is the subject of pleasing reports from Aidan O’Brien, who has also confirmed Dubai Gold Cup winner Broome and three-year-old Tower Of London.

The John & Thady Gosden stable will be represented by Trawlerman, who was third here last year after winning the Sky Bet Ebor, and Sweet William, who finished runner-up in both the Ebor and the Doncaster Cup on his last two starts.

BALMORAL HANDICAP (SPONSORED BY QIPCO) (£200,000)

Long-time ante-post favourite Docklands remains on course for the concluding Balmoral Handicap (sponsored by QIPCO) for QIPCO British Champions Day on Saturday.

Docklands will be a first runner on Britain’s richest raceday for the upwardly mobile Newmarket trainer Harry Eustace. He relishes a fast-run race over a straight mile and has been successful twice over the course and distance this year, including in Royal Ascot’s Britannia Handicap. He is among just a handful who retain the Group race potential of past winners of the Balmoral like Lord Glitters and Aldaary. 

David O’Meara, whose win with 80-1 chance Shelir 12 months ago was his third in the race, has Bopedro, Blue For You and Bennetot among his possible runners. Against expectations perhaps, his 2019 winner Escobar also makes the cut in a race with a maximum field of 20.

Lincoln winner Migration, Hunt Cup runner-up Sonny Liston and last month’s winner at Doncaster’s St Leger Festival Baradar are among the other leading confirmations.