Brilliant Baaeed set for an emotional swansong at QIPCO British Champions Day
The world’s highest-rated horse on turf Baaeed is the headline act ready to light up the 12th edition of QIPCO British Champions Day at Ascot on Saturday.
The unbeaten Sea The Stars colt is among 16 Group 1 winners (winning 41 races at the highest level) who will be in action, with the likes of Trueshan, Verry Elleegant, Inspiral and Adayar joining him. In total, 78 runners have been declared for the six races.
There are superstars across the card that befit Britain’s richest raceday. To kick off the day in the QIPCO British Champions Long Distance Cup, Trueshan is bidding to become the first horse to win a race at three QIPCO British Champions Days.
In the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes (sponsored by QIPCO), three-time Group 1 winner Inspiral will face off against Classic winner Modern Games. And in the headline race of the day, the QIPCO Champion Stakes, Baaeed will take on last year’s Cazoo Derby and King George VI & Queen Elizabeth QIPCO Stakes winner Adayar in one of the most highly anticipated clashes of the season.
Baaeed’s trainer William Haggas said of Britain’s richest raceday: “QIPCO British Champions Day should be a real highlight for us, and for all of us in racing, and I think it is. We have Royal Ascot, and then we have this finale after lots of fantastic festivals during the summer. This is it really, and it looks like the decent horses are all coming here.”
Leading French trainer Francis Graffard, who has three entries declared across the card, said: “QIPCO British Champions Day is a fantastic day of very competitive racing and I’ve been coming for the last four or five years. It’s a big day in my calendar and I was lucky enough to win the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes with The Revenant two years ago.”
The 12th running of QIPCO British Champions Day offers prize money of £4.15 million. The QIPCO Champion Stakes is set to be the richest mile and a quarter race in Europe this year with £1.3 million in prize money, with the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes (sponsored by QIPCO) also run for in excess of £1 million (£1.15 million) and is the richest mile race in Europe this year.
The going at Ascot is currently Good to Soft, Soft (in places). The latest Going Stick readings were 6.8 (straight) and 6.5 (round) on Thursday morning.
QIPCO CHAMPION STAKES (£1.3 MILLION): GROUP 1
Baaeed will face eight high-class opponents when he makes his eleventh and final racecourse appearance of a wonderful career in a QIPCO Champion Stakes, which also sees the return to the top level of last year’s Cazoo Derby and King George VI And Queen Elizabeth QIPCO Stakes winner Adayar.
Since making an unheralded debut in an ordinary maiden at Leicester last June, Baaeed has gone unbeaten through his ten races, the last six of them at Group 1 level, earning comparisons with Frankel, who ended his own flawless campaign brilliantly here ten years ago.
The Sea The Stars colt was especially impressive when stepped up to a mile and a quarter for the first time in York’s Juddmonte International, where Frankel also scored a similar wide-margin win on his penultimate appearance.
William Haggas has steered clear of making comparisons with Frankel, and he is unable to pinpoint quite what makes Baaeed so special, but he did not hold back when he said: “I’ve often likened what I do to being headmaster at a boarding school and this horse would get ten A stars at GCSE, he’d be captain of rugby, cricket, football and hockey, he’d breeze into Cambridge and he’d be Prime Minister. He’s got it all. He’s just good at everything he does.”
Remaining unbeaten has become all the more important the longer Baaeed’s winning run has continued. Haggas said: “I think people want to see a really, really top horse stay unbeaten and win in style. Staying unbeaten is terribly important now that we are nearly there. Frankel obviously was unbeaten, but few are in a career at that level. It would be sad if he was beaten, but not for the people who beat him.
“I respect Adayar very much, as I respect Bay Bridge, who looked a fantastic horse at Sandown, but they’ve got to go to beat him.”
He added: “Everything so far this year has gone exactly as we wanted it to go when we sat down in March to decide our programme. It’s been half a miracle to get to this situation in the position we are in. The only slight caveat is that he might have gone to Ireland, because it sat very well in his programme, but Sheikha Hissa was very keen for him to have just one more run after York, either in the Arc or the Champion, and we’ve probably made the right decision as it’s turned out.
