O’Brien equals Group One winners record, Cracksman romps to Champions Stakes at British Champions
Trainer Aidan O'Brien equalled the record of 25 Flat Group One winners in a calendar year and Cracksman destroyed the field to win the Champion Stakes on a thrilling afternoon of racing at the British Champions Day at Ascot.
O’Brien equalled the great American trainer Bobby Frankel’s record in Hydrangea’s two-length victory of the Fillies and Mares Stakes, whilst Cracksman, ridden by Frankie Dettori and trained by John Gosden, took out the Champions Stakes by a massive seven lengths.
Now in its seventh year, British Champions Day is the richest race day in the British horseracing calendar with more than £4.3m in prize money on offer and brought the season’s QIPCO British Champions Series to a close in some style.
O’Brien and jockey Ryan Moore got the day off to a winning start in the Long Distance Cup which saw a rematch between Big Orange and Order Of St George and it was the latter who snatched victory from the jaws of defeat.
Torcedor, ridden by Colm O’Donoghue, looked to have the opener sewn up but was edged out as Moore and his charge surged to the front 75 yards from home to take the honours, with Stradivarius and Mount Moriah coming in third and fourth respectively. The expected challenge from Big Orange was disappointing as he struggled on the ground and was beaten with six furlongs to go.
O’Brien had to wait until the third race to equal the Group One winners’ record as Hydrangea eased to victory in the Fillies and Mares Stakes.
With Moore again at the helm, the winner came into the race with a few doubts over her stamina having met with defeat every time she ventured beyond a mile this year. Instead, O’Brien moved her up another two furlongs in distance to a mile and a half for the first time om the back of the performance in the Longines Prix de l’Opera. It proved another inspired move as she easily beat a high-class field which included favourite Bateel who came second two lengths back, and Coronet in third.
With the anticipated record completed, then followed two huge back-to-back successes for rival trainer John Gosden and jockey Frankie Dettori, the first of which came in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes.
Here, it was Persuasive who showed her appetite for autumn ground by edging out the much-fancied Ribchester and Churchill to land victory.
The winner showed that being pitched in against the male horses was no obstacle and when she was asked to quicken by Dettori a furlong from home she responded in fine fashion. She smartly cruised past favourite Ribchester, eventually winning by a length with Churchill a further half of a length back in third.
Persuasive was Dettori’s sixth winner in the race meaning he is now just two short of Willie Carson’s record, whilst even more significantly he enjoyed his first ever Group One win in the race.
And there was more joy to follow for trainer and jockey in the next race as Cracksman produced what can only be described as a stunning performance to win the Champion Stakes.
Cracksman had been an impressive six-length winner of the Great Voltigeur Stakes and a three and a half lengths winner of the Prix Niel but on this occasion, down in distance and against older horses for the first time, he completed his most destructive performance yet by taking out a quality field.
Having been taken to the front over two furlongs out, he grabbed the ground and powered clear leaving the chasers well in his wake to take the £1.3 million prize from Poet’s Word in second a full seven lengths back, with Highland Reel a neck’s distance close behind in third.
Of the expected major challengers, French Derby winner Brametot was sixth, O’Brien’s Cliffs of Moher came seventh and Richard Hannon’s Barney Roy came ninth.
In the earlier Sprint Stakes, Caravaggio, Harry Angel and last year’s winner The Tin Man were expected to be the leading contenders, so it was a surprise when Librisa Breeze came through to snatch the honours.
With jockey Robert Winston at the helm, the Dean Ivory-trained grey delivered owner Tony Bloom a debut Group One victory by a length and three-quarters. However the winner left it late to upset runner-up Tasleet, Caravaggio and Harry Angel, three of the season’s main sprinters, especially the latter who was winner of the July Cup and Haydock Sprint but came a disappointing fourth.
The Balmoral Stakes gave a fitting finale to a quality day’s racing at Ascot as Lord Glitters earned a dramatic last-ditch success by coming from last to first.
The David O’Meara-trained horse was sent off a favourite for the one mile encounter but a victory looked unlikely with two furlongs to run as jockey Danny Tudhope and his mount had passed only one rival. Despite travelling well, their chances looked like being thwarted especially with the field stacked up in front of them.
However when Tudhope was forced to switch out to the stands side, Lord Glitters responded with a devastating run to pip veteran GM Hopkins on the line by a neck, with Dark Red close behind in third.