Dubai: After seven months of exhilerating action on the flat, the 2019 British horse racing season comes to a dramatic climax at Champions Day this weekend, with a glittering card of six high-quality races.
There can be few more inspirational venues than the Ascot racecourse to hold an event of this stature, with prize-money of more than £4 million (Dh18.55 million) on offer.
Leading trainers are putting the finishing touches to a star-studded card of equine superstars, boasting over 25 Group 1 winners, who will vie for victory in races over six furlongs to a mile-and-a-half.
Godolphin’s Saeed Bin Surour, one of the sport’s most successful and resilient trainer’s, goes in search of a record-building sixth victory in the £1 million Queen Elizabeth II Stakes (Group 1).
The Emirati handler, Godolphin’s longest-serving trainer who has been overseeing the training of horses in Dubai and the UK since 1995, relies on stable flag-bearer, Benbatl, to add to the previous victories of Mark of Esteem (1996), Dubai Millennium (1999), Summoner (2001), Ramonti (2007) and Poet’s Voice in the mile contest.
Bin Surour is confident that his globe-trotting star Benbatl. who has recorded Group 1 wins in Germany, Dubai and Australia, will be suited by the mile.
Although the five-year-old son of Darley stallion Dubawi has posted victories over longer distances, the trainer revealed that the decision to aim him at the QEII Stakes was taken by Godolphin founder His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, to stick to a mile in what will be only Benbatl’s second start of the year.
“He’s always had class and won Group 1s in Germany, Dubai and Australia,” said Bin Surour. “He’ s a calm horse who is very easy and straightforward to train. The plan always been to give him a break this year and then bring him back September time. He won well at Newmarket and he has come back from the race really well.
“I’m happy with him going into the QEII. Shaikh Mohammad made the decision [to run in the QEII rather than the Champion Stakes]. It’s a stiff mile and I think that’s the best race with him.”
However, Benbatl has a tough task on hand with some serious milers set to face the starter including Aidan O’Brien’s likely contenders, Circus Maximus, Hermosa, I Can Fly, Magical and Magna Grecia.
Also in the fray are Accidental Agent and Lord Glitters, the past two winners of the Group 1 Queen Anne, together with Phoenix Of Spain and Veracious.
The French challenge is led by The Revenant, an exciting eight-race winner who is trained by Francis-Henri Graffard at Chantilly, home to the French Derby.
At a Glance
British Champions Day
October 19, Ascot Racecourse,
4:35 (UAE) British Champions Sprint Stakes (Group 1) Cl1 (3yo+) 6f
5:10 British Champions Fillies & Mares Stakes (Group 1) Cl1 (3yo+) 1m4f
5:45 British Champions Long Distance Cup (Group 2) Cl1 (3yo+) 2m
6:20 Queen Elizabeth II Stakes (Group 1) (British Champions Mile) Cl1 (3yo+) 1m
7:00 Champion Stakes (British Champions Middle Distance) (Group 1) Cl1 (3yo+) 1m2f
7:40 Balmoral Handicap (Sponsored By Qipco) Cl2 (3yo+) 1m