This weekend, we’re in for another exciting installment of the sport of kings, with the eighth QIPCO British Champions Day taking place at Ascot.
As one of the most lucrative and prestigious events in the British sporting calendar, it stands to reason that British Champions Day should be attended by some of the nation’s’ leading runners, riders and trainers.
Here, we’ll look at the best races and ask which key contenders are more likely to prevail….
The Qipco Champion Stakes
We start with the most prestigious race in Ascot on Saturday – the Qipco Champions Stakes. This is a Group I race with considerable pedigree and was first hosted at Newmarket all the way back in 1877.
Just eight runners will compete for a staggering £737,230 in this race, joining legendary names like Tristan, Orpheus and Lemberg in the process.
The obvious favourite here is Cracksman, with this four-year old horse having prevailed in five of his last seven flat race outings. This run include a superb win in the Champions Stakes last year, along with further Group 1 successes at Longchamp and Epsom in April and June respectively.
He has never finished outside of the top three since his debut in 2016 and he remains the top contender here despite his form having dipped slightly during the last 12 months.
If Cracksman is to lose, Sir Michael Stoute’s four-year old colt Crystal Ocean may well take the prize. This superb runner won the Gordon Richard Stakes at Sandown in April, triggering a run of three consecutive victories, including further triumphs at Newbury and Royal Ascot.
He also raised his game to claim second in the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes in July, and is known to perform well on soft ground. With this in mind, he’s definitely one to watch here!
The Queen Elizabeth II Stakes
The Queen Elizabeth II Stakes is another highly prestigious race, serving as the ideal warm-up for the main event.
Here, 15 runners will compete for a winners’ cheque of £655,709, while the total prize fund for this stellar Group I race will exceed a cool £1 million.
This also promises to be an exceptionally open race, although the early favourite is Karl Burke’s excellent Laurens. Price at around 6/1 (although this will fall before Saturday), this three-year old horse has won four of her last five outings on the flat and performed superbly at Newmarket earlier this month.
Beyond this exceptional filly, we like the look of Lightning Spear as an each-way bet. This 12/1 shot has been largely ignored by bookmakers, but trainer David Simcock is well established and renowned for pulling off surprise results.
This seven-year old also performed superbly well to win the Group 2 Celebration Mile at Goodwood in August, and represents excellent value this time around.
The Qipco British Champions Fillies & Mares Stakes
We close with the British Champions Fillies and Mares Stakes at Ascot, which is a grand enough race to headline on any other day.
In this event, 11 talented runners will compete for a first prize of £340,260, while this Group 1 race is sure to capture the attention of punters nationwide.
The early front-runner here is the excellent Kitesurf, who can currently be backed at odds of around 4/1. This four-year old filly is trained by the seasoned André Fabre, and there’s absolutely no doubt that she’ll enter the race in truly exceptional form.
She was superb when vanquishing a field of eight at Longchamp in September, for example, while her triumph at Deauville over one mile and four furlongs was arguably even more impressive. She likes soft ground too, so we reckon she’ll be a key contender here.
Elsewhere in the field, we like the look of the 9/2 shot Coronet. This four-year old filly has been superbly trained by John Gosden, while placing in the top three in each of her last five flat outings (dating back to last year).
This run included an excellent run at York in May, so she’s likely to fare well in similar conditions this time around.