The Champion Stakes will be staged on a new inner course at Ascot
PICTURE: Getty Images
By Mark Scully 12:09PM 28 JUL 2016
THE Qipco Champion Stakes will be run on a newly-demarcated inner course in October, as Ascot bosses seek to ensure the best possible ground for the end-of-season feature.
The move from the outer course to the inner track, usually saved for jump racing, means the start of the flagship race on British Champions Day will be moved back approximately 80 yards, resulting in a longer run to the first bend, potentially negating the impact of the draw.
Since the first running of Champions Day at Ascot in 2011, when the going was good, the meeting has been blighted by soft ground with leading fancies bypassing the fixture designed to showcase the best racing in Britain.
Trainers praise move
Champion trainer John Gosden believes the move is the best option for Ascot following the track’s failed project to cover the course.
“Having spoken to the Ascot course management, if the day is to continue to attract the best horses and following confirmation that the covers project is unachievable, this seems like a viable solution,” Gosden said.
“It will be interesting to see how the course itself rides and I will definitely be taking some horses to Ascot to see how they handle it, nearer the time.”
He added: “I have previously stated my views on the draw bias that the Champion Stakes is currently affected by on the outer course and the switch to the inner course could help reduce it which is positive.”
Thursday’s announcement was also backed by fellow Newmarket trainer Ed Dunlop, who said: “[It] is the right decision.
“A late switch [from one course to another] is likely to incur bad will from horsemen and the betting public and this way there is clarity. Hopefully the new course will allow the race to be run on the best ground possible.”
Early decision important
Echoing Dunlop’s words, Ascot director of communications, Nick Smith, said it was important for the decision to be made prior to the August 2 entries deadline in the interests of “fairness and clarity”.
“Changing the course at the five-day stage or at declarations runs the risk of upsetting connections, and indeed punters, by actively deciding to favour certain parties over others.
“Making the decision now means that everyone knows that the surface will, in all likelihood, be a degree quicker than might ordinarily be the case. They can plan accordingly from the start – the initial entry fee payment stage.”
While the decision has been made in a bid to seek better ground, Ascot pointed out that in the event of firm ground, the outer course will be used in the inetersts of welfare.
Ascot also confirmed there will be the opportunity to walk the new inner course prior to British Champions Day on October 15.