“He’s so straightforward. He’s been very sound, he has a fantastic mind, and he works how he races. So far he has passed every test, and his work on Monday was good. We are very happy. It’s up to him now.”
While it would be easy to assume that it’s all about Baaeed so far as the Haggas camp is concerned, the stable will also be represented by Dubai Honour and My Prospero, either of whom would have prospects in a more routine renewal.
Haggas said: “Dubai Honour was second last year, but it might not be soft enough for him. He’s a good horse in his own right though, and he comes good at this time of year. He’s going to have cheekpieces on and James Doyle gets a good tune out of him, so I think he’ll run well.
“My Prospero has potential. He’s a very talented horse but unfortunately when he won the Group 2 in France he slipped over after the line and he’s taken a long time to come right. He’s right now and he impressed both Tom (Marquand) and I in a piece of work on Tuesday. He probably wouldn’t want it too soft.”
Adayar is the highest rated opponent Baaeed has ever met, although he is officially 8lb behind him on 127. His three-year-old campaign ended disappointingly when he was only fifth here 12 months ago, but that race came just 13 days after a better run under demanding conditions in the Arc. Reports suggest he is back to his best.
Charlie Appleby said: “I’ve been delighted with him. His preparation has gone well and he goes to Ascot in great shape – in better shape than a year ago without a shadow of a doubt. We couldn’t have been more pleased with the way he did it at Doncaster on his return to the track, or more importantly the way he’s come out of it.
“We know we’ve got a big task ahead of us, taking on Baaeed, but he’s 100 percent the Adayar of old. We are relaxed about the ground. If it’s decent ground then Baaeed will be hard to beat, but if it’s testing we’ve got the experience in those conditions and we know he stays a mile and a half, so the stiff ten furlongs will suit him.”
He added: “I’ve no regrets at all about missing the Arc. It was a great race to watch and I was delighted for Sir Mark and all of his team, but I’ve no regrets whatsoever about not running there.”
One-time Derby favourite Stone Age, who was a close fifth behind stable-companion Luxembourg in last month’s Irish Champion Stakes, represents Aidan O’Brien, who won here with Magical in 2019.
The field is completed by Noel Meade’s Helvic Dream, who was a Group 1 winner in last year’s Tattersalls Gold Cup; Jim Bolger’s Mac Swiney, who won the 2021 Irish 2000 Guineas and was third here a year ago; and Roger Varian’s Royal Champion, an easy Listed winner at Ayr last time.
FROM EARLIER RELEASES:
Jim Crowley: “I’ve been fortunate to ride some good horses, but Baaeed does give that feeling of something completely different to any I’ve ever come across before – not only on the racecourse, but in his whole demeanour. He’s just such a professional and has such a great character. I may never come across a horse like him ever again.
“The Juddmonte was just an amazing race to ride in. He just went through the race so easily and when I pressed the button he put the race to bed in a matter of strides. It was a great feeling to ride him and to show people what he was capable of.
“It’s going to be a strange feeling going to Ascot. The most important thing for me is to get the job done and win, so hopefully he’ll finish his career unbeaten. Maybe I’ll enjoy the ride when it’s over, because riding him also comes with a lot of pressure.”
William Buick: “Getting Adayar back for the QIPCO Champion Stakes is one of the highlights of my year. He’s got a huge task, but he’s probably as exciting a horse as I’ve ridden all season. Doncaster was perfect for a comeback run. He really enjoyed himself and he did everything right. He’s a bit of a forgotten horse this season but he was very good last year.
“It’s a tough ask, but he’s a Derby and King George winner who ran well in the Arc on ground he didn’t like and when things didn’t really go his way, then obviously the Champion Stakes came a bit soon after that. He’s probably the best horse Baaeed has met, and it’s going to make a great race either way.”
QUEEN ELIZABETH II STAKES (SPONSORED BY QIPCO) (£1.15 MILLION): GROUP 1
Inspiral returns to the scene of her brilliant victory at Royal Ascot in the summer to try to underline her status as the outstanding filly miler in Europe.
