Frankel heads Champion Stakes 17
03 Oct 2012 | The countdown to the second QIPCO British Champions Day at Ascot on Saturday, October 20 is now in full swing and the sense of anticipation ahead of British racing's richest day of the year steps up a gear today with the publication of the latest acceptors for the championship finales in each of the five categories of the QIPCO British Champions Series.
All eyes will be on Frankel as the Khalid Abdulla-owned superstar makes what is likely to be the final start of his imperious career in the £1.3 million QIPCO Champion Stakes, Europe's most valuable mile and a quarter race. Unbeaten in 13 starts, Frankel handled the step up to 10 furlongs with consummate ease in the Juddmonte International at York on August 22.
Frankel was successful on QIPCO British Champions Day in 2011 in the mile Queen Elizabeth II Stakes sponsored by QIPCO and has to date won eight QIPCO British Champions Series races over the last two years.
Opposition to Frankel in the QIPCO Champion Stakes, which has 17 going forward, looks very strong and is likely to provide him with the toughest assignment of his career. It includes last year's victor Cirrus des Aigles from France, the second highest-rated horse in the world this year after Frankel, as well as this season's Coral-Eclipse Stakes winner Nathaniel.
In the World Thoroughbred Rankings, Nathaniel is the joint third highest-rated horse in the world this year and he came closest to beating Frankel when the pair were separated by half a length on their respective debuts two years ago in a maiden at Newmarket .
The winners of this year's English, Irish, French and German Derbys have also all stood their ground at the forfeit stage.
Camelot (English and Irish Derby winner as well as the QIPCO 2000 Guineas) is one of four entries for Ireland's champion trainer Aidan O'Brien, who also has dual Investec Coronation Cup victor St Nicholas Abbey in the race.
French Derby winner Saonois represents trainer Jean-Pierre Gauvin, while German Derby winner, Pastorius, who runs in Berlin today, represents trainer Mario Hofer.
In addition to Cirrus des Aigles and Saonois, French interest is also provided by Etihad Airways Falmouth Stakes heroine Giofra.
The £1 million Queen Elizabeth II Stakes, Europe's richest mile race, has 13 going forward including Excelebration who has finished runner-up to Frankel on four occasions, including in this race 12 months ago, but gained a deserved Group One victory at Deauville in August.
The Queen could be represented in the race named in her honour by the 2011 Derby third Carlton House while Cityscape, brilliant winner of the Dubai Duty Free in March and second to Excelebration at Deauville, is set to take on that rival once again.
The one remaining filly is the ultra-consistent Elusive Kate from the John Gosden stable who was third to Excelebration and Cityscape at Deauville.
FILLIES AND MARES
Dancing Rain was an impressive winner on QIPCO British Champions Day in 2011 when making all the running to land the inaugural £250,000 QIPCO British Champions Fillies And Mares Stakes over a mile and a half. The four-year-old Danehill Dancer filly, who also won last season's Investec Oaks for trainer William Haggas, has been absent with injury so far in the current campaign but is firmly on course to defend her crown at Ascot on October 20.
Liam Norris, who purchased Dancing Rain and oversees the racing interests of owners Martin and Lee Taylor, revealed: "The QIPCO British Champions Fillies And Mares Stakes is where we want to go with Dancing Rain and she is on target for the race.
"She had two small chips removed from both front fetlock joints earlier in the season. She came back to me after that and we nursed her back through. She did really well.
"She looks fantastic now and is a big, strong filly - much bigger than she was last year.
"We were going to go to York with her which was her aim but she just had a couple of niggly muscle issues that shoved her back a little. We just had to go steady with her.
"We took her to Kempton last week and gave her a spin. She worked with Beaten Up and blew for 25 minutes afterwards so she needed it. But she is in good form now and we are keeping everything crossed that we will have her at Ascot on October 20.
"She might be a bit rusty but she likes the track and won the race last year."
Also among the 24 acceptors for the £250,000 QIPCO British Champions Fillies And Mares Stakes are this season's Investec Oaks heroine Was as well as impressive Irish Oaks scorer Great Heavens, who is a full-sister to Nathaniel, Princess Highway, who scored over the course and distance in the Ribblesdale Stakes at Royal Ascot, and the in-form Wild Coco.
A cracking contest is in store for the opening race on QIPCO British Champions Day, the £200,000 QIPCO British Champions Long Distance Cup over two miles.
The 25 acceptors for this contest include last season's victor Fame And Glory, plus the winners of four contests in the Stayer Category this season - Colour Vision (Gold Cup at Royal Ascot), Saddler's Rock (Artemis Goodwood Cup) and Times Up (Weatherbys Insurance Lonsdale Cup and Stobart Doncaster Cup). If Times Up were to succeed, it would bring down the curtain perfectly on the career of John Dunlop, who retires at the end of the season.
The second race on QIPCO British Champions Day is the £250,000 QIPCO British Champions Sprint Stakes over six furlongs.
The 32 acceptors include course specialist Society Rock, who gained a Series victory last time out in the Betfred Sprint Cup at Haydock Park and represents the stable of James Fanshawe, who landed the honours in this race last year with Deacon Blues.
Mayson, who won another of the Series races, the Darley July Cup, also remains engaged, together with a host of other high-class sprinters including last year's runner-up, Wizz Kid, Coolmore Nunthorpe Stakes runner-up, Spirit Quartz, and the close third from the Diamond Jubilee Stakes, Restiadargent. Dandy Boy, who won the Wokingham Handicap at Royal Ascot in a faster time than the Diamond Jubilee Stakes, also remains engaged.
All five championship races on QIPCO British Champions Day are run with Group One conditions (there are no penalties to be carried in the two Group Two and one Group Three race).
Rod Street, Chief Executive of British Champions Series, said: "The QIPCO Champion Stakes could be the race of the year - so far Frankel hasn't scared anything off and the other four championship races also look very strong. We are all set for a truly memorable raceday."