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Inner Flat Course confirmed for QIPCO Champion Stakes

28 Jul 2016

Course change made to help ensure better ground for flat season finale

Ahead of entries closing for QIPCO British Champions Day on Tuesday, 2nd August 2016, British Champions Series and Ascot today confirm that the Group 1 QIPCO Champion Stakes will be run on a newly demarcated Inner Flat Course on Saturday, 15th October 2016 which, it is anticipated, will deliver the best possible ground available.

The change will also see the start of the race move back approximately 80yards allowing for a longer run into the first bend, with potential reduction to the significance of the draw.

Nick Smith, Director of Racing and Communications at Ascot, said: “Supported by the BHA, we believe that it is in the best interests of fairness and clarity to make this decision now. Changing the course at the five-day stage or at declarations runs the risk of upsetting connections, and indeed punters, by actively deciding to favour certain parties over others.

“Making the decision now means that everyone knows that the surface will, in all likelihood, be a degree quicker than might ordinarily be the case. They can plan accordingly from the start – the initial entry fee payment stage.

“Of course making a late call on which course will be used without any guarantee of what the weather might do, even at 48 hours, is not palatable – we had 30mm of rain in the 24 hours before last year’s King George (good to firm became soft). We are confident that this decision not only offers connections greater clarity, but is in the best interest of the race itself.”

Ruth Quinn commented: “The BHA directive for Flat racing is always to race on the best possible ground available (aiming for good to firm). Making a late decision about which course to run the Champion Stakes on is likely to court controversy and this approach presented by Ascot is a sensible and pragmatic one. The BHA Inspectorate, along with the PJA Safety Officer, have approved the change and we feel that this option presents the greatest scope to improve the quality of the race, now and in the future.”

John Gosden added: “I understand the decision taken by the team at Ascot and British Champions Series at the entry stage of the intention to run the Champion Stakes on an Inner Flat Course. Having spoken to the Ascot course management, if the day is to continue to attract the best horses and following confirmation that the covers project is unachievable, this seems like a viable solution.

“It will be interesting to see how the course itself rides and I will definitely be taking some horses to Ascot to see how they handle it, nearer the time. I have previously stated my views on the draw bias that the Champion Stakes is currently affected by on the Outer Flat Course and the switch to the Inner Flat Course could help reduce it which is positive.”

Ed Dunlop said: “The confirmation to run the Champion Stakes on an Inner Flat Course at this early stage is the right decision. A late switch is likely to incur bad will from horsemen and the betting public and this way there is clarity. Hopefully the new course will allow the race to be run on the best ground possible.”

As previously referenced there is the possibility going forward that the QIPCO British Champions Fillies and Mares Stakes and QIPCO British Champions Long Distance Cup could also transfer to the Inner Flat Course. However, slight distance changes would be required to produce ideal positions for their starts, which would need European Pattern Committee approval. This rules out the possibility of any changes to those races for 2016.

There will be an opportunity for horsemen to walk and ride the Inner Flat Course in advance of QIPCO British Champions Day as a familiarisation exercise.

In the event of firm ground, with welfare paramount, the Outer Flat Course would be used.