It’s hard to pick out a standout contest on British Champions Day at Ascot, but if the list of recent winners is anything top go by, there is certainly a case to be made that the one-mile Queen Elizabeth II Stakes is the best of the lot.
French star Solow, Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Ravens Pass, wonder filly Minding and the greatest of all time Frankel all feature on the roll of honour in the past decade alone.
The QEII was first run in 1955 having taking over from the Knight’s Royal Stakes which had taken place for the previous eight years, renamed in honour or our reigning monarch.
Queen Elizabeth II Stakes Past Winners
|2020||The Revenant||5/1||Francis-Henri Graffard||Pierre-Charles Boudot|
|2019||King Of Change||12/1||Richard Hannon||Sean Levey|
|2018||Roaring Lion||2/1||John Gosden||Oisin Murphy|
|2017||Persuasive||8/1||John Gosden||Frankie Dettori|
|2016||Minding||7/4||Aidan O’Brien||Ryan Moore|
|2015||Solow||11/10||Freddy Head||Maxime Guyon|
|2014||Charm Spirit||5/1||Freddy Head||Olivier Peslier|
|2013||Olympic Glory||11/2||Richard Hannon Snr||Richard Hughes|
|2012||Excelebration||10/11||Aidan O'Brien||Joseph O'Brien|
|2011||Frankel||4/11||Sir Henry Cecil||Tom Queally|
About the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes
British Champions Day has quickly become one of the most important and anticipated days in the flat racing season. Each of the five races that take place on the big day at Ascot are hugely valuable but only the Champion Stakes and the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes have total prize money in excess of £½ million in 2020.
The Queen Elizabeth II Stakes is the fourth race of the day at British Champions Day and the final of the Mile Series. It’s open to all horses aged three and older but winning a place in the Group 1 contest is subject to performance in the races which precede it: the 2000 Guineas, the Lockinge Stakes, the Queen Anne Stakes, the St James’s Palace Stakes, the Sussex Stakes and the Sun Chariot Stakes.
THE MILERS’ PINNACLE
The Mile Series really kicks off with the first Classics of the season. The sort of performance required to win the 1000 and 2000 Guineas has tended to favour specialist milers over the sort of horses who go on to have success at one and a half miles or longer. By the time we get to the closing stages of the season those who compete in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes have already shown that one mile is their ideal trip and it always takes a performance of the highest calibre to win.
The very best horses to have won the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes have stepped up to win at longer trips but even the great Frankel did his best work over 1 mile so this is very much a contest for those with the tools for the job over 8 furlongs.
It’s also tended to be a race for younger horses. Just a handful of horses aged older than five have won in the last few years and not a single six-year-old in the race’s history.
Part of the reason for that is that horses tend to step up in trip as they age. Four and five-year-olds who have stuck around at one mile and continue to win big races should be considered as well as members of the Classic generation who ran well in either of the Guineas and sometimes even in the Derby and the Oaks.
PLENTY OF LIFE BEFORE 2011
The races which make up British Champions Day all took a major boost to their already strong reputations when it was introduced. The Queen Elizabeth II Stakes was one of the few that already held Group 1 status before 2011 having built up a lot of prestige since being introduced in 1955.
The promotion from the Group 2 level that it was initially given in 1971 came in 1987. That hammered home the importance of this race as if it were needed and it stepped up a notch in 2008 when it was added to the Breeders’ Cup Challenge, offering a spot in the Breeders’ Cup Mile. It is no longer part of that series as of 2012 but it became an even more valuable prospect for trainers and owners in 2011 when the prize find was quadrupled to a cool £1 million. This was reduced to £650,000 for 2020.
Big name horses, jockeys and trainers will continue to thrill racing fans during the race known as the QEII but its records are historic and may well last the test of time. The only two horses to win the race twice – Brigadier Gerard and Rose Bowl – did so in the 1970s whilst Willie Carson is the most successful jockey with the last of his eight wins coming in 1995.
The record wins for trainers and owners are, however, more recent with Saeed bin Suroor and Godolphin holding those honours respectively.