The only race run on British Champions Day that is exclusively for female horses, the British Champions Fillies and Mares Stakes is, as the name suggests, open to fillies and mares that are aged three and over. Three-year-olds have weight information of eight stone and 13 pounds, whilst those aged four and up have nine stone and five pounds. As this is only open to female horses, there is no allowance for them as there often is with other races. Run over one mile, three furlongs and 133 yards, the event was originally called the Princess Royal Stakes.
When the current grading system for races came in in 1971, the Princess Royal Stakes was considered to be a Group 3 event. It was promoted to Group 2 in 2008, then in 2013 it was upgraded to become a Group 1 race, in keeping with four of the other six races run on British Champions Day. There was a time when it was run in September, being moved to October when the new meeting was created in 2011 and remaining there every since. At that point, the prize money available on the race was increased from £100,000 to £250,000 and it was given its present name.
When the race was inaugurated in 1946, it was given the title of the Princess Royal Stakes. It was created in honour of the Princess Royal, the title given to the eldest daughter of the monarch at any given time. In 1946, that was Princess Mary almost by default, on account of the fact that she was the only daughter of King George V and Queen Mary. Usually run at Ascot, it was briefly moved to Newmarket in 2000 thanks to a security alert at Ascot resulting in the race being called off. In 2004 it moved to Ascot fixture in later September, being run at Newmarket again in 2005.
In 2008 it was moved to Newmarket permanently and named after a champion French race mare called Pride. It was run during the Champions’ Meeting at Newmarket, which was scheduled to take place in the middle of October and was one of the meetings that was brought to Ascot in order to create British Champions Day. The title of Princess Royal Stakes was given to an Ascot race that had previously been know was the Harvest Stakes, with the Pride Stakes offering £100,000.
When it arrived at Ascot as part of British Champions Day, the race was given the title of the Fillies and Mares Stakes, though it has always been limited to female horses. The purse was increased to £250,000, but in 2013, when it was upgraded to be a Group 1 event, that was doubled to £500,000. A race at Newmarket, which had been known as the Severals Stakes, was named the Pride Stakes instead. The race’s most success ever horses are Shebeen and Crystal Capella, who both won it twice, whilst no jockey has won it more than the eight times that Lester Piggott managed.
About The Race
There have been some decent winners of the race over the years, including the likes of Snow Bride in 1989, Ouija Board in 2005 and the inaugural winner of it from its days as part of the British Champions Series, Dancing Rain. It is, as the name suggests, the final race in the British Champions Series for fillies and mares. Two of the contributory races in terms of qualification are Classics, with the 1,000 Guineas being the first of the season when it is run in early May. That race lasts for a mile, whereas the Epsom Oaks, run in early June, takes place over one mile and four furlongs.
Mid June brings the Royal Ascot meeting into sharp focus, with fillies and mares being offered the Coronation Stakes as an event with which they can qualify for this race. It is run over a mile, so a slightly shorter race than the one that it is a qualifying event for, but it still offers the horses the experience of running on the Ascot turf. A month later and it is another race run over a mile that the female horses can run in, this time being the Falmouth Stakes. That takes place at Newmarket, which is, of course, the home of the 1,000 Guineas, another qualifying race.
There are two more events that give horses a chance to make it into the running for the Fillies and Mares Stakes, with the first being the Nassau Stakes. Run over one mile and two furlongs, it is a little closer to length of the main event. The Yorkshire Oaks, meanwhile, is run over exactly the same distance as the Fillies & Mares Stakes, taking place over one mile and four furlongs. The big difference is that it is run at York Racecourse as opposed to Ascot. With two out of the six races being Classics, it is fair to say that it is often a pretty impressive field that runs in the race.
There is a fair amount of trivia available when it comes to the Fillies & Mares Stakes, such as the fact that Jim Crowley and Ryan Moore both won the race twice between 2011 and 2022, but Frankie Dettori leads the way with three wins during the same time period. Here is another bit of useful information:
Don’t Look Past Four-Year-Olds
Whilst horses of numerous different ages have won the race since its inception, the reality is that it is really only three and four-year-olds that win the event most of the time. The 2010 outing, before it became part of British Champions Day, was won by five-year-old Crystal Capella, her second win of the event, but that is the last time that a horse older than four has won it.
Between 2011 and 2022 there were 12 renewals of the Filles & Mares Stakes, during which time nine of the victorious horses were three-years-old. The other three were four, suggesting you should look towards three-year-olds when placing your bets.
As you can almost certainly work out from the title, this race is limited to female horses. It was given Group 1 status in 2013 and is seen as one of the best races for fillies and mares. It is run over a mile and a half and the horses have to be aged three or over to take part in it. It was first run at Ascot as the Princess Royal Stakes in 1946 before it was rebranded as the Pride Stakes and shifted to Newmarket. It took on its current title when it returned to Ascot in 2011, becoming the race for female horses as part of British Champions Day, remaining part of it ever since.
When it comes to the most wins during the history of the race in any form, Lister Piggott managed to notch up eight wins between 1959 and 1984, cementing his place as one of flat racing’s best ever jockeys. There are several races that allow horses to qualify for the Fillies & Mares Stakes, with two of them actually being Classics. The 1,000 Guineas at Newmarket is one of them, with the Oaks at Epsom being the other. There is also the Coronation Stakes that takes place during the Royal Ascot meeting, allowing female horses another chance to make it into the event.