With just over a week to go until the inaugural QIPCO British Champions Day, the likely fields are taking shape for Britain’s richest-ever raceday at Ascot on Saturday 15 October.
Moonlight Cloud came home seventh after being sent off favourite in the QIPCO 1000 Guineas, the first race of the Fillies & Mares division, at Newmarket in May but the filly has since excelled over shorter distances and looks set to play a leading role in the six-furlong £250,000 Group 2 QIPCO British Champions Sprint Stakes (2.25pm).
Freddy Head’s charge followed up a cosy head success in a seven-furlong Group 3 at Longchamp at the start of July with a stunning four-length victory over Golden Jubilee Stakes winner Society Rock in the Group 1 Prix Maurice de Gheest over six and a half furlongs at Deauville on 7 August.
Head reported: “Moonlight Cloud is heading over for the QIPCO British Champions Sprint Stakes.
“She has improved all season and was very impressive in the Prix Maurice de Gheest. She seems well in herself and I think that she is still in the same form as when she went to Deauville.
“It will be her first start over six furlongs but she has always possessed a lot speed, even as a juvenile. I don’t mind what the ground will be like – she won on soft ground at Deauville but the going wasn’t the reason for her victory and she was just far better than her rivals.
“We will have to wait and see what the opposition will be at Ascot but I think that she would have a first-class chance of winning.”
Other likely contenders for the QIPCO British Champions Series Sprint include the James Fanshawe-trained pair of Deacon Blues and Society Rock, plus Group 1 Betfred Sprint Cup third Hoof It.
Roger Varian, fresh from a maiden Group 1 victory at Longchamp on Sunday, is hoping that the lightly-raced Ferdoos can take her chance in the £250,000 Group 2 QIPCO British Champions Fillies And Mares Stakes (3.00pm) over a mile and a half.
The four-year-old has been restricted to just one appearance this season as she gamely beat subsequent Group 1 Darley Yorkshire Oaks runner-up Vita Nova by a neck in a Listed contest at Haydock in May. The form of that victory has been franked further with the third and fourth, Meeznah and Crystal Capella, both going on to Group 2 glory this summer.
Varian revealed: “Ferdoos is on target for the QIPCO British Champions Fillies And Mares Stakes and she has been working well. She had a setback after her run at Haydock in May but she had a break through the summer and has been back in training for a good while now.
“She was only having her fourth start at Haydock and she was a bit green in the straight. The form of that race has worked out very well and it has been a bit frustrating watching from the sidelines.
“Her work has been leading up to Ascot and it’s fingers crossed that she can take her chance.”
Ferdoos could reoppose Vita Nova, Meeznah and Crystal Capella at Ascot, while other contenders include the Mahmood Al Zarooni-trained Blue Bunting, whose three Group 1 wins this season have included the QIPCO 1000 Guineas and the Darley Yorkshire Oaks, and this year’s Group 1 Investec Oaks heroine Dancing Rain, who had a racecourse gallop on the Rowley Mile this morning.
The day’s richest contest, the £1.3 million Group 1 QIPCO Champion Stakes (4.10pm), looks set to be a superb renewal with a stellar cast that features Nathaniel, who has posted impressive victories at Ascot on his two previous starts, including when storming to victory in the Group 1 King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes (Sponsored by Betfair) in July.
Sir Henry Cecil is set to be double-handed in the 10-furlong contest with Twice Over, who has taken the two previous renewals of the Champion Stakes at Newmarket, set to re-oppose Midday, having inflicted a three-quarter length defeat on the mare in the Group 1 Juddmonte International at York in August.
Cirrus Des Aigles, a 10-length winner of the Group 2 Grand Prix de Deauville in August, will be a rare British runner for Chantilly handler Corine Barande-Barbe, while the Godolphin operation is considering last season’s Group 1 Racing Post Trophy victor Casamento and Dubai Prince.
The Aidan O’Brien-trained So You Think, an eight-time Group 1 winner in Europe and Australia, may bid to return to winning ways following his fourth place in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe on Sunday and he could be joined by Group 1 Prix du Jockey Club scorer Reliable Man, who could only finish 15th in the Longchamp feature.
Frankel, winner of the QIPCO 2000 Guineas, the St James’s Palace Stakes and the QIPCO Sussex Stakes this season for Sir Henry Cecil, will bid for an incredible ninth successive victory in the mile £1 million Group 1 Queen Elizabeth II Stakes Sponsored By QIPCO (3.35pm).
Khalid Abdulla’s outstanding miler looks set to face a stern test, with Group 1 Coronation Stakes heroine Immortal Verse on course to return to Ascot and Group 1 Prix du Moulin de Longchamp victor Excelebration hoping to turn the tables on Frankel after coming home third in the St James’s Palace Stakes.
QIPCO British Champions Day gets underway with the £200,000 Group 3 QIPCO British Champions Long Distance Cup (1.50pm) which is set to feature Opinion Poll, who has posted a pair of Group 2 victories this term in the Artemis Goodwood Cup and the Weatherbys Insurance Lonsdale Cup.
Others potential challengers for the two-mile contest include this year’s Group 1 Gold Cup winner Fame And Glory, impressive recent Newmarket Listed scorer Times Up and Group 3 German St Leger victor Fox Hunt.
The next confirmation stage for QIPCO British Champions Day is on Monday, 10 October, when there is also a supplementary entry stage for each of the five Group races.
The Premier Enclosure for QIPCO British Champions Day at Ascot has sold out, but Grandstand admission tickets priced at £23.40 (with the 10% advance booking discount which still applies) are still currently available and can be booked via www.britishchampionsseries.com or www.ascot.co.uk or by calling the ticket hotline on 0870 727 1234.