Since 2011, British Champions Day has been the star-studded finale of the flat racing season, held at prestigious racecourse, Ascot. The meeting is made up of six races – the final race in each of the five divisions of the British Champions Series, as well as a valuable handicap race. It won’t be long before bet exchange sites start listing the latest market odds, as punters gear up to choose their favourites. But ahead of the 2020 edition, which takes place on October 17th, let’s take a look at British Champions Day in more detail.
British Champions Long Distance Cup
A Group 2 race, open to thoroughbreds aged three years and older, and ran over a distance of 1 mile and 7 furlongs.
The event was originally established in 1873 and held at Newmarket, under the name The Jockey Club Cup. When the grading system was brought in, The Jockey Club Cup was a group 3 race – and it was only in 2011, when it transferred to Ascot and British Champions Day. that the race was re-named the Long Distance Cup. In 2014, it was awarded with Group 2 status.
Last year’s winner was Kew Gardens, landing the father-son duo of trainer Aidan and jockey Donnacha O’Brien a memorable win on British Champions Day.
British Champions Sprint Stakes
A Group 1 race, open to horses aged three years and older, and ran over a distance of 6 furlongs.
Despite being established in 1946, the Sprint Stakes have been through the grading system. A Grade 3 race in 1971, it was promoted to Group 2 in 1996, and it wasn’t until 2015, that it was upgraded once more – as its purse increased. The race was originally named in honour of the legendary Diadem, a mare who won many of Ascot’s leading races. The name changed in 2011 when it became a part of British Champions Day.
Last year’s winner was Donjuan Triumphant, trained by Andrew Boulding and ridden by three-time Champion Jockey Silvestre de Sousa.
British Champions Fillies and Mares Stakes
As its name suggests, a Group 1 race, open to fillies and mares over the age of three years. The Fillies and Mares Stakes is run over a distance of 1 mile and 3 furlongs.
Also established in 1946, but under the name, The Princess Stakes, in honour of Princess Mary, it too has been promoted from Group 3 to Group 1 status over the years. Previously raced at Newmarket, it made a return to Ascot in 2011 when it was given its current name – and it received Group 1 status two years later.
Last year’s winner was Star Catcher, and victory for Frankie Dettori and John Gosden saw them both named Champion Jockey and Champion Trainer, respectively.
Queen Elizabeth II Stakes
Also known as the British Champions Mile, due to its distance, the QEII Stakes is a Group 1 race open to horses aged three years and older.
Founded in 1955, the QEII Stakes was originally a Group 2 race, but was promoted in 1987. Formerly included in the Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series, in 2011, it was switched from September to October and included in the British Champions Series. It is now the final race in the mile category.
Last year’s winner was King of Change, landing jockey Sean Levey the second major win of his career, having won the 1,000 Guineas in 2018.
A Group 1 race, open to thoroughbreds aged three years and older, and ran over a distance of 1 mile and 2 furlongs.
The Champion Stakes was inaugurated in 1877 and originally raced at Newmarket. It wasn’t until the current grading system in 1971 that the race was awarded the highest status, and after being included in the Breeders’ Cup Challenge series in 2009 and 2010, the Champion Stakes transferred to Ascot in 2011.
Last year’s winner was Magical – providing the O’Brien family with a second memorable victory on an important day in the racing calendar.