Ascot is home to Europe’s premier race meeting, Royal Ascot, Europe’s midsummer middle distance championship, the £1 million King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes (sponsored by Betfair, July) and Europe’s mile championship, the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes (sponsored by Sony, September).
Ascot also stages the world’s premier international jockeys’ competition, the Dubai Duty Free Shergar Cup, in August.
Considered the standardbearer for international racing within Europe, Ascot actively seeks to strengthen its programme through the participation of horses from all around the world. The racecourse has welcomed runners from Australia, New Zealand, America, Hong Kong, Japan, South Africa and all over Europe this decade, none higher profile and more groundbreaking than Choisir, who landed the King’s Stand Stakes / Golden Jubilee Stakes double for Australia in 2003, paving the way for wins for compatriots Takeover Target, Miss Andretti and, last year, Scenic Blast, who defeated subsequent July Cup winner Fleeting Spirit in the King’s Stand Stakes.
The Royal Meeting was more cosmopolitan and international than ever before in 2009 as, in addition to Scenic Blast’s King’s Stand Stakes victory for Australia, the United States were responsible for two winners in the two year old races and a second for Cannonball in the Golden Jubilee Stakes.
That latter race also attracted the champion sprinters from South Africa in JJ The Jet Plane and from Hong Kong in Sacred Kingdom, who both ran with great credit in fourth and fifth behind the home-trained Art Connoisseur.
In 2005, Ascot set up a sprinting series, the Global Sprint Challenge, with partners Racing Victoria and the Victoria Racing Club (VRC) in Australia and the Japan Racing Association (JRA). The Hong Kong Jockey Club and Newmarket Racecourses have subsequently joined and now the series numbers eight races spread from January to December.
When the Global Sprint Challenge was launched in 2005, the King’s Stand Stakes was worth £140,000 and the Golden Jubilee Stakes £250,000. Both have increased significantly in value to reflect their growing international significance and the Golden Jubilee Stakes now has prize money of £450,000 with the King’s Stand Stakes valued at £300,000. With £400,000 on offer for the Darley July Cup, the third European leg of the Challenge, there is well over £1 million on offer across the UK’s legs for the world’s top sprinters.
The most valuable races at Royal Ascot are the Prince of Wales’s Stakes and Golden Jubilee Stakes, both worth £450,000, and over £4 million in prize money is available over the week. The US$1,000,000 Global Sprint Challenge bonus pool can be won by landing any three Group One Challenge legs in any three countries (bonus split 75% owner, 25% trainer).
The 2010 series began with the Coolmore Lightning Stakes at Flemington in January, Australia’s premier weight for age sprint and the springboard to the international campaigns of Choisir, Takeover Target, Miss Andretti and Scenic Blast in their Royal Ascot winning years. This year’s Lightning Stakes winner, Nicconi, is on track to run at Royal Ascot.
After the UK legs, the series moves to Japan, back to Australia and on to the annual culmination of the programme, the Cathay Pacific Hong Kong Sprint. Ascot has additional tie ups in place with the VRC, the JRA and the organisers of the Breeders’ Cup in the USA.
The VRC, as well as hosting both Australian legs of the Global Sprint Challenge at Flemington, offers an Aus$500,000 incentive bonus for the winner of their Australian Cup in March, should that horse go on to win the Prince of Wales’s Stakes.
Additionally, the “Choisir Trophy” is held at either Ascot or Flemington to mark the latest triumph by an Australian or European sprinter in any sprint race at either track in which both Australia and Europe are represented.
The JRA offers the winner and runner-up in the King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes in July automatic places in their premier international invitational race, the Japan Cup in November. Usually, a selection panel meets much later than July to decide on invitations but the King George has been chosen as one of a select group of major races around the world for special treatment in this respect. The JRA also offer bonuses for the winners of the St James’s Palace Stakes, Queen Anne Stakes and September’s Queen Elizabeth II Stakes should they be successful in their major international races.
Ascot is involved in the Breeders’ Cup “Win & You’re In” initiative, which sees the winners of three Ascot races at the September meeting qualify for the US Championships that November and receive incentive bonuses. Through many years of partnerships and relationship forming with owners, trainers, media and racing administrations around the world, Ascot is at the forefront of the global racing village.
GLOBAL SPRINT CHALLENGE RACES
- Coolmore Lightning Stakes (Group One) 30th January Flemington, Australia
- King’s Stand Stakes (Group One) 15th June Royal Ascot, UK
- Golden Jubilee Stakes (Group One) 19th June Royal Ascot, UK
- Darley July Cup (Group One) 9th July Newmarket, UK
- Centaur Stakes (Group Two) 12th Sept Hanshin, Japan
- Sprinters Stakes (Group One) 3rd October Nakayama, Japan
- Patinack Farm Classic (Group One) 6th Nov Flemington, Australia
- Cathay Pacific Hong Kong Sprint (Group One) 12th Dec Sha Tin, Hong Kong
GLOBAL SPRINT CHALLENGE POINTS BOARD (AFTER FIRST LEG)
POSITION / HORSE / TRAINER / COUNTRY / POINTS
1st / Nicconi / David Hayes / AUSTRALIA / 10
2nd / Wanted / Peter Moody / AUSTRALIA / 5
3rd / Shellscrape / Chris Waller / AUSTRALIA / 4
4th / Starspangledbanner / Leon Corstens (now Aidan O’Brien) / AUSTRALIA/IRELAND / 3
5th / Headway / Peter Moody / AUSTRALIA / 2
6th / Duporth / Peter Moody / AUSTRALIA / 1
7th / Seeking Attention / Anthony Cummings / AUSTRALIA / 1
8th / Burdekin Blues / Barry Baldwin / AUSTRALIA / 1
9th / Cannonball / Wesley Ward / UNITED STATES / 2
10th / Honest Truth (NZ) / John Thompson / AUSTRALIA / 1
11th / Governance / Peter Snowden / AUSTRALIA / 1