Street: ‘Champions Day stays in October’
Wednesday 25 July 2012
By Geoffrey Riddle
Rod Street has underlined that British Champions Day will remain in its late October slot for the foreseeable future.
The chief executive for British Champions Series and Racing For Change told Racing UK that despite pressure to move the slot to September the six-race card at Ascot will stay in the third week of October for at least the next six years.
British Champions Day, which is staged this year on October 20, received huge backing from Qipco Holding on Monday, when the Qatari investment vehicle for Sheikh Fahad and his five brothers pledged extra sponsorship funds until 2017.
Early on Tuesday it was also announced that Qipco had signed a further five year deal with Newmarket Racecourses to extend their sponsorship of the Guineas Festival for five years.
“I am comfortable with the timing of Champions Day,” Street said. “I would rather the date was slightly earlier in the month, the earlier the better. We are looking at October for the time to come, and Qipco are supportive of that. We have the opportunity to build a really big European finale.”
The slot has ruffled several feathers. It was reported last month that a delegation from the Breeders’ Cup came to Royal Ascot for talks to try to persuade a change of date. The Breeders’ Cup, known in America as the World Championships, takes place at the beginning of November.
British Champions Day also has an impact on the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, run at Longchamp on the first weekend of October. Horses like John Gosden’s Nathaniel currently have the Arc and the Qipco Champions Stakes as a target.
Unlike at Longchamp, which boasts seven Group One races and even a Group One Arabian race, only the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes, won by Frankel last season, and the Qipco Champions Stakes, won by Cirrus des Aigles, carry top-level status on British Champions Day.
Qipco are keen to elevate the three non-Group One races on the card to Group Ones. The new sponsorship deal is designed to encourage this process and extra funding will be made available if the Group 3 Long Distance Cup, the Group 2 Sprint Stakes, and the Fillies and Mares’ Stakes are taken to the highest level by 2016.
When asked how long the process might take, Street added: “As soon as we can really. If these races qualify under the European Pattern Committee criteria we will be pushing hard to get them upgraded as soon as possible.”