The Cheveley Park Stud-bred and owned three-year-old daughter of Frankel has only suffered defeat once in seven races and stepped up on a four and a half lengths win in the Coronation Stakes to land the Prix Jacques Le Marois at Deauville in August on her first start against colts and older horses.
She faces a new set of opponents this time, including Godolphin’s Modern Games, former winner of the race The Revenant and Jadoomi, who has been supplemented to raise the prize-money to £1.15 million.
The Gosden stable won the race in 2017 and 2018 with the Cheveley Park-owned Persuasive and Roaring Lion and saddled Palace Pier to finish second to Baaeed 12 months ago.
Thady Gosden, who trains in partnership with his father John, said: “Inspiral won the Jacques Le Marois last time out and before that the Coronation Stakes at Ascot, so she is back at the same track, although on the straight course rather than the round.
“She is in good form, having had a nice freshen up since France. She seems to be well in herself. Obviously you have former winners in there like The Revenant, and Modern Games is a Classic winner so it is going to be a tough field, as it always is on QIPCO British Champions Day.”
Modern Games, who chased home Baaeed in the Qatar Sussex Stakes, returned to winning form in Canada last time where he took apart the Woodbine Mile, winning by five and a quarter lengths.
The three-year-old won the French 2,000 Guineas earlier in the year but his participation relies on there being no further easing in the ground conditions.
“Modern Games will be declared and we will be on weather watch from thereon,” trainer Charlie Appleby told the Nick Luck Daily podcast yesterday. “If the description was soft then he would be unlikely to run, but the decision will be made potentially on the day.”
Roger Varian will saddle both Bayside Boy, who won a Listed race at Sandown last month, and El Drama, second in the Group 2 Joel Stakes last time out.
“Both will be outsiders in the field but lively outsiders,” said the trainer, whose Roseman came within a head of causing a 28-1 upset in 2020. “They are both coming off the back of great runs.
“Bayside Boy got back into winning ways at Sandown and looks to be in great form. He got a bit lost in the summer on fast ground but has very good juvenile form.
“El Drama ran a lovely race at Newmarket and he would have come on for the run. I think both are capable of outrunning their odds. If the top two, Inspiral and Modern Games, run it will be very tough but it’s open beyond them.”
Tempus finished a place behind El Drama at Newmarket and runs in a Group 1 for the first time for Hambleton Racing at a meeting where they enjoyed their best day when Glen Shiel landed the QIPCO British Champions Sprint in 2020.
Tempus was bought for 25,000gns at last year’s horses-in-training sales and had his first run for Archie Watson on January 2.
“His work was always smart from an early stage so we hoped he would do very well, but he’s just improved,” said racing manager Simon Turner. “He finds himself here on merit and we are really looking forward to running him.
“We spent 45,000gns on Glen Shiel, who did us proud, so it’s lovely to be back with another Horses-In-Training purchase who we hope has a genuine chance of getting among that super valuable prize-money.
“I was told Tempus is the highest rated syndicate-owned horse in Europe. I’ve looked into it and it does appear to be true so we are very proud of him. Ascot and a bit of juice in the ground will suit him well and his form gives him every chance of being in the mix.”
FROM EARLIER RELEASES:
Francis Graffard: “The Revenant is in top form and has come out of his Longchamp race very well. He seems to be as enthusiastic as ever and he has always run well on Champions Day. The softer the ground the better for him.”
William Knight: “Checkandchallenge had a little bit of a hiccup ten days before Longchamp, so in the circumstances I was delighted with how well he ran as he probably wasn’t 100 per cent.
“What will really suit him is the track. I think that flat, stiff mile will be right up his street. The Revenant, who finished in front of us in the Wildenstein, likes soft ground and Inspiral has the best form going into the race. It’s a great opportunity for us to have a live candidate in a Group 1 race.”
QIPCO BRITISH CHAMPIONS FILLIES & MARES STAKES (£500,000): GROUP 1
John and Thady Gosden have two shots at winning the QIPCO British Champions Fillies & Mares Stakes after declaring both Emily Upjohn and Mimikyu for the Group 1 race which drew a maximum field of 14. This is the highest number of runners declared for the race since QIPCO British Champions Day began in 2011, with 13 the previous highest in 2016.
