Dubai: On a day when Godolphin take aim at the world’s richest turf race, the A$15 million The Everest at Royal Randwick Racecourse in Sydney, Dark Vision will be their sole representative on British Champions Day at Ascot Racecourse, the grand finale of the 2020 British flat racing season.
Trained by Mark Johnston, Dark Vision will be ridden by William Buick as he bids to give the Dubai-owned stable a sixth success in the Group 1 Queen Elizabeth II Stakes the mile-category final of the British Champions Series.
However, Godolphin, who have not won the straight mile since Poet’s Voice triumphed back in 2010, are under no illusions of the enormous challenge that Buick and his four-year-old colt face.
As always, the race is ultra-competitive with 14 of Europe’s best milers - led by the unbeaten 4/5 favourite Palace Pier - set to face the starter.
Dark Vision earned his place in the race when running on strongly from the rear to capture the Royal Hunt Cup under Buick, and has has subsequently posted two more wins over a mile, running on well to take the Listed Pomfret Stakes at Pontefract in July before storming home to edge out Half Light on the line in the Group 2 Oettingen Rennen at Baden-Baden, Germany, in September.
Looking ahead to Saturday’s test, Johnston told the Godolphin website: “We are really, really happy with Dark Vision. We were very keen after his win in Germany to have a shot at a G1 with him again and he is in great shape.
“I’m disappointed about the ground, which has become an unfortunate pattern with Champions Day, and it will be a concern. We would likely have to wait until better ground if we went for another race, which is not going to happen, so he is going to take his chance.”
When and where is it held? It is held on Saturday, October 17 at Ascot racecourse. The meeting attracts the world’s best horses, jockeys and trainers who compete for some of the most prestigious races on the British racing calendar.
Why is it considered so important? British Champions Day was launched in 2011 as the British Flat racing’s end-of-season bonanza with over £2.5 million in prize-money up for grabs across six races.
Who were the superstars at the meeting? Frankel illuminated the early days of British Champions Day, winning the 2011 Queen Elizabeth II Stakes and the 2012 Champion Stakes in impressive style. Cracksman is another top-class middle-distance performer who won back-to-back runnings of the Champion Stakes, including a seven-length demolition of a class field in the 2017.
Meanwhile, Sheikh Hamdan Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Deputy Ruler of Dubai, who is enjoying an epic season in the UK, is doubly represented with Nazeer and Molatham. Judged on his impressive victory in the recent Sun Charriot Stakes, Nazeefis a leading contender while Royal Ascot scorer Molatham’s can’t be overlooked. The Saeed Suhail-owned Dream Of Dreams looks the horse to beat in the Group 1 Champions Day print.
Meanwhile a trio of Godolphin runners including Bivouac, Trekking and Libertini bid for victory in The Everest, Australia’s richest race and most valuable in the world on turf. All three gallopers are trained by James Cummings. The favourite is the Chris Waller-trained Nature Strip. Waller won the race last year with Yes Yes Yes.
Champions Day races
5.20pm British Champions Day Long Distance Cup (Group 2), 2m
5.55pm British Champions Sprint (Group 1), 6f
6.30pm British Champions Fillies & Mares Stakes (Group 1), 1m4f
7.05pm Queen Elizabeth II Stakes (Group 1), 1m
7.40pm Champion Stakes (Group 1), 1m2f
8.15pm Balmoral Handicap, 1m