The QIPCO British Champions Day 2017 has come and gone for another year and what a day it was. The whole day at Ascot was extremely enjoyable and was filled with some fantastic racing. This meeting, which marks the end of the season, attracts crowds from all over to witness the top horses in what were some testing races. There was a real excitement in the air as spectators were eager to see how the runners would compete after some brilliant runs prior to Champions Day. With a turn in the weather, the ground was less suited to a lot of runners with the going officialy soft (heavy down hill to Swinley Bottom) however, flat racing's biggest stars did not let down in performance.
With warnings of storm Brian looming, spectators dressed appropriately for a windy, wet and wintery day but to everyone’s surprise, the bad weather held off and the sun shone for most of the day. This day is all about celebrating the top performing jockeys, trainers and horses of the season, with one of each being crowned champion at the end of the meeting. Silvestre De Sousa took the jockey’s title for the second time in his racing career, with Racing Breaks ambassador, Jim Crowley, missing out in second place by 44 wins. The Brazilian jockey has won over £15m in prize money over his careers and has an impressive 16.31% strike rate, making his championship well deserved. Aidan O’Brien has had an extremely successful season and champions day proved to be a finale run for many of his stable stars. O’Brien’s statistics are extraordinary and Saturday was a day for the history books as he equalled American Bobby Frankel’s record of 25 Group 1 winners in a season.
The first race was the Long Distance Cup (Group 2) and was a great start to the day with a close contest between Order of St George and Torcedor in the final furlong. The 5 year old, by Galileo, won by half a length adding another win to his impeccable form.
One to O’Brien, but victory was short lived by the second; the Sprint Stakes (Group 1). An interesting race which surprised a few in the stands as Clive Cox trained Harry Angel and favourite at 5/4, came in 5th to 10/1 shot Librisa Breeze.
The atmosphere was getting more intense as the day went on and the races got bigger and bigger. The 2:40 Champion Fillies and Mares Stakes (Group 1), was an exciting match between some of the more well known names in racing at present. Rated at 119, Aidan O’Brien trained Hydrangea beat 7/4 favourite Bateel due to an impressive ride from jockey Ryan Moore. Another Galileo offspring and Group 1 for O’Brien, matching the record of 25 Grade 1 winners.
The Queen Elizabeth II Stakes followed with an impressive line up of runners. The talk around the racecourse at the time was all about 2/1 favourite Ribchester. Other top picks included Churchill and eventual winner, Persuasive. Racing Breaks ambassador Frankie Dettori had a fair share of good rides over the course of the day but this was his first winner of the day for trainer John Gosden. Over the season Gosden has had an impressive 117 wins whereas O’Brien, has only had 31; most of which are Group 1 and thus skyrocket the prize money winnings overall.
The highlight of the day was the penultimate race, the fourth Group 1 race, the QIPCO British Champion Stakes (middle distance). It was once again Frankie Dettori who rode favourite Cracksman to victory. A brilliant performance by Cracksman who won by seven lengths. Gosden and Dettori had recently made headlines with their win at L’Arc de Triomphe with Cracksman’s stable mate Enable however, their decision to drop back 10 furlongs paid off as the 13/8 favourite demolished the rest of the field.
The final race of the day was won by another favourite, 3/1 chance, Lord Glitters trained by David O’Meara and ridden by Daniel Tudhope. A well run race with a rapid finish. Overall, a fantastic display of the creme de la creme of flat horses in training this season. To top it all off, the celebrations continued into the evening with a superb performance by chart topping, singer-songwriter, George Ezra.