QIPCO Champions Day: Betting Tips, Stats & History

Ascot Racecourse Grandstand
Photo: Bradley Howard, flickr

Champions Day is seen as one of the highlights of the British Flat racing season. It’s one of the final meetings of the year and includes some of the most illustrious races to boot. The meeting only lasts one day and is held at the Ascot Racecourse, but it sees the largest prize pool of any meeting in the UK, coming in at over £4.2million in total prize money. 

The day has six races in total, including four Group 1 races, the most in a single race day within the UK. There's also the Group 2 Long Distance Cup to open proceedings and the Balmoral Handicap to close. The highlight of the day is the Champions Stakes, of which we will talk in greater length throughout this article.

British Champions Day Betting Tips for 2018

The thoughts of many racing fans may be beginning to turn to the jumps game as we head into the latter weeks of October, but the flat season isn’t done with just yet. Amongst the highlights still to come, we have the small matter of the richest single day of racing in British flat history, as Ascot lays on British Champions Day 2018. With a total of £4.35 million in prize money on offer, this is one day of action which is understandably targeted by the top owners and trainers alike.

This meeting takes some beating not only in terms of the prize money on offer, but also when it comes to the quality of the action. Five of the six races on the card are Group class contests, with four being top tier Group 1 affairs. With events ranging from the 6f of the British Champions Sprint Stakes, to the 2m of the British Champions Long Distance Cup – and just about everything in between – this excellent meeting aims to attract the best of the best from the current season, from right across the racing spectrum. Let’s take a closer look at just what we have in store this year.

TimeRaceGrade / LengthTip
13:25 Long Distance Cup Group 2 / 2m Thomas Hobson
14:00 Sprint Stakes Group 1 / 6f Brando
14:40 Fillies & Mares Stakes Group 1 / 1m 4f Lah Ti Dar
15:15 Queen Elizabeth II Stakes Group 1 / 1m Roaring Lion
15:50 Champion Stakes Group 1 / 1m 2f Crystal Ocean
16:30 Balmoral Handicap Class 2 / 1m Flaming Spear

British Champions Long Distance Cup

We begin with the longest race of the day, as it is the aforementioned Qipco British Champions Long Distance Cup which acts as the curtain raiser. Two miles is the trip, as the best of the staying performers aged three and older do battle in Berkshire. Always a closely fought contest between the top British and Irish performers, it’s been honours even in the past decade, with five wins for the Irish and five for the home team.

Clear favourite this time around is John Gosden’s all-conquering son of Sea The Stars, Stradivarius. Unbeaten in four starts this season, he will likely prove mightily tough to stop once again here – although he was only third in this race 12 months ago. Going for Ireland are Doncaster Cup king Thomas Hobson from the yard of Willie Mullins, and Irish St Leger winner, Flag Of Honour who goes for Aidan O’Brien who took this 12 months ago with Order Of St. George.

British Champions Sprint Stakes

A change of pace for our second race as we drop right down in trip to the 6f of the Qipco British Champions Sprint. Fans of course and distance form will no doubt gravitate towards the two at the top of the market here, with the betting currently headed by the 2016 winner of this race, The Tin Man; he is closely followed by last year’s champion, Librisa Breeze. Neither is the best horse in the field on official ratings though. That honour falls to the Clive Cox runner, Harry Angel. Beaten in his two most recent starts, and zero from five at Ascot, he does have a bit to prove though. A back to form, Limato, and a strong Irish challenge spearheaded by Son Of Rest and Sioux Nation add further intrigue to what looks set to be a cracker.

British Champions Fillies & Mares Stakes

There are a few big John Gosden vs Aidan O’Brien clashes on this card, including here in race three, the Qipco British Champions Fillies & Mares Stakes.

O’Brien’s Hydrangea is the defending champion, and once again looks set to get the soft ground which saw her post such an impressive performance 12 months ago. She hasn’t been anything like so good since, but may well have been one of those affected by the virus in the O’Brien yard. If back to her best she looks to boast solid claims.

Hydrangea will likely need to be right back to that peak form if she is to hold off John Gosden’s Lah Ti Dar. A full sister to Too Darn Hot, this one bolted up at Listed level on her only previous start at this trip – winning by 10 lengths – before being outstayed by Kew Gardens in the St Leger last time. This will be the softest ground she has raced on, but already the top rated in the field, and in receipt of the three year olds allowance, she looks a worthy favourite. Another for the shortlist is the hat-trick seeking Kitesurf who goes for Andre Fabre and France.

