Baaeed Runs and Looses His Last Race on Champions Day at Ascot. Fair Hill Stages Penultimate Five Star Horse Trials

The final major race day in Europe of the year took place at Ascot for Champion’s Day. The day is designed to be the finals of the Qipco sponsored races which have been run throughout the season at various race courses throughout the UK. The 5 star horse trial event at Fair Hill Equestrian in Maryland in the United States took place over the weekend. It is only one of six 5 star event run each year throughout the world.

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Racing at Ascot

Ascot Racecourse

Champion’s Day at Ascot was inaugurated in 2011, and was designed to be the British equivalent to the Arc weekend in Paris. Although Ascot is the perfect venue to hold such a day, without the ‘chic’ Paris surroundings, it was never going to be the same, but the day has provided some brilliant racing in its own right and has worked well for the sport. Who can forget the 2012 running of the Champion Stakes when Frankel ran his last race for the Late Henry Cecil and won, making the horse one of the best racing has ever seen? His win of this race took Frankel to 14 runs and an unprecedented 14 wins!

Back to this year when the day saw six races run – four of them Group 1 contests. The ground was given as ‘good to soft’. The day began with the running of the Qipco Champions Long Distance Cup in which the eight runners took on a 2 mile races. Trueshan was sent off hot favourite, trained by Alan King and ridden by Hollie Doyle. This was a rough race. Everyone seemed to be jockeying for position even at the first turn with nearly 2 miles to go! Coltrane – trained by Andrew Balding and ridden by David Probate kept out of the way of the melee on the inside. Trueshan, was buffeted kept in on the rail before the jockey had to bore her way out to get a run. Finally, Trueshan did prevail, but only after Hollie Doyle was judged to have interfered with other horses and was given a 5 day suspension.  This was Trueshan’s third win of the race in succession. Coltrane was second with Trawlerman, ridden by Dettori coming third.

The second race on the card was the first of Group 1 races – The Qipco British Champion Sprint Stakes over 6 furlongs. There were eighteen runners for this including two from Charlie Appleby and old adversaries, Creative Force, who was defending his title of last year, and Naval Power. Other successful runners this year included Rohaan, Perfect Power Art Power and recent winner of the Group 1 Prix de Foret at Longchamp – Kinross. The race soon went into two groups with the far side always just having the edge. Go Bears Go took the lead on the far side while Naval Power took the lead on the near rail. In the final furlong, Frankie Dettori shot up through the middle on Kinross and took the victory. Kinross is trained by Ralph Beckett. Another to come from nearer the back than front was Run To Freedom, trained by Henry Candy and ridden by Dane O’Neill. In an amazing turn of speed the pair took second place having been sent off at 150 to 1! Creative Force came third with William Buick on board. Kinross now heads for The Breeders Cup in early November.

Next up was the 1 ½ mile Qipco British Champion Fillies and Mares Stakes in which fourteen lined up. Emily Upjohn, winner of the Musidora Stakes and runner up in the Epsom Oaks was sent off favourite in a very open renewal. However, William Haggas’s Sea La Rosa looked to be the one in form having won her last three outings including the Group 1 Prix de Royalieu at Longchamp just a couple of weeks ago. This was an open race with several others all having the ability to win including Eternal Pearl for Appleby; Mimikya for John and Thady Gosden; (they were also the trainers of Emily Upjohn) and Stay Alert from the stable of Hughie Morrison. For the first half of the race, the pace was slow which was dictated by Rosscarbery with Billy Lee in the saddle for Patrick Twomey with Sea La Rosa and Sweet Lady prominent. In the final 2 furlongs, Frankie Dettori sent Emily Upjohn about her business and she went fairly easily to the front winning by 2 lengths from Thunder Kiss – trained by Ger Lyons in Ireland and ridden by Gary Carroll. Third home was Insinuendo.

Roger Varian trains the winner of the Q.E II Stakes

The fourth race was The Queen Elizabeth II Stakes (sponsored by Qipco); one of the most prestigious races in the calendar over a mile. The three stand out runners for this were Modern Games from Charlie Appleby and winner of this year’s classic French Two Thousand Guineas; Inspiral, winner of the Coronation Stakes at the 2022 Royal Meeting from the Gosden team and The Revenant, trained in France by Francis Gaffard and winner of this race in 2020. At the start, Inspiral was very slow out of the stalls, giving 4 or 5 lengths to the field before she caught up. In the straight, when Dettori asked for an effort from the odds on favourite, there was nothing and she just kept on at one pace, going further back through the field with no impression. Simon and Ed Crisford supplemented Jadoomi for the race and ridden by James Dolyle, took the field along. Modern Games was also prominent throughout and coming into the last furlong, took the lead, but on the far side of the course, Bayside Boy ridden by Tom Marquand came with a wet sail for trainer Roger Varian to take the race by 1 ¼  lengths. Although Modern Games did rally and take back the lead 100 yards from the end, Bayside Boy came again and went away. Third home was the supplemented horse Jadoomi. Her Majesty The Queen Consort, Camilla replaced the Late Queen Elizabeth to give the prizes at the end of the race. This was the first time ‘a Royal’ was seen at a race course since Queen Elizabeth’s passing last month.

Sir Michael Stoute takes his third Champion Stakes against the odds!