Frankie Dettori has picked Emily Upjohn, the arguably unlucky Oaks runner-up, who has not run since finishing last in the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes. Fresh from securing his first Group 1 victory last weekend, Robert Havlin rides Park Hill Stakes winner Mimikyu, whose sister Journey won this race in 2016. Both will run in hoods, Emily Upjohn for the first time.
“Frankie had the choice of two classy fillies,” said Thady Gosden. “Mimikyu is drawn in gate one while Emily Upjohn is in ten. It’s a full field and they even had to ballot a couple of horses out. There are plenty of smart fillies in there.
“You would rather not be drawn as far inside as one and not quite as far out as ten but Frankie knows his way around Ascot pretty well, as does Rab, so we will have to see how they break and work out how they sit in the field.”
He went on: “Mimikyu has progressed well and won the Park Hlll last time. She is coming back down in trip which shouldn’t be an issue.
“Emily Upjohn had a great start to the year but over-raced a little bit in the King George. She has been given time to settle down and seems well in herself now. The hood will keep her a little more relaxed. She’s been training in it at home and it seems to work well.”
Among a strong field are last year’s winner Eshaada, Godolphin’s Eternal Pearl, who has won her last four starts, the Melbourne Cup winner Verry Elleegant, her stablemate Sweet Lady, who captured the Prix Vermeille, and Sea La Rosa, who secured her first top level success in the Prix de Royallieu on Arc weekend.
Sea La Rosa, who will be the mount of Tom Marquand, is one of two fillies from the William Haggas stable, with Lilac Road (Cieran Fallon), just a head behind Sweet Lady in the Vermeille, also earning a start.
Haggas said: “I think it’s a really good renewal this year, but both of our fillies are really well. Sea La Rosa has been a revelation this year. She stays well and tries hard, so I think she’s bound to be in the shake-up, but whether she’s quite good enough we’ll see.
“Lilac Road has also done nothing but improve, and I thought she was a bit unlucky in the Nassau before running a terrific race in the Prix Vermeille.”
FROM EARLIER RELEASES:
Roger Varian: “Eshaada has been trained for one race all year and I’m very happy with her. It doesn’t concern me at all that she hasn’t won yet this year as she needed the race first time out, nearly got brought down at Haydock, and then was second to a very good filly at Doncaster.”
Charlie Appleby: “Eternal Pearl is stepping up to Group 1 company for the first time. We are testing the waters, but she goes from strength to strength and on what she’s achieved so far she won’t look out of place. Staying is her forte, and if it came up testing it would play to her strengths.”
Francis Graffard: “Verry Elleegant was very unlucky in the way the race was run at Longchamp, where there was no tempo and she was boxed in on the rail and pulled hard. She basically didn’t have a race.
“It’s hard to see such a fantastic mare beaten like that and it’s upsetting too, but I felt that the race was over for her at the first bend when I saw where we were. Everything went against her and it’s best forgotten, but she’s come out of it well. She’s happy and she tries, and hopefully things will go her way at Ascot.
“Sweet Lady is in top form. We decided to avoid Arc weekend and focus on the Fillies & Mares, as we did with Bateel [second in 2017].”
QIPCO BRITISH CHAMPIONS SPRINT STAKES (£500,000): GROUP 1
Richard Fahey is very hopeful that his Middle Park Stakes and Commonwealth Cup winner Perfect Power can return to his best in the QIPCO British Champions Sprint, in which the 18 declarations include last year’s winner Creative Force and his stable-mate Naval Crown, as well as Temple Stakes winner King’s Lynn, who will be a first Ascot runner for The King.
Perfect Power, who started the season with QIPCO 2000 Guineas aspirations, has been a little below his best in the Darley July Cup and Prix Maurice de Gheest since beating Flaming Rib in style at Royal Ascot in June, and connections believe repeated runs on quick ground have been a factor. He has been rested since and the vibes are positive. Tom Marquand has come in for the mount, with regular rider Christophe Soumillon suspended.