Queen Elizabeth II Stakes

It is France who are responsible for the favourite in our next race, with Recoletos topping most lists for the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes. Whilst two previous wins at this level do entitle the son of Whipper to plenty of respect, he did bomb out on his two previous runs at this track and there will no doubt be plenty willing to take him on.

The rain in the area could see Roaring Lion take up this engagement ahead of the Champion Stakes – in which case he would be the one they all have to beat on the book – whilst flying the flag for the fillies is the admirably consistent, Laurens, from the yard of Karl Burke. Only fourth in the betting despite now being a five time Group 1 winner, she perhaps still isn’t quite getting the respect she deserves. Another who looks set to go well is Addeybb from the yard of William Haggas. Off the track for 154 days now, he will be fresher than most and has the ground firmly in his favour once again.

Champion Stakes

Race five is the big one, as the best of the mile and a quarter performers battle it out for the whopping £1.3 million in total prize money on offer for the Qipco Champion Stakes.

If Cracksman turns up in the same sort of form as he did when turning this into a procession 12 months ago, then the rest may well be playing for second. The son of Frankel hasn’t quite hit those heights yet this year, but does have the ground coming in his favour ahead of what will be his final career start.

Chief amongst the opposition is the Sir Michael Stoute representative, Crystal Ocean. It was a Stoute runner – in the form of Poet’s Word – who caused a shock when beating Cracksman in the Prince Of Wales’s Stakes last time out, but will it be more of the same here?

Roaring Lion would be another obvious contender if taking up this engagement, whilst Aidan O’Brien’s Capri looks to be the strongest of the Irish contingent following his solid effort in fifth in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe last time out.

Balmoral Handicap

The closing contest of the day may be bottom of the pile in terms of the class of runner on display, but the ultra-competitive Balmoral Handicap will no doubt more than hold its own when it comes to betting interest.

With the past three editions of this being won by horses drawn 3, 1 and 4, punters will no doubt be keen to support those performers granted a low berth once again this year.

The in-form course and distance winner Raising Sand looks set to go off favourite, with the promising Nicola Currie once again taking three pounds off his back. John Quinn’s hat-trick seeking Safe Voyage is another worth a look, having been given a much lighter campaign than most of these.

About the QIPCO British Champions Series

The Champions Day brings together a series of horses who have won some of the best races throughout the racing calendar. They include 35 races in total, with each winner being brought in to run in one of the six races on Champions Day. 

The Champions Series, whilst highly prestigious in its own right, is essentially seen as a feeder series for the Champions Day. The idea of the Champions Day was brought in to see which is the best horse for the season within their chosen class, often determined by the length of the race. 

All races on Champions Day are of different lengths, apart from the Queen Elizabeth II and the Balmoral Handicap. But, the latter is actually classed a Handicap race, and not a Group race, so they don’t clash in terms of who competes. 

QIPCO British Champions Series Calendar

MonthRaceDistanceCourseCategory
May 2000 Guineas 1m Newmarket Mile
1000 Guineas 1m Newmarket Fillies & Mares
Yorkshire Cup 1m 6f York Long Distance
Lockinge Stakes 1m Newbury Mile
June Coronation Cup 1m 4f Epsom Middle Distance
The Oaks 1m 4f Epsom Fillies & Mares
The Derby 1m 4f Epsom Middle Distance
King's Stand 5f Ascot Sprint
St James' Palace Stakes 1m Ascot Mile
Queen Anne Stakes 1m Ascot Mile
Prince Of Wales's Stakes 1m 2f Ascot Middle Distance
The Gold Cup 2m 4f Ascot Long Distance
Commonwealth Cup 6f Ascot Sprint
Coronation Stakes 1m Ascot Fillies & Mares
Diamond Jubilee Stakes 6f Ascot Sprint
July Coral Eclipse 1m 2f Sandown Middle Distance
Falmouth Stakes 1m Newmarket Fillies & Mares
July Cup 6f Newmarket Sprint
King George VI & Queen Elizabeth St. 1m 4f Ascot Middle Distance
Goodwood Cup 2m Goodwood Long Distance
August Sussex Stakes 1m Goodwood Mile
Nassau Stakes 1m 2f Goodwood Fillies & Mares
Juddmonte International 1m 2f York Middle Distance
Yorkshire Oaks 1m 4f York Fillies & Mares
Nunthorpe Stakes 5f York Sprint
Lonsdale Cup 2m York Long Distance
September Sprint Cup 6f Haydock Sprint
Doncaster Cup 2m 2f Doncaster Long Distance
St Leger 1m 6f Doncaster Long Distance
October Sun Chariot Stakes 1m Newmarket Mile
Champions Long Distance Cup 2m Ascot Long Distance
Champions Sprint 6f Ascot Sprint
Champions Fillies & Mares 1m 4f Ascot Fillies & Mares
Queen Elizabeth II Stakes 1m Ascot Mile
Champion Stakes 1m 2f Ascot Middle

