The best horses and jockeys from across the globe will be in action to compete for a record-breaking £4.3 million purse as they bid to follow in the hoof prints of former series stars
QIPCO British Champions Day is the big finale to the British Flat racing season. Ascot racecourse is set alight on the nation’s richest ever raceday, as champions are crowned kings and queens of the turf
The best horses and jockeys from across the globe will be in action to compete for a record-breaking £4.3 million purse as they bid to follow in the hoof prints of former series stars. Each race represents a chance for the best equine athletes in their division to become Champion.
Cracksman and Frankie Dettori win Champion Stakes in brilliant style
is last UK gig of 2017 after racing. Also the presentation for Stobart Champion Flat Jockey will take place on the day before the opening race.
Aidan O’Brien reached a fresh milestone in his training career on Saturday with a record-equalling 25th Group One win of the season, but still he could not seize the spotlight from a man who was riding big winners here before O’Brien even had a license. Frankie Dettori, whose first Group One winner came on Markofdistinction in the 1990 Queen Elizabeth II Stakes, took the same race aboard Persuasive and then added the Qipco Champion Stakes on Cracksman, whose brilliant seven-length success suggested he would have gone very close against Enable, his stable companion, in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe.
That meeting, hopefully, has merely been postponed until the race returns to Longchamp next October. It will be a huge draw if it happens, as Cracksman is visibly improving by the race and will continue to grow and mature over the winter.
His huge stride overwhelmed his field within half a furlong as Dettori unleashed the favourite at the top of the straight and was able to coast home from the furlong pole. Even Frankel, Cracksman’s sire and without question the greatest winner of this race, in 2012, had less than two lengths to spare at the post. Cracksman is Frankel’s first Group One winner in Europe and also his first Group One-winning colt.
At some stage next season, Dettori may well have to choose between Enable and Cracksman before a big race and it could be the most difficult choice of his career. Enable took the Arc in much the same, irresistible style as Cracksman did here, surging away from a high-class field with an unanswerable burst of finishing speed. One bookmaker offers 7-2 about Enable and 6-1 on Cracksman with nearly a year to go and next year’s Classic generation to factor in as well, which shows the strength of the hand Gosden has to play.
“It was difficult but I thought Enable was more in the zone, a bit more streetwise than him,” the trainer said of the decision to swerve around the Arc this season.
“He’s improved through the year. He’s like a fighter weighing more now, if he started as a middleweight, he’s now a light-heavyweight.
“He got in a dreadful muddle coming down to Tattenham Corner in the Derby, but he’s learning to race. He’s handled a mile-and-a-quarter well today, he’s versatile now.”
Dettori, who was winning the Champion Stakes for the first time, was able to check on the big screen that his pursuers were at a safe distance as he cruised towards the finishing line. He completed a 23-1 double as he crossed it, which will have sent many in a 31,000-strong crowd (up from 29,000 last year despite a poor weather forecast) home with a profit on the day.
“The horse I rode today is not the horse I rode at Epsom,” he said. “He’s developed and he’s stronger. I was surprised how well he travelled because he can be a bit laidback, but it was an honest pace and he was able to follow. My ace card was catch-me-if-you-can because I know that he gets [the trip] no problem and it was a storming performance.
“When the rain came, I was delighted because it made it more of a test of stamina, but the horse still had to deliver and he did. To have Enable and Cracksman in the same year, well done John Gosden, he’s a genius and I’m delighted. Don’t ask me [which is better], I don’t deserve it. It’s Cracksman’s day, let him have the glory.”
Persuasive seemed to enjoy the conditions in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes more than Ribchester, the 2-1 favourite, who was a length adrift at the line. She will now go to the paddocks, which must also be a possibility for Hydrangea, who gave O’Brien his 25th Group One with victory in the Champion Fillies and Mares Stakes.
“It is a big team effort,” O’Brien said. “Every one is so hard to win and you never expect anything. We do our best every single day and that’s all you can do. So many things can go wrong. When you miss at it, you never know whether you are ever going to get back there or not.”
Owner Tony Bloom, who landed a gamble with Withhold in last Saturday’s Cesarewitch and watched Brighton & Hove Albion, the team he steered into the Premier League as chairman, beat West Ham 3-0 on Friday night, completed a remarkable eight days in two sports as Librisa Breeze gave him a first Group One winner in the Champions Sprint.
Bloom also registered a first Grade One win over jumps at Cheltenham in March, and was completing an unusual across-the-codes double with a big-race win on Champions Day. Dean Ivory and Robert Winston, Librisa Breeze’s trainer and jockey respectively, were also registering their first Group One wins.
“I don’t like to compare [sports], but it’s just been a brilliant week,” Bloom said. “My first Group One is very special, and Brighton winning games to stay in the Premier League is a big result. It’s all over an incredible eight days. I’ve been around the block and I know it’s not always that easy. It’s a big training effort and there’s everything that Dean and everyone has done, so big congratulations to them.”
21/10/2017 QIPCO BRITISH CHAMPIONS DAY – CRACKSMAN AND FRANKIE DETTORI WIN CHAMPION STAKES – UK