Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Cecil, Crisford, Fanshawe and Gosden Talk About Their Hopes for QIPCO British Champions Day

Trainers Sir Henry Cecil, James Fanshawe and John Gosden, plus Godolphin racing manager Simon Crisford, were all present today at a press conference at the National Stud in Newmarket to talk about their hopes for the inaugural QIPCO British Champions Day.

QIPCO British Champions Day, run at Ascot this Saturday, October 15, is the richest raceday ever to take place in Britain, with £3 million in prize money.

Please find below quotes on a race by race basis from those present today.

1.50pm £200,000 QIPCO British Champions Long Distance Cup, Group Three, Two Miles

John Gosden: “People enjoy watching these long races. It sets up the day nicely. We don’t want the first race to be a sprint that is over in a flash.

“The entries look to have good strength in depth. We run Nehaam and it would be lovely if he could get a place. He has won at Ascot before and is a grand horse. He is in good nick.”

Simon Crisford: "Opinion Poll is in tremendous form and has been very, very consistent throughout the whole year, including when he was racing in Dubai.

"He is thoroughly honest and we are very happy with him. Looking at the entries, I would say he could win the race.

"He appreciates a little bit of cut in the ground but ironically some of his best form this year has been on a quick surface. So I don't think the ground is going to be too much of an issue.

"Cavalryman and Darley Sun are possible runners too. Cavalryman has been running over a mile and a half but he hasn't been winning against very high quality middle distance horses.

"So possibly we will give him a chance over a longer trip."

2.25pm £250,000 QIPCO British Champions Sprint Stakes, Group Two, Six Furlongs

James Fanshawe: “We are very lucky to be going there into the race with two horses who have both won at Ascot.

“Everyone is talking about Deacon Blues but don’t forget Society Rock - he has won two out of three at Ascot and the only time he got beat there was by Starspangledbanner in the Golden Jubilee last year.

“Deacon Blues is improving and has been very impressive in his last four races. He would just like a bit of ease in the ground. If the ground did come up fast, we would have to review our decision about whether he runs. I was at Ascot’s last meeting and the going on the first day was beautiful, so if it is like that again we would be happy.

“The plan is for Johnny Murtagh to ride Deacon Blues and Pat Cosgrave will partner Society Rock.”

3.00pm £250,000 QIPCO British Champions Fillies & Mares Stakes, Group Two, One Mile & Four Furlongs

Henry Cecil: “Hopefully, we will run Vita Nova.

“She had a slight hiccup - she either got cast in her box or knocked herself but she has had tests and been x-rayed and seems to have come right. She had been working well before that.

“She will have her final piece of work tomorrow. She is an improving filly and hopefully there is more to come.

“She looks terrific and if everything goes well, we will let her take her chance. As long as there is no jar in the ground, she should be fine.”

John Gosden: “After Henry helped us (Gertrude Bell) win the Lancashire Oaks (referring to when Vita Nova’s saddle slipped) we planned to go for the Prix Vermeille but she had a poor blood count.

“She will retire after Saturday’s race and will visit Oasis Dream. She was the first horse bred by my wife (Rachel Hood) - I said she should give up now!”

3.35pm £1,000,000 Queen Elizabeth II Stakes sponsored by QIPCO, Group One, One Mile

Sir Henry Cecil: “I think I’ve read more about him (Frankel) than I’ve ever said - what more is there to say?

“He was not easy early on but has grown up a lot and has improved physically. He has been going really well.

“It looks like there are one of two good horses in the race and no race is a formality. There is no such thing as a ‘good thing’ but I am very happy with him.

“I also run Bullet Train (the likely pacemaker). It could help me and it could also help everyone else too. Frankel could take up the running at a certain time but we haven’t decided one, two or three things yet.

“I don’t want it to be a crawl and then turn into a sprint. It will depend on how the race is run as to whether it plays to Frankel’s speed or stamina.

“Bullet Train should make it a true run race. He will not go off like hell in front but is there is we need him.

“Frankel is still an improving horse. Hopefully it will be a nicely run race and he will do what we expect.

“It is important for racing have real champions. Sea The Stars, Arkle, Mill Reef and Desert Orchid - you don’t have to be an enthusiast to have heard of them.

“I hope Frankel can be a champion. I still think he will be a better horse next year.

“I think whether he runs on a straight course or round a bend doesn’t matter. Although at least one bend usually helps, I don’t think it’s a material factor.

“Lets let the horse do the talking.

“I respect Excelebration and Immortal Verse. Marco’s horse (Excelebration) has improved and looks like he adored the soft ground when he won in France.

“I think Immortal Verse won nicely last time, when she beat Goldikova. I have some line on her through Timepiece. Goldikova is a brilliant mare but whether she is as quite as good as she was, I am not sure. So, I have assessed where we stand with the French fillies - but I am not telling you my thoughts!”

Simon Crisford: "Poet's Voice also has an entry in the QIPCO Champion Stakes and he has been a little bit disappointing this year as against the form he showed last season.

"But with each race this season he seems to have improved. He is doing well at the moment and now we have got to weigh which is the best race for him.

"I think we will leave the decision as late as possible. Poet's Voice does seem to be coming back to something nearing his best while Rio De La Plata has run well all year."

4.10pm, £1.3 million QIPCO Champion Stakes, Group One, One Mile & Two Furlongs

John Gosden: “The ground was beautiful at Ascot’s last meeting and it would be great if it could prepared like that again on Saturday.

“Although Nathaniel is stepping down in distance, that is not a great concern to me as when he won the King George there was no pace early and it turned into a mile and a quarter race.

“I think Saturday’s race is going to be very much a draw race. I think it will be critical where you are drawn. If you are on the outside, you will be severely compromised. It could get messy going into Swinley Bottom and it won’t be smooth for the jockeys.

“It looks a strong field with great strength in depth - a race to be celebrated.”

Sir Henry Cecil: “I plan to run Twice Over and Midday.

“Both horses are very well and I am delighted with them.

“They have been trained for the race. This is always the best time of the year for Twice Over and he is better than ever - he is jumping out of his skin. Midday is also better in the second half of the seson.

“Both horses are entitled to run and they could both beat each other.

“Midday can get lazy when she is in front. At York, she got left in front early when the O’Brien horse dropped back.

“Both are really coming to themselves and are not there to make up the field.

“I wouldn’t want to pick any other horse in the field. I have my two horses and they are my friends.”

Simon Crisford:"Casamento is rated 7lb higher than Dubai Prince who is on 110 and will need to run to 125+ to win the race.

"But Dubai Prince is the one horse we have within Godolphin whom we have definitely not seen the best of yet.

"He is a quality colt and he is not going to bounce from his victory at Newbury after a long layoff because that was an easy win for him. He is definitely progressing the way we want him to progress.

"It is impossible to judge his form so far and we don't know how good he is. He hasn't claimed any proper scalps yet but he is exciting us and he belongs in that race alongside very good horses. Whether he is good enough to win, we will find out.

"Casamento is really solid, tough, nice horse. He won the Racing Post Trophy last year. It has taken him a few races ro get back to his best but he is workmanlike colt who does not exude huge quality in terms of acceleration. He needs to be wound up a long way from the finish but he comes into this race after a decent victory in France and we would expect him to run well.

"And obviously Poet's Voice could join those two as a third runner. Sheikh Mohammed will decide on the riding plans closer to the race."


John Gosden

“We know the Flat season cannot start until Cheltenham and Aintree are over and then we get the Craven meeting.

“However, we have never had an end of season championship in Britain although the French rather surreptitiously have tried to make the Arc meeting the European Breeders’ Cup.

“It was not satisfactory the way the season ended in Britain and the QIPCO British Champions Series is just what we needed.

“I am not sure the timing is perfect, but it’s a great concept. It offers a tremendous day’s racing and is something we need.

“Personally, I think the best date for QIPCO British Champions Day would be at the end of the summer festivals, in the first two weeks of September, which would also attract the last of the summer holiday crowd. You would obviously have to get the necessary changes from the Pattern committee - which is hard unless you are French!

“The weather has been kind to us this year - the indian summer is holding up nicely. It’s a great bookend to the season to be able to see Henry’s horse (Frankel).”

Sir Henry Cecil

“It’s a great achievement to have the day. It was badly needed.

“We have the best turf horses here in Europe . They obviously have good horses in America, but they are dirt horses.

“With top-class horses, they need to be brought to a peak five or six times a year and up until now there was nothing to go for at the end of the end of the season except the Breeders’ Cup but it’s very hard to go there.

“For example, Twice Over would have to go for a dirt race at the Breeders’ Cup and has never run on dirt before.”

James Fanshawe

“We have been lucky with the weather this year because in October the ground could go soft, which could distort the results for championship races.

“I would definitely bring the date forward.

“The support of Sheikh Al Thani has been phenomenal.”
Simon Crisford

"QIPCO British Champions Day is very important as Britain has not had a day like this at any time in the past.

"It was quite clear that the summer festivals all work well but at this time of year there was a serious need for a huge day.

"As a consequence, we have been very supportive since day one and we have definitely been targeting these races."

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