The Champions Series was devised in an attempt to attract a larger racing crowd throughout the year. Whilst it’s only been running since 2011, the increase in popularity has been apparent, seeing a 7% increase in attendances across the board. 

Whilst the Champions Day has also only been about since 2011, the races that are on offer have actually been running for a fairly long time. The Long Distance Cup for example has been running since 1873 and was originally held at Newmarket, before making the switch to Ascot in 2011 to become part of Champions day. All other races follow the same suit with the latest starting life in the mid 20thcentury.

QIPCO

Flags of Britain and Qatar

QIPCO are the main sponsors behind both the Champions Day and the Champions Series. QIPCO stands for the Qatar Investment and Projects Development Holding Company. Catchy, right?

The company, set up in 1999, initially started life within the property development and investment sector for business within Qatar. They’ve invested a lot of their own money over the years and with it have seen massive success in creating an infrastructure in Qatar. 

One of their most recent dealings has been aiding in the bidding process for the 2022 Football World Cup, which Qatar won. They now aid the government in creating buildings, stadiums and transport links to promote the World Cup. 

QIPCO also own that of Qatar Racing and Qatar Bloodstock and own a thoroughbred and breeding operation that is based in Gloucestershire, England. They’ve been able to invest in sponsorship deals for a number of high profile races and meetings throughout the UK, including the 2000 and 1000 Guineas, along with a long-term partnership with Ascot Racecourse. 

They were original backers of the Champions Day at Ascot, but in 2015 penned a deal worth £50million to be main sponsors of the Champions Day, along with the Champions Series to run until 2024. This has now worked out to be the biggest sponsorship deal in British Racing history and is hoped to see the continued evolution not only the Champions Series and Champions Day, but also British Racing as a whole. 

Categories

There are 5 categories in total that work within the Champions Series: Sprint, Mile, Middle Distance, Long Distance and Fillies & Mares. 

The day starts out with the Long Distance Cup, which is run over 2mile and is the only Group 2 race of the day. The race is open to 3YO+ and comes with a prize fund of £300,000. The Challenge Series feeder races for this event include the likes of the Yorkshire Cup, Ascot Gold Cup, Goodwood Cup, Lonsdale Cup, Doncaster Cup, St Leger Stakes and the British Champions Long Distance Cup (performances from the previous year). Notable winners of the Long Distance Cup are that of Further Flight, Persian Punch and most recently, in 2017, Order of St George. 

Long Distance Cup Winners

Year

Winner

Jockey

2017

Order of St George

Ryan Moore

2016

Sheikhzayedroad

Martin Harley

2015 

Flying Officer

Frankie Dettori

2014

Forgotten Rules

Pat Smullen

2013

Royal Diamond

Johnny Murtagh

The second race of the day is the Champions Sprint Stakes and is the first of Group 1 races, run over 6f and for 3YO+. As the shortest race of the day, it’s often the most exciting but can also be the most unpredictable. The Sprint series feeder races include the King’s Stand Stakes, Commonwealth Cup, Diamond Jubilee Stakes, July Cup, Nunthorpe Stakes, Haydock Sprint Cup and the British Champions Sprint Stakes (performances from previous year). Notable winners of the Sprint Stakes include Muhaarar, Red Clubs, Set Fair and Jack and Jill. 

Sprint Stakes Winners

Year

Winner

Jockey

2017

Librisa Breeze

Robert Winston

2016

The Tin Man

Tom Queally

2015 

Muhaarar

Paul Hanagan

2014

Gordon Lord Byron

Wayne Lordan

2013

Slade Power

Wayne Lordan

Next race is that of the Champions Fillies and Mares’ Stakes. A Group 1 race run over 1m 4f and the longest race of the day. The prize money comes in at £550,000 and Includes 3YO+ with both fillies and mares being eligible to enter. The feeder series includes races such as the 1,00 Guineas, Epsom Oaks, Coronation Stakes, Falmouth Stakes, Nassau Stakes, Yorkshire Oaks and the British Champions Fillies and Mares’ Stakes (performances from previous year). Notable winners include Shebeen, Crystal Capella, Journey, Dancing Rain and Ouija Board. 

