Thursday, 29 September 2011

Countdown to Inaugural QIPCO British Champions Day Intensifies




There is now just over a fortnight until Britain’s richest-ever raceday is staged, the inaugural QIPCO British Champions Day at Ascot on Saturday 15 October. Interest in the five Group contests intensifies today with the unveiling of the latest acceptors following the 27 September scratchings deadline.

As expected, the unbeaten Frankel heads the 14 acceptors for the £1 million Group 1 Queen Elizabeth II Stakes, sponsored by QIPCO. Officially rated the best horse in the world, Frankel has won all his eight starts, most recently sauntering to a five-length success in the QIPCO Sussex Stakes at Goodwood on 27 July.
Among the potential rivals for the Sir Henry Cecil-trained colt is the filly Immortal Verse, winner of the Group 1 Coronation Stakes at Royal Ascot and Deauville’s Group 1 Prix Jacques Le Marois on her latest two starts. Her stunning victory at Deauville on 15 August saw her defeat 14-time Group 1 winner Goldikova cosily by a length with Sahpresa, successful in the Group 1 Sun Chariot Stakes at Newmarket on Saturday, back in third. The three-year-old, who is trained at Chantilly by Robert Collet, missed her latest intended start in the Group 1 Qatar Prix du Moulin de Longchamp on 11 September due to an overreach but is firmly on course for Ascot next month.

Brendan Hayes, who manages owner Richard Strauss’ Kilfrush Stud in Ireland, commented: “Immortal Verse is very well and we are targeting the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes with her. We are optimistic and it looks like it is going to be a great race.

“Hopefully, she can show her usual turn of foot, although it is certainly going to be an interesting race in terms of tactics. A good pace would suit us.

“She had to miss the Moulin due to an overreach. It wasn’t very bad, but overreaches are never a good thing and so we had to miss the race.

“That means she will be going to Ascot fresh and she showed when she won the Marois that she can win when she is fresh. She is very straightforward filly to deal with, which is a big help.”

Other possible starters include Excelebration, who has twice filled the minor honours behind Frankel this season but showed he is a top-class horse in his own right when an impressive winner of the Group 1 Qatar Prix Du Moulin De Longchamp on 11 September. Dick Turpin looks set to represent reigning champion trainer Richard Hannon and warmed up with a short-head victory over Cityscape in the Group 1 Premio Vittorio Di Capua at San Siro on 24 September.

The mile contest is also an option for Ballydoyle’s So You Think, while last year’s winner Poet’s Voice is one of two left in by Godolphin’s Saeed bin Suroor alongside Rio De La Plata.

Sir Henry Cecil revealed last week that he is likely to be two-handed in the £1.3 million Group 1 QIPCO Champion Stakes, run over 10 furlongs, with both Twice Over, who has won the race for the past two years when it was run at Newmarket, plus the mare Midday. The Khalid Abdulla-trained pair, who filled the first two places in the Juddmonte International at York last month, feature among 26 acceptors for the QIPCO Champion Stakes. Other potential starters for the richest race in Britain include So You Think, the Australian champion who has won four of his five starts since joining Aidan O’Brien, and King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes victor Nathaniel.

Godolphin’s Mahmood Al Zarooni, who lies second to Sir Henry Cecil in the trainer standings for the QIPCO British Champions Series, has three very interesting potential contenders in Casamento, French Navy and Dubai Prince, who have all won in the last month on their return to action.

The Queen, who will be in attendance at Ascot on QIPCO British Champions Day, could be represented in the QIPCO Champion Stakes by Investec Derby third Carlton House.

QIPCO British Champions Day kicks off with the Group 3 £200,000 QIPCO British Champions Long Distance Cup over two miles. Among the 23 going forward for this contest is Godolphin’s Opinion Poll, trained by Mahmood Al Zarooni, who has already taken two races in the Long Distance category with victories in the Artemis Goodwood Cup and the Lonsdale Cup at York. Opinion Poll could face a rematch with the Aidan O’Brien-trained Fame And Glory, who got the better of him by three lengths in the Gold Cup at Royal Ascot in June.

