Ascot British Champions Day: Race List & Meeting Info

Horses Racing in a Group

Late October each year sees one of the most anticipated single days of racing of the British flat racing season take place at one of the country’s most iconic racecourses. For many racing fans it is the five day extravaganza which is the Royal Ascot Festival which is the undoubted highlight of the flat season, and the scene of many of the most abiding memories of the campaign year after year. It is therefore only fitting that we return to the Berkshire venue for the season-ending celebration that is British Champions Day.

With contests for the best sprinters, milers, fillies and stayers and of course the headline act of the British Champions Stakes itself, as well as the crowning of the champion flat jockey of the season, this meeting acts as the perfect send off for the best of the flat performers before the winter nights set in and focus turns towards the jumps.


British Champions Day Races

RaceGradeLengthPrize MoneyAges
Long Distance Cup Group 1 6f £450,000 3 Years Old +
Champions Sprint Stakes Group 2 2m £550,000 3 Years Old +
Champions Fillies & Mares Stakes Group 1 1m4f £550,000 3 Year Old + Fillies & Mares
Queen Elizabeth II Stakes Group 1 1m £1,100,000 3 Years Old +
Champion Stakes Group 1 1m2f £1,300,000 3 Years Old +
Balmoral Handicap Class 2 1m £250,000 3 Years Old +

Long Distance Cup

Group 2, 1m7f

The Group 2 race takes place over a mile, seven furlongs and two hundred and nine yards and is open to horses aged three and up. As with the Middle Distance race on Champions Day, this was originally run at Newmarket and transferred over to Ascot in 2011. That was also when it was given its current name, having originally been called the Jockey Club Cup when it was established in 1873.

It had Group 3 status when the system was introduced in 1971, gaining its current rating in 2014. During its early running it took place over two and a quarter miles, first being shortened to a mile and a half in 1959 before being changed to its current length in 1963.

Champions Sprint Stakes

Group 2, 2m

It’s a close-run thing as to the second-youngest race in the series, with both this and the Fillies’ & Mares’ Stakes being established back in 1946. Originally going by the name of the Diadem Stakes in honour of a horse named Diadem that won several of Ascot’s main races, it took on its current moniker when it was moved to October to be part of Champions Day.

The race lasts for just six furlongs, which is what makes it such a thrilling Sprint to watch, and takes place on a straight course. It’s for horses aged three and over and was originally a Group 3 race when the gradings came into effect in 1971. It got its grading updated in 1996 and was given its current grading in 2015.

Champions Fillies & Mares Stakes

Group 1, 1m4f

The final race that is part of the culmination of racing from the rest of the year is the Fillies’ & Mares’ Stakes that was known as the Princess Royal Stakes when it was created in 1946. Named after Princess Mary and originally run in September, it received Group 3 status when horse races were given a status in 1971.

The race has had an interesting past, being run at Newmarket in 2000 after Ascot was the subject of a security alert. It was also run at Newmarket in 2005 when Ascot was closed for development purposes and was briefly run at Newmarket regularly when it was renamed as the Pride Stakes. It came back to Ascot as part of the Champions Series in 2011 and was given Group 1 status in 2013. Run right-handed over one mile, three furlongs and two hundred and eleven yards, it’s open to fillies and mares aged three and over.

Queen Elizabeth II Stakes

Group 1, 1m

This is one of the younger races that takes place on Champions Day, having been formed in 1955 as a race called the Knights’ Royal Stakes and renamed in honour of Queen Elizabeth II. It was initially given Group 2 status when the gradings came in in 1971, being upgraded in 1987.

Raced over one mile on a straight track, it has taken place at Ascot since its inauguration but was moved from September to October when the Champions Series was created in 2011. In 2008 it was one of the Breeders’ Cup Challenge races but was removed from the series in 2012.

Champion Stakes

Group 1, 1m2f

This Group 1 flat race was first run at Newmarket in 1877. It received its Group 1 grading when the system was introduced in 1971 and was included in the Breeders’ Cup Challenge series in 2009 and 2010, meaning that winners were automatically invited to take part in the Breeders’ Cup in America.

The race moved over to Ascot when the Champions Series was created in 2011 as the culmination of the Middle Distance races. It briefly held the title of Britain’s richest race for horses when the prize money was £1.3 million in 2011. Run right-handed on a turf track, it’s for horses aged three and over and lasts for one mile and two furlongs.