Champions Fillies & Mares' Stakes Winners

Year

Winner

Jockey

2017

Hydrangea

Ryan Moore

2016

Journey

Frankie Dettori

2015 

Simple Verse

Andrea Atzeni

2014

Madame Chiang

Jim Crowley

2013

Seal Of Approval

George Baker

The Queen Elizabeth II Stakes commands the second biggest prize pool of the day, with £1.1million up for grabs. The race is run over 1m and is open to 3YO+. The feeder races for this race include the 2,000 Guineas, Lockinge Stakes, Queen Anne Stakes, St James’ Palace Stakes, Sussex Stakes, Sun Chariot Stakes and the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes (performances from previous year). Notable winners include Minding, Olympic glory, Rose Bowl, Brigadier General and of course, the great, Frankel. 

Queen Elizabeth II Stakes Winners

Year

Winner

Jockey

2017

Persuasive

Frankie Dettori

2016

Minding

Ryan Moore

2015 

Solow

Maxime Guyon

2014

Charm spirit

Olivier Peslier

2013

Olympic Glory

Richard Hughes

The Champion Stakes is probably the highlight of the day and comes in with one of the largest prize fund on UK racing of £1.3million. The race is run over 1m 2f and is for 3YO+. The feeder races for this race include the Coronation Cup, Epsom Derby, Prince of Wales’ Stakes, Eclipse Stakes, King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes, Juddmonte International Stakes and the Champion Stakes (performance from previous years). Previous winners include Twice Over, Frankel, Cracksman, Alborada, Rodrigo de Triano and Spectrum. 

Champion Stakes Winners

Year

Winner

Jockey

2017

Cracksman

Frankie Dettori

2016

Almanzor

Christophe Soumillion

2015 

Fascinating Rock

Pat Smullen

2014

Noble Mission

James Doyle

2013

Farhh

Silvestre de Sousa 

History

Image of Racehorse and UK Flag

The formation of the series has in hindsight been of great importance to British Horseracing. It’s not only brought in huge overseas investment at a time where British Racing needed an injection of cash, but it’s also given yet another highlight for racegoers and even punters within the calendar. 

The series, although not stated, is sure to rival the likes of the Breeders’ Cup that has seen great success within the US and is widely regarded as the most lucrative race meeting in the world. In fact, the very same Breeders’ Cup started with just one day’s worth of racing and follows the exact same format with feeder races amalgamating in the some of the best horses from around the world. 

The races from the event have all been running for a good while (50+ years) and have been taken from some of the best races within both Ascot and Newmarket’s racecourse. Both racecourses used to hold end of season meetings, but now this is seen as the pinnacle and with it are able to attract huge crowds, that otherwise would be saturated in meetings held throughout the year containing these races. 

In recent years there are two jockeys that really stand out when it comes to success at the meeting, and they are both Ryan Moore and Frankie Dettori. The pair have been at the top of their game for a number of years now, so it comes as little surprise to see them riding winners in the pinnacle of the British flat racing scene. 

In terms of trainers, the likes of Aiden O’Brien, Sir Henry Cecil, John Gosden, Saeed bin Suroor and Freddy Head have all seen huge success, especially in the two bigger races of the Champion Stakes and the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes. 

Frankel

Frankel is one of the most iconic horses in racing history, period. His incredible record of 14 Group 1 races and 14 Group 1 wins sets him apart from almost all other horses. As a result, he was able to earn an official rating of 140 by the the end of his career and the highest Timeform rating in the history of the sport of 147. 

Chart Showing Racehorse Frankel's Official Rating Over Time

Whilst Frankel won pretty much everything he could have in the game, it was the Champions Day where a lot of his success came, winning both the Queen Elizabeth Stakes in 2011 and rather more fittingly, the Champion Stakes in 2012. 

The Champion Stakes victory in 2012 proved to be his last race before being put out to stud. The 32,000 sell-out crowd for the days racing were able to have witnessed one of the all-time greats of the sport, bowing out in the only way he knew. Winning. 

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