British Champions Day: By The Numbers
Saturday sees the 2021 staging of British Champions Day at Ascot, the richest day in British racing. Here is a look at the big day by the numbers.
The number of victories on Champions Day by Frankel, the ideal horse to ensure the raceday lived up to its name from the start. He arrived for the first Champions Day in 2011 having won all eight of his starts and was set for the Queen Elizabeth II S. (G1), which he won by four lengths at odds of 4-11. A year later he had his 14th and final race at the second Champions Day, this time in the Champion S. (G1); on wet ground he faced his sternest challenge of the season from French iron horse Cirrus des Aigles but came out on top by nearly two lengths. Frankel’s full brother Noble Mission emulated him by winning the 2014 Champion.
The number of Champions Day races contested by the outstanding Irish filly Magical. She was first sent to Champions Day in 2018 for the British Champions Filly & Mare Turf (G1), and she proved her toughness with a one-length victory – a few weeks before pushing champion mare Enable to three-quarters of a length in the Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1). She returned a year later to take on the males in the Champion and again proved too strong, holding off Addeybb by three-quarters of a length. Back again for the same race in 2020, she finished third to the noted globetrotter Addeybb.
The number of times the British Champions Long Distance Cup (G2) has gone to Irish-based horses since British Champions Day began in 2011. Aidan O’Brien won it that year with Fame and Glory, and he would win again with Order of St George (2017) and Kew Gardens (2019). Dermot Weld has won it twice, with Rite of Passage (2012) and Forgotten Rules (2014), while jockey-turned-trainer Johnny Murtagh scored with Royal Diamond (2013).
The number of Champions Day stagings that have been on wet going. Perhaps inevitably given the decision to stage it in mid-October, the English weather has a big say. So only two runnings, in 2011 and 2016, have been on good ground. The weather forecast suggests the five-year cycle could produce good ground again in 2021, but don’t be surprised if the rain has a say again.
The number of previous stagings of British Champions Day. It was created by bringing six races previously held at Ascot and Newmarket into one day. The initial Group 1 features were the Queen Elizabeth II over one mile and the Champion over 1 1/4 miles. Also added were the six-furlong Diadem S., renamed the British Champions Sprint (G1); the 1 1/2–mile Pride S., renamed the British Champions Fillies’ & Mares’ S.; the two-mile Jockey Club Cup, renamed the British Champions Long Distance Cup; and the one-mile Balmoral H. The Fillies & Mares Stakes was upgraded from Group 2 to Group 1 in 2013, as was the Sprint in 2015, while the Long Distance Cup was promoted from Group 3 to Group 2 in 2014.
The combined number of lengths that Brigadier Gerard, one of Britain’s all-time champions, had in hand in two victories in the Queen Elizabeth II. The Brigadier was unbeaten in eight starts coming to the race in 1971 as a three-year-old and finished eight lengths clear of French Group 1 winner Dictus. The following year he came to the race a few weeks after his shocking defeat by Roberto in what is now the Juddmonte International (G1), over an extended 1 1/4 miles; back to a mile he was a clear six-length winner over Sparkler. Brigadier Gerard also won the Champion twice, in the days when it was run at Newmarket about three weeks after the Queen Elizabeth II.
The astonishing number of lifetime races run by 2014 British Champions Sprint winner Gordon Lord Byron. Trained in Ireland by Tom Hogan, Gordon Lord Byron began racing at two in 2010 but didn’t emerge as a top horse until his four-year-old season, winning the 2012 Prix de la Foret (G1) at Longchamp. He became the first Northern Hemisphere-trained horse to win a Group 1 in Sydney, Australia, when winning the 2014 George Ryder S. (about 7 1/2 furlongs) at 18-1, and later that season he won the Champions Sprint by more than a length. His final race was an 11-year-old in December 2019, but unfortunately he died when collapsing during trackwork in 2020. A 2,000 euro purchase (about $2300) as a foal, Gordon Lord Byron earned about $2.6 million on the track.
The year the Champion was first run. It made an immediate impact, with its first winner being Springfield. The winner of 17 of his 19 starts, Springfield was undefeated at three and four and in the Champion, his final race, he defeated Derby victor Silvio. Springfield’s son Sainfoin won the Derby, and Sainfoin’s progeny include English Triple Crown winner Rock Sand (sire of the dam of Man o’ War); Tout Suite, dam of undefeated St Leger winner Hurry On; and Bromus (who was inbred 2x3 to Springfield), dam of the breed-shaping sire Phalaris.