There is an argument that the Champion Stakes is the most prestigious of the races that are run during the British Champions Day meeting, largely thanks to the money that is involved in it. Run over one mile and two furlongs, three-year-olds have weight information of nine stone and one pound compared to the nine stone and five pounds for horses aged four and over, whilst fillies and mares get an allowance of three pounds. It was first run at Newmarket in 1877, with the inaugural running being won by a horse named Springfield. Links to The Simpsons are purely coincidental.
By the conclusion of the 19th century, the race had been won by five of the Classics winners, showing a clear link between them all as races and adding further credence to the race’s overall prestige. When the current grading system for races came into effect, the Champion Stakes was a Group 1 event and has remained so ever since. It was moved to Ascot in 2011 in order to become part of the British Champions Day meeting, being the culmination of the middle distance races that have been run during the season prior to that point and was one of the races the meeting was built around.
In many ways, the Champion Stakes is the race that British Champions Day was built around. That is owing to the fact that it was already a race for horses that had done well during the season, with the event being something of a prototype for what was to follow. When it was introduced at Ascot as part of British Champions Day, it was given prize money of £1.3 million, which made it the richest horse race in Britain at the time. Though that title was later reclaimed by the Derby, it was the theory behind the increased prize money across all of the races of the meeting.
Across the entire history of the race, no horse has been more successful than Tristan, who won it three times in 1882, 1883 and 1884, although the 1882 win was a dead heat with Thebais and the 1884 victory was also a dead heat, that time with Lucerne. Other horses such as Velasquez, Lemberg and Orpheus managed to win it twice in the years before it became part of British Champions Day. Since 2011, however, only Cracksman has managed to win the race twice, doing so in 2017 and 2018. This was also the final race of Frankel’s incredible unbeaten career.
In terms of jockeys, both Danny Maher and Charlie Elliott made it in the record books thanks to their six wins apiece. Maher achieved his between 1901 and 1910, whilst Elliott did it over a 29-year period from 1923 to 1952. Alec Taylor Junior, meanwhile, is the race’s most successful trainer, notching up eight wins between 1903 and 1925. In the British Champions Day era, two jockeys won the race more than once between 2011 and 2022, with Christophe Soumillon and Frankie Dettori being the lucky chaps. John Gosden was the only trainer who won it twice during that time period.
About The Race
In 2009, the Champion Stakes was included in the Breeders’s Cup Challenge series, with the winner automatically gaining a place in the Breeders’ Cup Turf. That remained the case in 2010 before the race was removed from the series. The race was won by Twice Over in both of those years, but he failed to win the American race upon qualification. In 2011, the event was moved to Ascot in order to allow it become an integral part of British Champions Day, which was the newly created meeting that provided a final race of the season for middle distance runners.
The first race that allows horses to gain a space in the Champion Stakes is the Coronation Cup, which takes place at Epsom during the early part ofJune. It is run over one mile and four furlongs, so is slightly longer than the Champion Stakes itself. The Epsom Derby, meanwhile, is one of the country’s Classics and is run over the same length as the Coronation Cup, taking place in the same meeting. Next up, later in the month, is the Prince of Wales’s Stakes, which is run during the week of Royal Ascot over the same length as the Champion Stakes, being a good test event.
The Eclipse Stakes at Sandown is the next race, typically taking place in the early part of June and run over one mile and two furlongs. If you needed proof of how the Champion Stakes is arguably the most competitive race of all, the fact that the next race offering qualification is the King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes might well offer it. Run in late July, it takes place over one mile and two furlongs. The final race that gives horses a chance to qualify for the Champion Stakes is the Juddmonte International Stakes, run at York Racecourse over one mile and two furlongs.
As you might imagine, there is a wealth of trivia surrounding the Champion Stakes, most of which we have already told you. The likes of the most successful jockeys and trainers is definitely up there, as well as the race’s position in the season. Here is another bit of trivia that might interest you:
Look For Horses Under Five
Whilst there is no obvious pattern when it comes to the age of the horses that have managed to win the Champion Stakes since it became part of British Champions Day, the majority of those that have been successful have been under five-years-old.
In the 12 races that took place between 2011 and 2022, the winner was five on three occasions and six once. That means that close to 67% of the winners during that time were either three or four-years-old, meaning that you’d do well to look for horses that are about that age if you want to narrow down your choices.
For a time, the Champion Stakes was the richest horses race run in Great Britain, which became the case after it was moved from Newmarket to Ascot in order to become part of British Champions Day. There are numerous races that take place throughout the year in the British Champions Series that give horses a chance to qualify for this race, including the Epsom Derby and the King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes. Run over one mile and two furlongs, the race is open to horses aged three and over with weight information applied according to age and gender.
Between 2011 and 2022, Christophe Soumillon and Frankie Dettori were the only jockeys to win the race than once, with both managing two wins during that time period. John Gosden, meanwhile, was the only trainer that managed to get two wins on the board during the same period of time. Gosden isn’t the most successful trainer of all time, however. That honour goes to Alec Taylor Junior, who won it eight times between his first win with Sceptre in 1903 and his final win courtesy of Picaroon, which came 22 years later in 1925. Danny Maher and Charlie Elliott both won it six times as jockeys.