SATURDAY sees the start of the 2017 QIPCO British Champions Series at Newmarket’s Rowley Mile course with the QIPCO Guineas Festival.
Now in its seventh year, the series incorporates Great Britain’s top 35 Flat races under one banner to highlight the very best quality of competition the sport has to offer.
This year sees a record £20million in prize money on offer across the 35 races, on 25 different racedays.
The races are staged at ten of Britain’s finest racecourses, concluding at Ascot with QIPCO British Champions Day on Saturday 21st October 2017.
There is much to look forward to and QIPCO British Champions Series did not so much start with a bang six years ago, but with an explosion as Frankel stormed to victory in the 2000 Guineas.
About 15 lengths clear at halfway, going the speed of a July Cup sprinter, Frankel ran his rivals ragged.
He went on to chalk up nine successive Group 1 wins in the Series, by an aggregate of more than 46 lengths, and was hailed by many as the greatest thoroughbred to walk the turf.
An exciting year lies ahead for the super-sire as this season will be the first opportunity that his progeny have had to make their mark in the series as three-year-olds.
Taking in British Flat racing’s key summer festivals, the must-attend events of the series include…
- The QIPCO Guineas Festival, Newmarket – Saturday 6 -Sunday 7 May
- The Investec Derby Festival, Epsom – Friday 2 - Saturday 3 June
- Royal Ascot – Tuesday 20 – Saturday 24 June
- The Moet and Chandon July Festival at Newmarket – Thursday 13 – Saturday 15 July
- King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes, Ascot – Saturday 29 June
- Qatar Goodwood Festival, Goodwood – Tuesday 1 – Saturday 5 August
- The Welcome to Yorkshire Ebor Festival, York – Wednesday 23 – Saturday 26 August
- The Ladbrokes St Leger, Doncaster – Wednesday 13 – Saturday 16 September
- QIPCO British Champions Day, Ascot – Saturday 21st October
How does the QIPCO British Champions Series work?
The QIPCO British Champions Series comprises of five categories:
- Middle Distance
- Long Distance
- Fillies and Mares
Each division features the seven highest-rated races in each category in Great Britain, where the best horses compete throughout the summer in hope of securing a spot at QIPCO British Champions Day and to be crowned Champion of their division.
The sprint category has all ingredients to satisfy the biggest of appetites among those with a need for speed. Exciting new faces on the scene will include Lady Aurelia, the spectacular winner of the Queen Mary Stakes at Royal Ascot last season. The filly, trained in America by Wesley Ward, won impressively on her return at Keeneland and already has June’s King’s Stand Stakes on her agenda.
The class of 2016 took it in turns to beat each other in the mile category. Will it be the same story this season, or will one horse take the division by the scruff of the neck? If you were betting on it, you would imagine the seven races that comprise the division will again be divided. Churchill, whose five wins as a two-year-old in 2016 included two Group 1 victories, is hot favourite to win the opening race of the category - the QIPCO 2000 Guineas at Newmarket tomorrow - but may then move up in distance.
The Middle Distance category is already brimming with quality - regardless of the three-year-olds who emerge on scene. Almanzor, Minding, Jack Hobbs, Postponed, Highland Reel and Journey - to name just six - will be waiting for the classic generation. The appearances of Almanzor this term will, in particular, be keenly anticipated after the way he excelled in the second half of last season.
The top four stayers of 2016 - Order Of St George, Sheikhzayedroad, Quest For More and Big Orange - will all be back in action this year. With such as Harbour Law, the Ladbrokes St Leger winner, and the stamina-blessed Twilight Payment joining them - not to mention Dubai Duty Gold one-two Vazirabad and Beautiful Romance - it is a category that promises to pack quite a punch.
FILLIES & MARES
If 2017 follows the same pattern as 2016, it will not be a case of whether Aidan O’Brien-trained runners win a race in the Fillies & Mares category of the QIPCO British Champions Series but, rather, how many? Last year, O’Brien’s runners dominated the division and, between them, won five of the seven races.