Ahead of QIPCO British Champions Day on Saturday 15th October, Ascot Racecourse and British Champions Series are exploring the option of running the QIPCO Champion Stakes on a newly demarcated Inner Flat Course.
Additional running rails will create a bespoke track, not subject to summer watering, on the inside of the usual flat track rails. As a result, the start of the race on this track, would have an approximately 80 yard longer run to the first bend, which would likely reduce the significance of the draw.
Chris Stickels, Clerk of the Course at Ascot, explained: “We have undertaken extensive research in an effort to ensure we are running QIPCO British Champions Day on the best possible ground available. Last year the existing Outer Flat Course was good to soft, soft in places. We also walked the area we are now thinking of using for the QIPCO Champion Stakes and it was good, good to firm in places. Subsequent readings suggest we will see something similar.”
This initiative also sees the conclusion of a project to investigate the possible deployment of rain covers.
Nick Smith, Director of Racing and Communications at Ascot, added: “As is widely known, Ascot, QIPCO and British Champions Series have looked into the possibility of using rain covers, and indeed built a section of polytunnel in Poland. We have concluded that these are not viable given that they would take a significant amount of time to erect and take down and any rain during the latter process would likely produce inconsistencies of going and damage to the track.
“We would not be protected against rain during and after the removal of the covers. By way of example, on the Friday prior to the 2015 King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes, the ground was good to firm. However, following 35mm of rain overnight the race went off on soft. There are also potential drainage and waterlogging issues.”
By the time initial entries for the QIPCO Champion Stakes close on Tuesday 2nd August, a position will be reached whereby Ascot and British Champions Series either state an intention to run the Champion Stakes on the Inner Flat Course or confirm a decision will be made closer to the race. There will be an opportunity for jockeys to ride the course before QIPCO British Champions Day.
It is possible 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.
Ruth Quinn, Director of International Racing and Racing Development at the BHA said: “We have been delighted with the quality of the QIPCO Champion Stakes since it has been run as the flagship race on QIPCO British Champions Day. The research that Chris Stickels and the BHA Inspectorate have undertaken suggests that the Inner Flat Course is likely to produce better ground for the race and, as such, we hope that its availability will provide connections with increased confidence when it comes to targeting the race with top-class horses. The reality is that this is a competitive market place, so anything we can do to drive further improvement – whether in terms of ground or draw – has to be seen as a positive move.”
David Redvers, representing sponsors, QIPCO said: “From the outset, QIPCO have worked closely with both Ascot and British Champions Series to realise its ambitions for British Champions Day. With £4.2 million in prize money on offer, we are always looking to innovate and improve the day and we believe that the Inner Flat Course option has the potential to further improve the quality of the QIPCO Champion Stakes.”
Ryan Moore added: “The Champion Stakes is such an important race and the proposed changes seem like a sensible and viable option in ensuring the race is run on the best possible ground available.”