A race aimed at horses aged three and over, the British Champions Sprint Stakes is, as the name suggests, the conclusion of the sprinting series that has taken place during the series. The horses qualify for the event via a series of other races, getting to take place in this race that is run over six furlongs on the straight. It was first run in 1946, with the title of the event at the time being the Diadem Stakes. This was in honour of Diadem, a horse that had been foaled in 1914 and won many of the leading races that were run at Ascot Racecourse, where the Diadem Stakes took place.
When the system for grading races was introduced in 1971, the Diadem Stakes was classed as a Group 3 race. It only became a Group 2 offering in 1996. As with most of the other races run during British Champions Day, the amount of money on offer for the race increased when the new format came about. Having been worth £100,000 in 2010, it saw its purse increase to £250,000 the following year. By 2022 that had crept up to just shy of £500,000. In 2015, in line with the increased importance of the race on the flat racing calendar, it was made a Group 1 event.
The fact that this race is run over six furlongs means that it can be fast and furious. It is one of the most exciting races of the day, with the horses having to sprint for the finish line pretty much from the off. It means that there can be no dawdling, with the horses needing to be at their best if they’re to stand a chance of winning. Having begun life as the Diadem Stakes, it was given its current moniker when it was moved to be part of British Champions Day in 2011. Diadem, after whom the original event was named, won the likes of the 1,000 Guineas and the King’s Stand Stakes.
When it comes to the entire history of the race, no jockey has been more successful than Lester Piggott. He won the event seven times thanks to horses such as Home Guard in 1972, Absalom in 1979 and Salieri in 1983. Walter Nightinghall won the race four times as a trainer between 1952 and 1959, with both of his winning horses, Set Fair and Jack and Jill, winning the race twice apiece. Vincent O’Brien also won it four times as trainer, with all of the wins coming courtesy of Lester Piggott, including the dead-heat win for Swingtime in 1975, which was the last win for the pair.
In the modern era, no horse has been able to win it more than once at the time of writing. The same isn’t true for the jockeys, however. Wayne Lordan won it for the first time in 2013 thanks to Slate Power, following that up with another win on the brilliantly named Gordon Lord Byron in 2014. The only trainer to have seen themselves in the winner’s enclosure more than once is James Fanshawe. He won the race for the first time thanks to Deacon Blues in the race’s inaugural year, following that up with a win from The Tin Man in 2016, with Tom Queally riding.
About The Race
As you might imagine, there is some weight information attached to the Sprint Stakes, which is a race for three-year-olds and over. It is as follows:
- 3-year-olds: 9 stone 1 pound
- 4-year-olds and over: 9 stone 2 pounds
- Fillies and mares are given an allowance of three pounds
There are a number of exciting events that horses can use in order to qualify for the Sprint Stakes. The first of the season is the King’s Stand Stakes, which is run during the week of Royal Ascot and takes place over five furlongs. Another Royal Ascot race is the Commonwealth Cup, which is a little bit longer at six furlongs. The final Royal Ascot race that provides a chance for horses to qualify for the Sprint Stakes is the Queen Elizabeth II Jubilee Stakes, which is also run over six furlongs and is therefore a fairer test for this event, given it is run on the same course.
The July Cup is the first race that isn’t run at Ascot but still gives horses a chance to qualify for the Sprint Stakes. It is run at Newmarket over six furlongs during mid-July, promising a chance for competitors to get a run out over the same distance as the race they’re trying to qualify for is run over. The Nunthorpe Stakes takes place in late August more often than not and is a little bit shorter than the Sprint Stakes, taking place over five furlongs. The final chance horses get to qualify comes courtesy of the six furlong Haydock Sprint Cup, run at Haydock Park at the start of September.
There is plenty of trivia regarding the Sprint Stakes, most of which we’ve already told you. We’ve given information about the likes of the best-performing horses, jockeys and trainers, for example, both since the race first began and in the British Champions Day era. We have also told you about the races that help horses to qualify for it.
Here is another bit of trivia you might be interested in:
A Fast & Furious Event
As you can probably guess from the race’s title, the Sprint Stakes is one of the fastest races that is run during the entire year of flat racing. Its short distance as well as the fact that it is for horses that are looking to get to the finish line as quickly as possible mean that the longest it has taken since it moved to Champions Day in 2011 is the 1:17.30 that Gordon Lord Byron took to complete it in 2014.
Fast forward two years and you can find the quickest running of the race, with The Tin Man making it home in 1:12.15. He was trained by James Fanshawe, as was the 2011 winner Deacon Blues, who finished in 1:12.55.
The quickest race of British Champions Day with races that normally take a little over one minute and ten seconds to complete, the Sprint Stakes was established as the Diadem Stakes in 1946. During that time it was staged in October, being moved to September for a time before returning to October in order to be made part of the newly created Champions Day meeting. It was a Group 3 race when grading was first introduced, being upgraded to Group 2 in 1996 before finally being promoted to become a Group 1 offering from it’s 2015 renewal onwards, remaining so since.
Open to three-year-olds and over, there is specific weight information for the horses depending on their age and their gender. That it is run over six furlongs means that it is the shortest race of the week. I has been won by some well-known names during the modern era, which we take to mean from the moment that it was added to British Champions Day in 2011. Deacon Blues won the race’s inaugural outing, for example, with The Tin Man winning for the same trainer, James Fanshawe, five years later. Fanshawe is the only trainer to have won the race more than once at the time of writing.