Champions Day at Ascot – Double Wins for Hollie Doyle and Tom Marquand
As European racing comes to an end for the year in Europe, the Champions Day at Ascot was another race meeting where further records were broken. It was the tenth anniversary of the ‘Champions’ meeting. There were also two dressage World Cup qualifiers over the weekend. At Ascot, the racing provided the first ever double win at the meeting for a female jockey, Hollie Doyle, including collecting her first ever Group 1 success. Her boyfriend, Tom Marquand also rode two winners. The going was soft to heavy, so some horses expected to be there were not and there were some unexpected results. The meeting was the culmination of the Qipco Champion sponsored series. The day saw 22 Group 1 winners over the six races, wining 46 Group 1 races between them. All the races were run slower than normal with each furlong of each race being run at a second slower than the standard time.
Champions day at Ascot
In the first race, the Group 2 Long British Champions Long Distance Stakes had thirteen runners taking on the 2 mile course. In a slow and steady start, Frankie Dettori kept the hot favourite Stradivarius in mid division with Max Vega leading the way until the final straight when he was overcome and soon weakened. Trueshan, ridden by Hollie Doyle and trained by Alan King took over the lead and just kept going to finish 8 lengths ahead of the field with Search for a Song in second, ridden by Oisin Murphy and Irish trained by Dermot Weld. Like in the Arc, Stradivarius was unable to act on the ground and ran no race.
The British Champion Sprint Stakes attracted sixteen runners for the six furlong charge up the Ascot straight. Glen Shiel came out of the stalls like a shot out of a gun and took the lead. Ridden by Hollie Doyle, rather like an angry ant, the pair were headed in the final furlong by Brando but Hollie Doyle managed to get Glen Shiel going again for one final effort which gave them the win by a nose. This was not only a double for Hollie Doyle, but the first Group 1 victory for the top female jockey.
The third race, in which there were twelve runners, The British Champion Fillies and Mares Stakes, Wonderful Tonight lead home the field in a procession and won by 2 lengths. The David Menuisier trained 3 year old absolutely loved the ground. Taking a keen hold early in the 1 ½ mile contest, jockey William Buick was able to keep pressing towards the line giving none of the others any chance. The second home was Dame Malliot, with new jockey heroin Hollie Doyle on board with Passion for Aidan O’Brien in third.
The Queen Elisabeth II Stakes, (The Champions Mile) had some notable absentees including Kameko, classic winner this year. The winner from France was another who relished the going conditions – The Raverant. Jockey Pierre Charles-Boudot was always in touch with the leaders until the final furlong when he was able to run clear of the fourteen runner field, just holding on from Roseman who led from the start. The winner was a five year old with the best of the 3 year olds, Palace Pier coming third.
In the final Group 1 of the day, The Qipco Champion Stakes, (British Champion at Middle Distance) was the feature race of the day with a field to match. Aidan O’Brien sent Magical over from Ireland and other runners; classic winners Serpentine and Mishriff as well as Pyledriver and Japan. Again, the ground found out the top protagonists, with the best of them Magical coming third. The winner was the William Haggas trained Addeybb, who ran on strongly throughout the 1 mile 2 furlong race. The win gave Tom Marquand his first of two wins for the day, as he also won the handicap, the next and last race of the day. The second was Skalleti trained in France by J. Reynier and ridden by Pierre Charles-Boudot, who also had a very profitable day at the races.
The headlines of the day belonged to the successes of both Hollie Doyle and her boyfriend Tom Marquand, between them taking four of the six races on offer. Some in the press room now think that it will not be long before the couple announce their engagement. Watch this space!! We all like rumours?
Racing in the rest of the world
At Caulfield in Australia, Verry Elleegant, the five year old mare won her second Group 1 within a couple of weeks by taking the Caulfield Cup over 1 ½ miles. The Chris Waller trained mare must be considered favourite for the up and coming Melbourne Cup in the next few weeks even though she will have been allocated another 5 pounds to carry for the race. She beat Aidan O’Brien’s Anthony Van Dyke (having a prep race for the Melbourne Cup) by a neck. There were 18 runners.
In New Zealand, at Hastings, the Group 1 Livamol Classic over 1 mile 2 furlongs was won comfortably by Melody Belle, trained by Jamie Richards and ridden by Troy Harris. Advantage was second with Vadavar taking third spot. There were 16 runners.
In Woodbine in Canada, The Northern Dancer Turf Stakes had eight runners with Say The Word winning the 1 ½ mile contest. Another female jockey showing the way home in Emma Jayne Wilson taking the honours for trainer Gail Cox. In the second Group 1 of the meeting, The E P Taylor Stakes, there were seven runners with trainer Chad Brown’s Etoile winning by a neck in a close contest from Court Return.
In Denmark, there was a World Cup FEI CDI qualifier in which there were fifteen combinations forward. The winner of both the Grand Prix and Grand Prix Music was Denmark’s Cathrine Defour riding Bohemian, beating Isabell Werth riding Emilio into second position for both competitions. The score for Cathrine in the freestyle music gave her a personal best of 88.200%, just surpassing her previous personal best record. Jessica Von Bredow-Werndl riding Zaire was third and now leads the top of the European qualifiers for the finals in Sweden next April.
In Belarus, the second World Cup dressage of the weekend took place with the Russian Inessa Merkulova taking both the Grand Prix and Grand Prix Music. This was the first time the pair had been out in competition for two years. She was riding Mister X. Belarusian rider Olga Safonova riding Sandro D’amour was second and Russian, Marina Aframeeva took third in the Grand Prix. In the Freestyle, the positions for second and third were reversed.
Sadly, following our excitement that the Lyon World Cup qualifiers for both dressage and show jumping were going ahead at the end of the month, this has been changed to another cancelled event due to the latest Covid restrictions President Macron has announced for the whole of France,. There are now only five of the thirteen scheduled qualifiers taking place in the European leg of the World Cup and some of those look doubtful, particularly Mechelin at Christmas time in Belgium, which is also now under new lock down rules.