British Champions Day: $5M on offer at Ascot finale

Story highlights

  • $5.15 million purse for six-race card
  • Frankie Dettori among stars in the saddle
  • Champion flat jockey Crowley to get trophy

(CNN)It's British racing's most lucrative day -- and it promises to provide an epic finale to the country's flat racing season.

On Saturday some of the world's finest jockeys and horses, cheered on by thousands of racing fans, will gather at the historic Ascot racecourse just outside London for the sixth QIPCO British Champions Day.
    So what's at stake? Well, the purse for this year's six-race card is an eye-watering £4.2 million ($5.15 million) -- and there is no shortage of highly-fancied contenders.
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    Europe's top-rated horse, Almanzor, will feature in the showpiece £1.3 million ($1.6 million) Champion Stakes, which closes the schedule, in a rematch with Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe winner Found.
    Trainer Jean-Claude Rouget pulled Almanzor from the running at Longchamp this month in favor of racing at Ascot, having beaten Found at September's Irish Champion Stakes.
    Almanzor and Found will be challenged by another Irish entry, last year's winner Fascinating Rock, as well as the 2015 Irish Derby champion Jack Hobbs.
    Found's trainer Aiden O'Brien, who secured a historic 1-2-3 clean sweep at the Arc, has won nine of the 30 British Champion Series races this year.
    Irishman O'Brien will also run Ascot Gold Cup winner Order Of St. George in the Long Distance Cup, Seventh Heaven in the Fillies and Mares Stakes and Minding in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes.
    Frankie Dettori, who won last year's Long Distance Cup on board Flying Officer, is among the star jockeys on show, with the meeting marking 20 years since he won his "Magnificent Seven" races at Ascot at cumulative odds of 25,051-1.
    The Italian rides Galileo Gold in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes and Shalaa in the British Champions Sprint despite suffering bruising to the knee during a meeting at Leicester this week.
    The scare happened on Tuesday when Azam, his two-year-old mount, scrambled underneath the starting stalls and broke loose -- but he will recover in time for Ascot.
    This year's £350,000 ($429,000) Long Distance Cup will see Order of St. George, Pallasator and Mizzou among the favorites, with last year's Fillies and Mares winner Simple Verse tackling the two-mile race for the first time.
    Meanwhile, Quiet Reflection, Mecca's Angel and Limato are all strong contenders in the Sprint.
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    With £1.1 million ($1.35 million) on offer, the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes is Europe's richest one-mile race.
    It could boil down to a showdown between Dettori's Galileo Gold, fellow Royal Ascot winner Ribchester and O'Brien's filly Minding.
    Three-year-old Awtaad -- winner of the Irish 2000 Guineas in May -- will make his final run before being retired to stud, and his young jockey Chris Hayes said he was anticipating "the race of the season at this distance."
    The day also sees this year's Stobart Flat Jockeys' Championship winner crowned, with Jim Crowley -- who was born in Ascot -- returning to his hometown in triumph after effectively sealing the title last weekend.
    He will be presented with his trophy by two-time Olympic equestrian champion Nick Skelton.
    Crowley, who once dreamed of being a Grand National winner and rode in the 2001 race, said he had never felt he could become champion after switching to flat racing and would "only believe it when my hands are on the trophy."
    The 38-year-old had been a 66-1 shot for the title, which is decided on the number of winners ridden over a period stretching from late April to mid-October.
    He won the crown after a fierce battle with last year's winner, Brazilian Silvestre De Sousa.
    The Champions Series has been sponsored by Qatari investment group QIPCO since 2011. QIPCO has invested large sums into horse racing around the world as part of its bid to raise the emirate's global profile.