Since 2011, Champions Day has been held every fall at the Ascot Racecourse, where the Royal Ascot is held. The day-long festival marks the end of the British Champions Series and the British flat racing season. In recent years, prize money has exceeded £4 million — the 2018 Champions Day prize total was worth a record-breaking £4.35 million to be exact — making the event the richest racing day in Britain. All of this helps to make Champions Day one of the most attractive and anticipated horse races worldwide — not to mention the killer lineup of some of the world’s best horses.
The British Champions Series was launched in order to widen the appeal of horse racing among sports’ fans and the general public alike. To encourage interest in the event from a wider audience, the event was given five racing categories: Middle Distance, Long Distance, Fillies and Mares, Sprint, and Mile. The official race names are: Champion Stakes, British Champions Long Distance Cup, British Champions Fillies and Mares Stakes, British Champions Sprint Stakes, and Queen Elizabeth II Stakes. There’s also the Balmoral Handicap, which is the last race of the day.
To celebrate the history of Champions Day, let’s delve into some of the most exciting races from the past eight years.
The history of the Champion Stakes since 2011 is somewhat of a family affair. In 2012, Frankel, a British Thoroughbred and crowd favorite, beat the 2011 Champion Stakes victor, Cirrus des Aigles, in the last race of his fourteen-year career. Frankel, who boasted an undefeated record, attracted a huge crowd to the event, making it one of the most exciting races in the history of Champions Day. The event was made even more exciting by the crowd’s doubt that Frankel could keep up his high level of performance despite the poor weather — but he showed that the weather had little effect on him, and took home the £1 million-plus prize.
Then in 2017, Frankel’s son, Cracksman, won the Champion Stakes. The question for this year’s race was: Could he repeat his 2017 success? Apparently, he could — he just won the same race again at the 2018 Champions Day, the final race of his career. There’s no doubt it runs in the family.
Queen Elizabeth II Stakes
In the first year of Champions Day, the much-loved and undefeated Frankel also won the 2011 Queen Elizabeth II Stakes. At this point he had quite the reputation, having won four previous races that year. Frankel also competed against one of his rivals, Excelebration, making the race all the more exciting for the crowd. He had just beaten Excelebration earlier that year at the Greenham Stakes. However, Excelebration went on to win the 2012 Queen Elizabeth II Stakes, making a nice comeback for the crowd.
British Champions Long Distance Cup
In 2012, Rite of Passage won the British Champions Long Distance Cup. The win is notable because of his age — at age eight, he is the oldest horse to have won the race since it became part of Champions Day in 2011— and because of his less active status. Rite of Passage had been off the course for about a year and a half before winning the Long Distance Cup, making the feat quite the comeback and an exciting event.
In 2017, five-year-old Order of St George — one of the world’s best racehorses according to the 2017 World’s Best Racehorse Rankings — won the British Champions Long Distance Cup. His trainer, Aidan O’Brien, has seen more success with his horses than any other trainer at Champions Day. This year, Order of St George was beaten by his rival, Stradivarius.
Anxious for the next Champions Day? Tickets are now available to purchase for the next event. Less than a year away, the QIPCO British Champions Day 2019 will take place on Oct. 19 2019 at Ascot Racecourse.