Ascot braces for British racing’s big finale

Heading into the Champions Day meeting are some of the flat’s biggest performers of the year including Shadwell Racing’s unbeaten Baaeed



British jockey Jim Crowley will ride Baaeed in the 2,000m British Champion Stakes. — AFP file
British jockey Jim Crowley will ride Baaeed in the 2,000m British Champion Stakes. — AFP file

By Leslie Wilson Jr

Published: Fri 14 Oct 2022, 11:30 PM

Last updated: Fri 14 Oct 2022, 11:31 PM

The eyes of the horse racing world will be riveted on Ascot racecourse on Saturday when the historic venue plays host to British racing’s big finale — Champions Day.

Launched in 2011, the meeting has rapidly risen to the sport’s pinnacle and this year’s renewal has the potential to further reinforce its status as the most prestigious race day in Europe.

Heading into the meeting are some of the flat’s biggest performers of the year including Shadwell Racing’s unbeaten Baaeed, the winner of all 10 career starts, six of which have come at Group 1 level.

Bred by Shadwell, the racing empire of the late Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the former Deputy Ruler of Dubai and Minister of Finance, Baaeed will bid to cement his place among racing’s greats by winning the day’s centerpiece, the 2,000m British Champion Stakes.

Baaeed, who has drawn comparisons to the great Frankel who dominated his rivals 10 years ago, has looked outstanding in his four major victories this season — the Lockinge, Queen Anne, Sussex, and International Stakes victories this year, and is the horse the whole world will watch in awe.

Jim Crowley, who has ridden the Shadwell star in eight of his ten victories, told Racing TV: “Riding Baaeed has given me a huge thrill. it’s what every jockey strives for, to find a horse like this. And I think they probably come along once every 10 years, if you’re lucky, and to see one, let alone ride one, I feel very fortunate.

“He’s everything to me, I adore him. Hopefully, we’re not finished yet.”

Champion trainer-elect Charlie Appleby heads to Champions Day with a strong team led by Adayar, who returns to the scene of one of his greatest victories when he takes on mighty Baaeed.

The Frankel homebred became the first Derby winner in 20 years to capture the King George VI And Queen Elizabeth Stakes last year and he lines up again in Saturday’s showpiece.

The Godolphin handler said: “We have seen what Adayar can do — he is a Derby winner and a King George winner — and he looks in great shape.

“We are excited and it’s good for racing to see two good horses take each other o. Adayar taking on the great unbeaten Baaeed is exciting. Can we beat him? It’s going to be a fantastic race and hopefully one that will go down in the history books as being one of the great races that we have seen over the past few years.”

Twelve months after narrowly missing out on the jockey’s title following an epic battle with Oisin Murphy, Appleby’s number one rider William Buick is within sight of his first jockey’s title having built up an unassailable lead going into the final day.

Buick’s season may not have had the perfect start in April when friend and Godolphin teammate James Doyle beat him in both the 2,000 and 1,000 Guineas, but the 34-year-old picked up the pieces and has delivered a series of stellar performances at Royal Ascot and Glorious Goodwood where he was the meeting’s top jockey for the second successive year.

Buick has since enjoyed major successes in France, America, and Canada and he will be looking to crown an epic year by picking up more silverware on Saturday where he has a strong book of rides.

Although he narrowly heads the trainer’s championship from key rival William Haggas, Appleby will need a couple of winners to thwart Baaeed’s Derby-winning handler.

Appleby holds the ace in the Sprint with defending champion Creative Force and Naval Crown, who won when the Godolphin stars clashed at Royal Ascot earlier this season.

Appleby’s second big hope is Modern Games, a Group 1 winner in the US, France, and Canada, and looks the pick in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes, while Eternal Pearl will bid to extend his winning streak in the Fillies & Mares Stakes.

The Queen Elizabeth II Stakes has sentimental appeal following the death of Britain's longest-serving monarch last month.

All in all, Champions Days looks a fascinating meeting and promises to throw up some sensational performances from both horse and rider.

DID YOU KNOW?

> British Champions Day is the finale of the British flat-racing season, a day when the champion jockey, trainer, and owner will be crowned.

> It is the richest race day in the British calendar with prize money totalling £2.5million.

> The meeting features the end-of-season championship races — The Champion Stakes (10 furlongs), The Queen Elizabeth II Stakes (mile), Sprint Stakes (six furlongs), Long distance Cup (two miles), and Fillies and Mares Stakes (one mile and four furlongs).


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