The final Group 1 of the day was the featured race – The Qipco Champion Stakes over 1 mile 2 furlongs. Not only was this the most valuable race of the  day with 1.3 million pounds up for grabs, but with Baaeed running for William Haggas and ridden by Jim Crowley, the crowd hoped and expected another Frankel moment as Baaeed started as unbeaten in ten runs. There were eight other runners including Adayar for Charlie Appleby, the winner of the Epsom Derby in 2020 and winner last time out at Doncaster. The trainers of Bay Bridge, Stone Age and Mac Swiney all had high hopes for their charges as they have all been running well this season. However, with Baaeed – their chances looked a little forlorn?  All broke to a reasonable break and settled into running quite quickly at a moderate pace. Stone Age was under instruction, it would appear, to try to run the feet off Baaeed – and so led quite far ahead of the rest. 2 furlongs out, the pace quickened with Stone Age soon being overcome. Bay Bridge and Adayar with My Prospero were all nearer the front than back throughout. Baaeed was asked for an effort, and like Inspiral earlier, there was nothing. It soon became quite clear that Baaeed’s unbeaten record of 10 races was not going to be added to. He ended up coming fourth. After the race, the jockey said “when asked he couldn’t handle the ground and never got going” The trainer William Haggas simply said “he wasn’t fast enough today!” The winner was the Sir Michael Stoute trained Bay Bridge won giving Sir Michael his third champion stakes, the last in 2000 with Kalanisi. Bay Bridge was piloted home by Richard Kingscote. Adayar was second under William Buick and My Prospero was third ridden by Tom Marquand.

The final flat race at Ascot in 2022 was The Balmoral Handicap – a race over the straight mile for 3 year olds and up. The race was once again sponsored by Qipco, and it had twenty runners going to post. This race was the expected cavalry charge and was won by Shelir trained by David O’Meara and ridden by Jason Watson. The horse was never near the front until he needed to be and did have some difficulty getting through, however he did and won by 1 ½ lengths going away. The second home was Sweet Believer, trained by William Haggas and third was Tacarib Bay trained by Richard Hannon.

And so ended Champion’s Day – a day offering the largest prize money for any one single day’s racing in the British racing calendar.

Fair Hill Eventing in Maryland USA.

The Fair Hill Eventing in Maryland 5 star horse trials took place over the weekend in the USA. This was the fifth 5 star event out of six to be run worldwide. It was sponsored by Mars, (who sponsored Badminton this year for the first time) and presented by Brown Advisory. There were 25 horses for the first inspection, mainly riders from the United States, but also a few from Great Britain, Canada and New Zealand.

On the first day of dressage, twelve combinations came forward to be judged by Christian Landolt from Switzerland, (the president of judges), Gretchen Butts from the United States and Judy Hancock from Great Britain.

Fair Hill Venue – Maryland USA

After the first session of dressage the leader board was headed by Woods Baughman riding C’est La Vie 135 for the USA with 27.2 penalties. The second was from France, Astier Nicolas riding Babylon de Gamma with 29.1 penalties. The third was again from the United States, Elisabeth Haliday-Sharp riding Cooley Quicksliver on 29.3 penalties. Tamra Smith riding Danito for the USA was only just in fourth place on 29.4 penalties. The second session saw the remaining twelve riders compete. It should have been the final thirteen, but during the trot-up, one of Elisabeth Haliday-Sharp’s horses was spun by the vets- Deniro Z – leaving twenty four for the dressage. After the dressage was completed, the top of the leader board remained unaltered with Woods Baughman retaining the lead with 27.2 penalties. Tim Price riding Coup de Coeur Dudevin ended in second place on 27.4 penalties for New Zealand and Alexandra Knowles, riding for the USA on Moreswood finished in third with 28.8 penalties. Therefore, going into the cross country, Alisier Nicolas started in fourth place on the leader board with Elisabeth Haliday-Sharp in fifth on her one remaining horse.

The Cross Country Day

The course was set and designed by Ian Stark of Great Britain. He set a course of 6555 meters in a time allowed of 11 minutes 30 seconds. The course contained twenty nine jumps incorporating eleven combinations within. The first combination came at fence 4 where the riders had to jump a large bird and into a pond. The next combination came at jump 8 – two rather meaty flat table jumps. Jump 10 was another combination of 3 rather horrid little skinny jumps, off-set. The next jump was a series of three boats in the water – not that big. The next combination came at 15, with a group of little jumps on mounds rather randomly spread about. More water jumping followed for jumps 20 and 21 set up using corners. Jumping combination at 25, rather aptly called the ‘roller coaster’ needed the horses to jump through an owl hole type affair followed by a couple of house type jumps. The final jump number 29 was a huge great oxa jump.

Tamra Smith USA nearly takes the win after a huge rise after the dressage

The cross country really turned this event upside down. After the dressage, the leader, Woods Baughman moved down to 19th place after a run out a fence 20. Alexandra Knowles picked up 6.4 time penalties and dropped from 3rd to 12th. Tim Price, second after the dressage did have a good round, collecting just 0.4 penalties being very slightly over the time. Alstier Nicolas for France had a run out and he dropped from 4th to 19th place, and Elisabeth Haliday-Sharp retired, leaving her out of the competition altogether. At the top of the leader board after the cross country was Tim Price took over the lead with Tamra Smith in second riding Danito. Oliver Townend riding As Is for Great Britain finished in third place with 29.9 penalties having gone completely clear over the cross country. Several riders form the United States then followed led by Philip Dutton riding Z and Bruce Davidson in fifth place riding Carlevo.

Twenty one combinations took to the stage for the final show jumping phase. Going in reverse order of merit, the leader board stayed much as it was after the cross country. Tim Price won with a final score of 28.2 penalties with Tamra Smith in second with 29.8 penalties. Oliver Townend was third, finishing on his dressage score of 29.9. Both the next two finished on their dressage scores; Philip Dutton on 30.5 and Jennie Brannigan  riding FE Lifestyle finishing on 31.5.

Very often in these 5 star events, what a rider gets for their dressage makes an important statement as to where they finish overall. However, this event saw the cross country turn the whole competition on its head, which in comparison with recent events made this one rather unusual?

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