Ascot announces Champions Day acceptors
The countdown to the second British Champions Day at Ascot on October 20 is now in full swing and the sense of anticipation ahead of British racing's richest day of the year steps up a gear Wednesday with the publication of the latest acceptors for the championship finales in each of the five categories of the British Champions Series.
All eyes will be on Frankel as the Khalid Abdulla-owned superstar makes what is likely to be the final start of his imperious career in the Group 1, £1.3 million Champion Stakes, Europe's most valuable 1 1/4-mile race. Unbeaten in 13 starts, Frankel handled the step up to 10 furlongs with consummate ease in the Group 1 Juddmonte International at York on August 22.
Frankel was successful on British Champions Day in 2011 in the one-mile Group 1 Queen Elizabeth II and has to date won eight British Champions Series races over the last two years.
Opposition to Frankel in the Champion, which has 17 going forward, looks very strong and is likely to provide him with the toughest assignment of his career. It includes last year's victor Cirrus des Aigles from France as well as this season's Group 1 Eclipse winner Nathaniel.
The winners of this year's English, Irish, French and German Derbies have also all stood their ground at the forfeit stage. Three-time classic winner Camelot is one of four entries for Ireland's champion trainer Aidan O'Brien, who also has dual Group 1 Coronation Cup victor St Nicholas Abbey in the race. Both are expected to race this Sunday in the Group 1 Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe.
Group 1 French Derby winner Saonois represents trainer Jean-Pierre Gauvin, while Group 1 German Derby winner, Pastorius, who won the Group 3 Preis der Deutschen Einheit in Berlin Wednesday, represents trainer Mario Hofer.
In addition to Cirrus des Aigles and Saonois, French interest is also provided by Group 1 Falmouth heroine Giofra.
The £1 million Queen Elizabeth II, Europe's richest mile race, has 13 going forward including Excelebration who has finished runner-up to Frankel on four occasions, including in this race 12 months ago, but gained a deserved Group 1 victory at Deauville in August.
The Queen could be represented in the race named in her honor by the classic-placed Carlton House while Cityscape, brilliant winner of the Group 1 Dubai Duty Free in March and second to Excelebration at Deauville, is set to take on that rival once again.
The one remaining filly is the ultra-consistent Elusive Kate from the John Gosden stable who was third to Excelebration and Cityscape at Deauville.
Dancing Rain was an impressive winner on British Champions Day in 2011 when making all the running to land the inaugural Group 2, £250,000 British Champions Fillies And Mares Stakes over 1 1/2 miles. The four-year-old Danehill Dancer filly, who also won last season's Group 1 Oaks for trainer William Haggas, has been absent with injury so far in the current campaign but is firmly on course to defend her crown at Ascot on October 20.
"The British Champions Fillies And Mares Stakes is where we want to go with Dancing Rain and she is on target for the race," said Liam Norris, who purchased Dancing Rain and oversees the racing interests of owners Martin and Lee Taylor. "She had two small chips removed from both front fetlock joints earlier in the season. She came back to me after that and we nursed her back through. She did really well. "She looks fantastic now and is a big, strong filly -- much bigger than she was last year.
"We were going to go to York with her which was her aim but she just had a couple of niggly muscle issues that shoved her back a little. We just had to go steady with her. We took her to Kempton last week and gave her a spin. She worked with Beaten Up and blew for 25 minutes afterwards so she needed it. But she is in good form now and we are keeping everything crossed that we will have her at Ascot on October 20.
"She might be a bit rusty but she likes the track and won the race last year."
Also among the 24 acceptors are this year's Oaks heroine Was as well as impressive Group 1 Irish Oaks scorer Great Heavens, who is a full-sister to Nathaniel, Princess Highway, who scored over the course and distance in the Group 2 Ribblesdale at Royal Ascot, and the in-form Wild Coco.
A cracking contest is in store for the opening race on British Champions Day, the Group 3, £200,000 British Champions Long Distance Cup over two miles.
The 25 acceptors for this contest include last season's victor Fame And Glory, plus the winners of four contests in the Stayer Category this season -- Colour Vision (Group 1 Gold Cup at Royal Ascot), Saddler's Rock (Group 2 Goodwood Cup) and Times Up (Group 2 Lonsdale Cup and Group 2 Doncaster Cup). If Times Up were to succeed, it would bring down the curtain perfectly on the career of John Dunlop, who retires at the end of the season.
The second race on British Champions Day is the Group 2, £250,000 British Champions Sprint over six furlongs.
The 32 acceptors include course specialist Society Rock, who gained a Series victory last time out in the Group 1 Sprint Cup at Haydock and represents the stable of James Fanshawe, who landed the honors in this race last year with Deacon Blues.
Mayson, who won another of the Series races, the Group 1 July Cup, also remains engaged, together with a host of other high-class sprinters including last year's runner-up, Wizz Kid, Group 1 Nunthorpe runner-up, Spirit Quartz, and the close third from the Group 1 Diamond Jubilee, Restiadargent. Dandy Boy, who won the Wokingham Handicap at Royal Ascot in a faster time than the Diamond Jubilee, also remains engaged.
All five championship races on British Champions Day are run with Group 1 conditions (there are no penalties to be carried in the two Group 2 and one Group 3 race).
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