The first race run on British Champions Day is the British Champions Long Distance Cup. It was established as a race in 1873, run at Newmarket as the Jockey Club Cup. Back then it was run over two and a quarter miles, but in 1959 it was shortened to one and a half miles. It was extended to its current length of one mile, seven furlongs and 127 yards in 1963, remaining that length ever since. When the current system of grading was brought in in 1971, the race was assigned Group 3 status and wasn’t upgraded to become a Group 2 race until 2014.
There was a time when the race was run during the Cambridgeshire Meeting at Newmarket and in 2000 it was switched to become part of the Champions Day fixture. That was part of the genesis for Champions Day as we understand it nowadays. By 2010 the prize money for the event had grown to £65,000, but when it moved to the Jockey Club that prize money shot up significantly. That happened in 2011, at which point the prize money was increased to £200,000. It is the final of the long-distance event that is run during the British Champions Series, hence its place on the day.
The name of the race is the biggest clue as to its place in the British horse racing calendar. It is for long distance runners that are aged three and over, with the following weight information at play:
- 3-year-olds: 8 stone 13 pounds
- 4-year-olds and over: 9 stone 7 pounds
- Fillies and mares are given an allowance of 3 pounds
In terms of all time, the most successful horse that the race has ever seen is Further Flight. The Irish-bred horse won the race for the first time in 1991, winning it another four times in succession to put himself in the record books for Barry Hills, the horse’s trainer, and Michael Hills, his son and the jockey. Since 2011, when the race was moved to Ascot in order to be part of Champions Day, the most successful horse is Trueshan. A French-bred horse, Trueshan was ridden to victory in the race in 2020, 2021 and 2022 with Hollie Doyle in the saddle and Alan King as the horse’s trainer.
There have been numerous horses that have won the race twice over the years, including Chippendale in 1880 and 1882, Radium in 1907 and 1908 and Son-In-Law in 1914 and 1915. There are also a few horses that managed to win the race on three occasions, with all of St Gatien in 1884, 1885 and 1886, High Line in 1969, 1970 and 1971 and Persian Punch in 2000, 2002 and 2003 pulling it off. No horse has managed to get close to Further Flight’s success, however, which is why he was so beloved of those that were lucky enough to see him take part in the race.
For their parts, Barry Hills trained another winner in the race that Michael Hills was the jockey for, getting across the finish line first thanks to Rainbow Hill in 1999. Barry Hills, meanwhile, won it in 2010 with Tastahil but William Buick had taken on the role of jockey for that race. Some big name horses enjoyed success in the event, with one of those being 2018’s winner Stradivarius, who was ridden home by Frankie Dettori thanks to the work of famed trainer John Gosden.
About The Race
The reason the race is run on British Champions Day is that it is part of the British Champions Series. That is a group of 35 flat races run in Britain that allow horses to run in the season finale for that genre of races. In terms of the long distance races, it goes without saying that the Long Distance Cup is the race that all of the runners are trying to gain qualification for. The first race of the season that they can manage that through is the Yorkshire Cup, which tends to be run in mid-May over a distance of one mile and six furlongs, part of the three-day Dante Festival.
Horses that do well in the Ascot Gold Cup will not only get some experience of life at the track but will also make it in this race, having taken on the two miles and four furlongs of the race. The Goodwood Cup is run in early August at Goodwood, offering another chance to qualify once the horses have taken on the two miles of the event. The Lonsdale Cup isn’t an award for Evertonians with the best trainers, instead being a race run over two miles and two furlongs in mid-September and offering another chance for horses to qualify for the Long Distance Cup during British Champions Day.
There are another two races that offer horses a chance to qualify for the Long Distance Cup. The first is the Doncaster Cup that, unsurprisingly, is run at Doncaster and usually takes place in mid-September. Run over two miles and two furlongs, it is the second-longest race of the qualifiers. The final event that gives horses a chance to make it into the season finale in Mid-October is also run at Doncaster. The St. Leger Stakes is one of the Classics in British horse racing and is run over one mile and six furlongs, meaning it’s not the most testing but is the most prestigious.
As you might imagine for such a prestigious event, there are several things about the Long Distance Cup that might be thought of as ticking the box of ‘race trivia’. We have already covered the likes of the most successful jockeys and horses that have run in it, as well as the best trainer. In the modern era those titles belong to Trueshan, Hollie Doyle and Alan King respectively.
Here is another bit of trivia:
The Race Lasts About Three & A Half Minutes
It is always handy to get a sense of roughly how long a race is likely to last. If you’re thinking of placing a bet on it then you can have a look at the success or otherwise of your chosen horses at finishing events in the same sort of time period. When it comes to the Long Distance Cup, you should expect to see the horses make it to the finish line in about three and a half minutes.
In the modern era of the race being part of British Champions Day, the quickest time was the 3:26.50 that Fame and Glory managed it in 2011, whilst Royal Diamond’s 3:38.09 is the slowest, ran in 2013.
Typically the first race run on British Champions Day, the Long Distance Cup is, as the name suggests, the culmination of the long distance season for flat racing horses. It is a Group 2 event that began life in 1873 as the Jockey Club Cup, being run at Newmarket. That remained the case until it was moved to Ascot in order to make up part of the British Champions Day meeting when it began in 2011. Initially it was a Group 3 race, not making the jump to becoming a Group 2 offering until 2014. The length of the race has also changed over the years, with its current one introduced in 1963.
Further Flight is the most successful horse in the entire history of the race, having won it five times in succession between 1991 and 1995. Michael Hills was the jockey for all five wins, riding for his father Barry Hills. In the modern era, Hollie Doyle was riding on the back of Trueshan when the French-bred horse impressed for trainer Alan King. The race, which is for horses aged three and over, has seen its purse increase since it became part of British Champions Day. Having been worth £65,000 in 2010, it offered £200,000 in a year later and by 2021 the purse had increased to £500,000.