Sprinters get their chance to shine in the Group 2 £250,000 QIPCO British Champions Sprint over six furlongs, with 32 remaining entries including Society Rock, Sole Power and Dream Ahead, who have all won races in the Sprint division of the QIPCO British Champions Series. Three-year-old Moonlight Cloud, impressive winner of the Group 1 Prix Maurice de Gheest on her latest start, is set to make the journey from France, while Deacon Blues, Hoof It and Bated Breath are all improving four-year-olds who are being targeted at the race.

A fascinating contest is in prospect for the £250,000 QIPCO British Champions Fillies & Mares Stakes for which 23 go forward. Among those still engaged in the mile and a half event is Godolphin’s Blue Bunting, a three-time Group 1 winner in 2011 with her victories coming in the QIPCO 1000 Guineas, Darley Irish Oaks and Darley Yorkshire Oaks. Sir Henry Cecil plans to run Vita Nova, the close runner-up to Blue Bunting at York, while another leading contender is this year’s Investec Oaks and German Oaks victress Dancing Rain, trained by William Haggas.

All races on QIPCO British Champions Day are run with Group 1 levels of prize money and with Group 1 conditions (i.e. there are no penalties for previous Pattern race winners).

The next confirmation stage for QIPCO British Champions Day is on Monday, October 10, when there is also a supplementary entry stage for each of the five Group races.


Matt Chapman, Amanda Davies and Robert Cowell will be leading the way in front of the microphone on QIPCO British Champions Day at Ascot on Saturday 15 October, alongside Ascot’s usual broadcaster, Rupert Bell, and racecourse commentator for the day, Mike Vince.

Matt Chapman, voted “Broadcaster of the Year” by the Horserace Writers and Photographers Association in December and best known for his slots on racing satellite channel At The Races, will anchor the Ascot TV programme, parts of which will also be broadcast over the public address system.

BBC Sport’s Amanda Davies will be speaking to the day’s special guests and helping to capture the mood amongst racegoers.

Newmarket trainer Robert Cowell, who saddled Prohibit to win the Group 1 King’s Stand Stakes in the QIPCO British Champions Series this summer, will be alongside Chapman for much of the afternoon, helping to preview each race for the benefit of racegoers at Britain’s richest ever raceday.

Rupert Bell, Ascot TV’s presenter for more than 15 years, will be handling the post-race interviews with the winning connections. These will also be taken by At The Races and Racing UK, both of whom are televising the day, as well as by international broadcasters taking the world feed.

Up in the commentators’ gantry, Mike Vince, who has called the races on Dubai Duty Free Shergar Cup Day at Ascot for the past 10 years, will be providing bespoke commentaries for the racecourse. Richard Holies will be the RaceTech commentator for the day, calling the races for ATR, RUK, Turf TV in the betting shops and the international broadcasters.

“We are delighted to have assembled such a strong team to present QIPCO British Champions Day to racegoers on the day,” said Rod Street, Chief Executive of British Champions Series Ltd.

“We want it to be a little different to a normal raceday and think that the combination of Matt, Amanda and Robert will provide just that, while having our own race caller as part of the team will help link the commentaries to the rest of the presentation, something which works really well at the Shergar Cup.”

Matt Chapman said: "For the purist, the inaugural QIPCO Champions Day provides £3m of gift-wrapped reasons to savour Europe's finest equine talent but, in the same way as a non-footballing fan might still watch the FA Cup or Champions League Final, the event should evolve as a 'must see' for general sports enthusiasts.

"The on track team see it as their mission to enhance the experience of regular racegoers while engaging and enlightening those less familiar with a truly great sport. It's terrific to be part of an occasion which provides horse racing with the chance to be a winner."

Amanda Davies said: “British Champions Day is going to provide Flat racing in this country with a fantastic shop window and while my racing colleagues are broadcasting the big races live on BBC TV and radio, I am thrilled to be part of the racecourse team capturing the atmosphere on course.”

Alistair Haggis, British Champions Series: 07761 896 500;

Nick Smith, Ascot Racecourse: 07771 791 449;
QIPCO British Champions Series – the world's finest Flat racing

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