Balmoral Handicap

Class 2, 1m

The final race of the day is also the de facto youngest, with the Balmoral Handicap only being added to the list of races in 2014. It is, as the name suggests, a handicap race and takes place over one mile. It it open to horses aged three and over and features one of the smallest pots of the day at just £250,000.

The race is considered to be one of the most fiercely competed handicaps in the flat racing calendar and regularly sees similarly competitors to those that took part in the Royal Hunt Cup at Ascot. This is the only race that has a handicap during Champions Day, so it’s the best one for punter to try their luck at outsmarting the bookmakers when it comes to knowledge about the best flat racing horses. One that is sure to grow in prestige in the coming years.


About British Champions Day

Union Jack Flag on Flagpole

Ascot Racecourse is the venue for British Champions Day and has been since the meeting’s foundation in 2011. The event was created as a means of seeing a number of historic races from both Ascot and Newmarket’s calendars brought together. Unlike many such meetings, everything takes place on one day rather than being split up and watered down over two. That means that attendees can watch some truly phenomenal racing take place over the space of just a few hours.

The British horse racing calendar is cut roughly in two, with jump racing taking place in the winter and spring months and flat racing the reserve of summer and autumn. Whether you’re a fan of the former or the latter, you’ll know that they each have events that are commonly seen to signify their beginning and their end. In jump racing, the Cheltenham November Meeting is widely considered to be the start of the season and the Grand National is the last major event to take place, whilst with flat racing the season is really underway when Royal Ascot comes about.

The American flat racing season is season to be at its end when the Breeders’ Cup takes place, so it’s only right that we have something similar in the United Kingdom. That something similar is British Champions Day, which is considered by most to be the concluding fixture of the British flat racing season. As always with such things, the truth is rather more complicated, given that both National Hunt and flat racing actually takes place pretty much all-year round. That said, there are definitely months when one type of racing is favoured more than the other and the seasons are a good way to separate them.

The British Champions Series

It’s impossible to talk about Champions Day without mentioning the British Champions Series as a whole, given that the event is essentially the conclusion of said Series. As with the day itself, the Series was founded in 2011 and was intended to see the various top-class flat races in Britain brought together into a meaningful championship.

The idea behind the formation of the Champions Series was that, by bringing disparate races together into a cohesive unit, it might see some of the sport’s more casual viewers being to pay it more attention. After all, it’s not entirely unfair to point out that many people will watch the Cheltenham Festival, the Grand National and Ascot without really engaging in the races outside of them or wondering what the difference between the race types actually is.

Whether or not the Series was successful in its initial aims is a matter of some debate, though it’s important to point out that the attendance at meetings that had races that were part of the Series rose by 7% compared to a 3.9% rise in attendance of non-Series related meetings. Certainly the fact that it has been sponsored by the Qatari investment group QIPCO from the moment it was established means that it can be seen as being a financial success. The company renewed its sponsorship until 2024 with a deal that is the biggest in British racing of more than £50 million.

The Champions Series is split into five different divisions, which are Middle Distance, Long Distance, Mile, Sprint and Fillies & Mares. Here’s a look at the thirty-five races across all of the categories that form the Series and result in the participants for the Champions Day races.

Middle Distance
Coronation Cup Epsom Derby Prince of Wales’s Stakes
Eclipse Stakes King George VI & Queen Elizabeth St. Juddmonte International
  British Champion Stakes  
Long Distance
Yorkshire Gold Cup Ascot Gold Cup Goodwood Cup
Lonsdale Cup Doncaster Cup St. Leger Stakes
  British Champions Long Distance Cup  
Sprint Series
King’s Stand Stakes Commonwealth Cup Diamond Jubilee Stakes
July Cup Nunthorpe Stakes Haydock Sprint Cup
  British Champions Sprint Stakes  
Mile Series
2,000 Guineas Lockinge Stakes Queen Anne Stakes
St. James’s Palace Stakes Sussex Stakes Sun Chariot Stakes
  Queen Elizabeth II Stakes  
Fillies & Mares
1,000 Guineas Epsom Oaks Coronation Stakes
Falmouth Stakes Nassau Stakes Yorkshire Oaks
  British Champions Fillies & Mares