Fahey, whose Sands Of Mali was a shock winner when beating Harry Angel in the 2018 QIPCO British Champions Sprint and who also runs Listed winner Ventura Dream, said: “He’s in great form, working well, and we are very happy with him.
“It’s been quite quick ground for him a few times now and he just wants a bit of decent ground. He’d been on the go a long time too, having started out in the Greenham back in April, so we were keen to get a bit of a break into him and he’s come back in great order. Tom won’t have sat on him before, but good jockeys don’t need to and he’s pretty straightforward anyway.”
Last year’s winner Creative Force and Platinum Jubilee winner Naval Crown provide Charlie Appleby with a formidable hand, while Rohaan, who had an excuse here last year, made it three wins from four starts over the course and distance when adding a recent Group 3 to his two wins in the Wokingham Handicap.
Art Power, fourth in the last two runnings and a recent impressive winner of a Group 3 at The Curragh which he also won last year, is also among the market leaders, and his trainer Tim Easterby reports him “in great order”.
Easterby added: “He ran a super prep race in Ireland and he’s in top form. It’s not imperative but he likes a bit of juice in the ground, which he should get. It won’t be firm like Haydock anyway. I think he’ll run very well. It would be nice if he could finish in the first three and even better if he could win.”
Kinross, who gained a first Group 1 win when completing a hat-trick in the seven-furlong Prix de la Foret, is in top form too, but he has finished only in mid-division in two previous attempts in Group 1 sprints at Ascot.
Tenebrism was fifth in the Foret and is another who will be dropping back in trip. Her trainer Aidan O’Brien said: “It will be her first time at six furlongs since she won the Cheveley Park, and we think that dropping back will suit her.”
The runners also include the Hugo Palmer-trained Brad The Brief, who won both of his starts in the spring and has been waiting for a bit of ease in the ground, and David Loughnane’s Go Bears Go, whose course and distance success in April was one of three Group-race wins.
FROM EARLIER RELEASES:
Charlie Appleby: “Creative Force and Naval Crown both galloped on the Rowley Mile two Saturdays ago. When they ran last time it was on ground that was quick enough, and I wanted them to go to the track again to enjoy themselves and know that it’s not going to be rattling quick every time they go to the races. They had a lovely gallop and came out of it in great order. You can see visually that they are both in A1 condition.”
QIPCO BRITISH CHAMPIONS LONG DISTANCE CUP (£500,000)
Rain came to Ascot during Wednesday night to ensure Trueshan’s declaration for the QIPCO British Champions Long Distance Cup, in which he will seek an unprecedented hat-trick under Hollie Doyle.
The official going was eased to good to soft, soft in places, after 4.2mm of rain, and the possibility of further showers have been enough to reassure trainer Alan King that the conditions will be suitable for the six-year-old to line up in the Group 2 race.
“It should be fine,” he said. “They had 4-5mm last night so it’s good to soft, soft, and that should be fine for him. I don’t see it drying out much.”
Trueshan was one of eight declarations for the £500,000 contest, in which his opponents include Coltrane, the horse who beat him in the Doncaster Cup last time out, the Ebor winner Trawlerman and two classy and progressive three-year-olds in St Leger winner Eldar Eldarov and Irish Cesarewitch winner Waterville.
Since putting up an extraordinary performance to win the Northumberland Plate under 10st 8lb, Trueshan has finished third in the Goodwood Cup and second in the Doncaster Cup, in which he wandered off a straight line in the closing stages.
“I think he was still remembering Goodwood a little bit when he ran at Doncaster,” said King. “He was pretty sore after Doncaster. He’s had a good break and he’s done quite a lot of work on the water treadmill, which he absolutely loves. Hopefully that has loosened him up well. We’re happy with him at this end.”
After capturing the final Classic of the season by two lengths Eldar Eldarov takes another step up in distance as he seeks to add to his record of one defeat in five starts.
“He’s been progressing all year and seems to be getting better,” said trainer Roger Varian. “We think his best is still to come, hopefully on Saturday and beyond into next year. He shapes like he’ll stay two miles, looks like he might be better over it.
“He’s done nothing wrong, even when he got beat in the Grand Prix de Paris. I thought that was a perfectly fine run, just the test was a bit sharp for him.
