October certainly kicks off with a bang on the racing front, with the 2023 edition of the magnificent Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe taking place on the first of the month. The Longchamp showpiece will quite rightly grab much of the headlines, but the domestic programme is also pretty spectacular, as the season builds towards the big crescendo of British Champions Day at Ascot on Saturday, 21st October.
This exceptional card at the Berkshire track lays on six cracking contests, including the championship-level quintet of the Long Distance Cup, British Champions Sprint Stakes, British Champions Fillies & Mares Stakes, Queen Elizabeth II Stakes, and Champion Stakes. Here, we look back at the past 10 editions of this great meeting and pick out the top recent performers from the standout fixture of the late flat season.
British Champions Day: Top Jockeys
Frankie Dettori will forever be associated with Ascot Racecourse courtesy of that fateful September afternoon in 1996, which saw the affable Italian ride all seven winners on the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes card. That fixture would ultimately grow to become British Champions Day, and Frankie has continued to thrive at his favourite stamping ground. Of the six races that make up Champions Day, only the Balmoral Handicap has eluded Dettori. His most successful race over this period has been the Fillies and Mares Stakes, with his three wins all coming for the John Gosden operation.
It is no real surprise to see Ryan Moore amongst Dettori’s closest pursuers, with all four of Moore’s winners coming for Aidan O’Brien, and all aboard runners sired by Ballydoyle flagbearer, Galileo. Jim Crowley and Hollie Doyle are the other names on four wins. Now 45 years of age, time may be against Crowley catching Dettori, but 26-year-old Doyle may at least get closer. Doyle’s tally is largely courtesy of Alan King’s Trueshan, who she rode to victory in the Long Distance Cup in 2020, 2021, and 2022. The Doyle household is likely a happy place around this time of year, as her husband, Tom Marquand, is next on the list with three successes.
British Champions Day: Top Trainers
Having provided Dettori with eight of his nine wins, John Gosden sits atop the trainer’s tree, with eight wins under his own name and one under a dual licence with his son, Thady. Gosden is most commonly associated with top-class 1m and middle-distance horses, so it isn’t surprising that he has drawn a blank in the British Champions Sprint. Each of the other Group prizes on the card has headed back to his Newmarket base at least twice in the past 10 years.
It wouldn’t be a premier British flat meeting without the name of multiple Irish Champion trainer, Aidan O’Brien, featuring prominently. The head of the Ballydoyle juggernaut has farmed the British Classics in the current century and is no stranger to success at the big season finale. In common with Gosden, O’Brien has not hit the mark in the sprint event over the past 10 years, but has won all of the other Group races on the card – his best overall results coming in the Fillies & Mares and the Long Distance Cup.
Amongst those trainers on three wins, Alan King’s successes all came courtesy of Trueshan in the Long Distance Cup, and all three of David O’Meara’s arrived via the Balmoral Handicap, but Haggas, Varian, and Simcock each struck in three different races.
British Champions Day: Leading Sires
If there were any doubt as to how influential Galileo has been to the British racing scene in the current century, this meeting serves as a fine illustration. The great son of Sadler’s Wells is clear of his nearest rivals and has been responsible for all six of Aidan O’Brien’s wins – mighty big shoes to fill following his passing in late 2022.
Given his 1m4f brilliance, Galileo was never likely to sire a star sprinter, but he has landed all four of the other Group races – over trips ranging from 1m to 2m. Galileo may add to that total in 2023, but if not, his son Frankel is waiting in the wings to take up the baton. The greatest of all time has already recorded two wins of his own, courtesy of Cracksman’s back-to-back Champion Stakes successes in 2017 and 2018.
Slightly surprisingly, Sea The Stars never ran at Ascot during his spectacular career, but his class has found no problem in transferring to this track, with his progeny recording wins in the Filly & Mares (twice), Long Distance Cup, and, most spectacularly, courtesy of the sensational Baeed in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes.
Were it not for Galileo, Dubawi would likely be hailed as the greatest sire of the modern era. Godolphin’s blue-chip stallion once again finds himself in the shadow of the great one at this meeting. The son of Dubai Millennium has at least proved more versatile than Galileo, having bagged wins over both the shortest (Creative Force (2021) and longest (Sheikhzayedroad 2016) events on the card. In common with Galileo, Dubawi also has a son now making an impact on the list, in the shape of the hugely promising stallion New Bay.
British Champions Day: Fate of the Favourites
|P/L to £1 Level Stakes
|Long Distance Cup
|British Champions Sprint
|Fillies & Mares
|Queen Elizabeth II Stakes
Overall, the favourites boast a respectable record in the Group Races, with 17 wins from 50 contests representing a 34% strike rate. However, that hasn’t been enough to secure an overall profit for jolly backers over this period. The Balmoral Handicap has, understandably, been far tougher to predict since being added to the meeting in 2014, with Lord Glitters (2017) being the only market leader to oblige to date.
The Balmoral Handicap was also the scene of the meeting’s biggest shock when David O’Meara’s Shelir stunned just about everyone at huge odds of 80/1 in 2022. However, the Group contests haven’t been immune to a head-scratching result or two. Sands Of Mali (28/1) and Donjuan Triumphant (33/1) stormed home in the Sprint in 2018 and 2019, respectively, whilst Bayside Boy (33/1) saw the form books hit the bin when conquering all in the 2022 edition of the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes.