British Champions Day: A Seminal Occasion that Transcends its Sport

October 11, 2016

- Grant Whittington

Every sport has an event that transcends its own discipline, creating new fans and reaching out to a diverse array of spectators. Take the Wimbledon Championships, for example, which are regularly enjoyed each by summer by individuals who otherwise would never watch competitive tennis.

When it comes to horse racing, however, it is fair to say that there are numerous events and meetings that transcend the sport. The most obvious of these is the British Champions Day, which is not only the richest event in horse racing but also home to some of the most traditional and longest-standing races.

British Champions Day: An Overview and Brief History

This year will be a record-breaking one for the event, with six prestigious races generating more than £4 million in prize money. The standout race remains the QIPCO Champion Stakes, which will see some of the world’s most talented thoroughbreds compete for a first prize of £1.3 million. This will follow the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes, which is lucrative by its own right and reward the worthy winner with £1.1 million.

The Champion Stakes is undoubtedly the star of the show, however, and not only because of the riches awaiting the winner. The race is also entrenched in history, having first been established back in 1877 when it was a popular feature of the Newmarket calendar. A Group One race, it moved to Ascot in 2011 to form the highlight of the new British Champions Day fixture, bringing its wealth of history and significance along with it.

Covering one mile and two furlongs, the race is a challenging affair, and it is considered by experts to be a fitting finale for the flat racing season. It has certainly tested horses and jockeys through the ages, while becoming increasingly difficult to master over time. This is reflected by the lack of records that have been established or broken in modern times, despite the heroic efforts of 2012 winner Frankel and last years’ victor Fascinating Rock.

While Danny Maher and Charlie Elliot hold the record for the most wins as jockeys, for example, the former operated at the turn of the century while the latter’s’ most recent win came with Dynamiter in 1952.

Who will Win this Years’ Race?

At present, 28 thoroughbreds remain in contention for the race, meaning that the British Champions Day odds are relatively tight and give little away. The return of last years’ winner Fascinating Rock has seen emerge as the initial favourite, however, although he will be pushed by Almanzor (who won the Irish equivalent last month and romped home during the French Derby).

He also appears to have a liking for the Ascot course, so he is certainly one to watch when the competitors come under starters orders.

Interestingly, the competitors who filled the first four places in last years’ race are scheduled to return, with Fascinating Rock being joined by Found, Jack Hobbs and Racing History. Initial reports also suggest that there may be a wildcard entry in the form of the brilliant, Irish-bred Minding, who has been hugely impressive this season in winning the QIPCO 1000 Guineas and the Investec Oaks.

With a love of the big occasion, he may yet be the horse that takes home the ultimate prize and sets the seal on the British Championship Series for 2016.


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