ED CHAMBERLIN: British Champions Day is chance for racing to salute the high-achievers at Ascot… well, almost all of them!
- Will Buick and Billy Loughnane will both get trophies for leading their fields
- Frankie Dettori and Sheika Hissa Al Maktoum will also be celebrated at Ascot
- However, the trainers’ championship does not officially end until December 31
Champions, in any sport, must be recognised. For all the toil, all the long hours and the obsession to get things right, there has to be a moment that makes it all worthwhile.
Saturday at Ascot, racing gets its opportunity to celebrate the high-achievers on QIPCO British Champions Day: Will Buick, the Flat season’s No 1 rider, and Billy Loughnane, the leading apprentice, will both get trophies for leading their fields.
Sheika Hissa Al Maktoum, whose Shadwell Estate Company head the Owners’ Championship, is likely to get a gong, too. She will be hoping Mostahdaf can run, ground permitting, in the Champion Stakes and confirm himself the leading 10-furlong horse of the campaign. We’ll also celebrate Frankie Dettori’s stellar career but — as we know now — this will not be a goodbye. He comes alive at Ascot, and I want to repeat what I said last week: I’ll be amazed if he doesn’t ride at next year’s royal meeting.
A fascinating subplot, meanwhile, involves the trainers. Aidan O’Brien can still pip John and Thady Gosden — and a key race will be the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes over a mile, with Paddington and Nashwa going head-to-head.
There is a complication, however. The trainers’ championship does not officially end until December 31 at Lingfield. Some leading figures prefer it that way, but I just feel it is a shame they don’t get to celebrate on the biggest stage. Do you remember where and when Charlie Appleby was crowned champion trainer last year? I don’t. The champion National Hunt trainer always gets his prize at the final jumps meeting of the season, at Sandown in April — maybe one day it will be the same on the Flat.
Will Buick (above), the Flat season’s No 1 rider, will receive his trophy at Ascot on Saturday
Paddington (above) and Nashwa will go head-to-head in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes
For today Ascot marks the unofficial end of the Flat season. Yes, there are still a couple of important meetings to come but the Flat ending after this spectacular at Ascot makes total sense — Cheltenham hosts its first meeting next week.
I know jumps racing is favoured by many. One reason Flat racing sometimes struggles was shown with Ace Impact in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe: no sooner had a wider audience been dazzled by his brilliance, he was retired.
But before we start thinking about deep midwinter, what can we can say about a Flat season that has been often turbulent off the track but produced so many magnificent performances on it, many of which have been coaxed by O’Brien, the master Flat trainer of our time.
He has the touch of a genius, the guile of a fox and the PR skills of a diplomat. After Paddington won the Sussex Stakes at Glorious Goodwood, he posed with a Paddington Bear and had time for every request for a photo or signature. Aidan is a peerless trainer. An even better ambassador. Racing needs reference points, so it was encouraging to see the baton successfully passed from mother to son, from the late Queen to the new King. No one could have expected King Charles to be so engaged with the sport.
If I had the chance to ask the Royal Household for one thing in 2024, it would be for the Royal Procession to be more modern, on trend and reflect the great diversity of our sport and country — Royal Ascot needs to buzz with excitement about who is in the carriages.
King Charles has successfully taken up the racing baton from the late Queen but if one thing could change, there should be more buzz around the carriages at Royal Ascot
An event of this magnitude should attract, say, the Obamas and Beckhams and mix these worldwide power figures with the unseen heroes who do so many good charitable works. What a mix that would be.
This sport can appeal to everyone and we saw this season its capacity to make dreams come true. From Regional at Haydock to Live In The Dream at York, David can slay Goliath and small owners and syndicates can beat the powerhouses.
Aspiration is everything with racehorse ownership. It’s what makes the game so great — everyone, potentially, can have a champion.
Ed Chamberlin is a Sky Bet ambassador
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