“He gets his weight-for-age allowance [9lb] and has no Group 1 penalty in a Group 2 race, which is a Group 1 in all bar name. It doesn’t look like it’s going to get too testing but I think he’ll be all right on any ground. He’s ticked every box since running in the St Leger and we are very pleased with him.”
Trawlerman is also stepping up in distance after landing the 1m6f Ebor at York in August.
“He has progressed well through the year,” said co-trainer Thady Gosden. “I don’t expect the two miles to be an issue for him. He’s a horse that stays very well and he also won’t mind the ground on the slower side as it is. He is stepping up in grade against some tough, classy stayers so we will have to see how he performs against them.”
FROM EARLIER RELEASES:
Aidan O’Brien: “It’s a big step up in class for Waterville, but this has always been the plan for him after the Cesarewitch. He’s come out of the race well.”
Andrew Balding: “Coltrane is in great form but he’s had a long year. I know I said that before Doncaster too, but he worked almost too well on Saturday – he flew, or at least he did by his standards – and that’s sometimes an indication that they are going over the top.”
BALMORAL HANDICAP (SPONSORED BY QIPCO) (£200,000)
No trainer has a better record in valuable handicaps at up to a mile than David O’Meara, who this year has his 2019 Balmoral Handicap winner Escobar heading a team with real strength and depth in what could be a six-horse assault on the £200,000 prize, which has a maximum field of 20 plus three reserves.
Escobar is making his fifth successive appearance on QIPCO British Champions Day card, having also been second in the 2018 Balmoral, down the field in the 2020 QEII, and sixth here a year ago. O’Meara has him in top form, but the penalty for his win here 12 days ago leaves him on a career high mark and his stable-mate Blue For You is currently preferred in the betting.
O’Meara, who also won the 2017 Balmoral with subsequent Group 1 winner Lord Glitters, said: “Escobar has a 6lb penalty for his win over seven furlongs in the Challenge at Ascot last time and that puts him on 113, which in theory is 2lb wrong. It feels like a mammoth task in a race like the Balmoral but he loves the track, he seems to like this time of the year and he’ll go on the ground.
“Blue For You got a bit lit up last time in the Challenge and he was short of room late on. He’d have been a good bit closer with a clear run and hopefully he can go down there and get a good run and see out the stiff mile on softish ground. I think he will.
“Orbaan has had a good season, but while he won on soft going at York two years ago I do feel he’s been better this summer on better ground so he probably wouldn’t want it too soft. Shelir ran in the Challenge too last time and he was a bit chewy on the front end. He needs to settle better and get more cover to give himself a chance.
“The doubt about Rhoscolyn would be whether he’d truly see out the stiff mile on the ground, but he was a very strong finisher in the Buckingham Palace and he has the ability to run a big race. Bopedro (third reserve) disappointed me at York last time when I thought he’d run well. He’s got the capability but I don’t really know what the key to him is. It wouldn’t surprise me if he were to show up a bit better here as he ran well earlier in the year.”
John and Thady Gosden will be represented by Magical Morning, last year’s third, who will be ridden by champion apprentice-elect Benoit de la Sayette.
“He ran in the race last year, he has tried stepping up into Listed company and he’s rated 105 now” said Thady Gosden. “He’s back in a handicap but you need plenty of luck in running.”
William Haggas won last year’s Balmoral Handicap with Aldaary and this year’s team includes Baaeed’s near-white lead horse Montatham. He is joined by Epsom Group 3 winner Bashkirova and Sandown Listed second Sweet Believer, with the progressive Montassib second of three reserves.
Former Queen Anne Stakes winner Accidental Agent and multiple Group-race winners Safe Voyage and Stormy Antarctic are among other distinguished runners. Atrium, who was disputing favouritism, just missed the cut.
FROM EARLIER RELEASES:
David Menuisier: “Migration picked up a little injury after his excellent run in the Spring Cup, where we were delighted with him but felt that he could maybe have done with a bit more cut in the ground. We know he can run well fresh, so the plan is to run and the plan is to run well. William (Buick) knows the horse and they get on well.”