Why I never warmed up to British Champions Day


Would I say I was the most prominent critic of British Champions Day? No, but I haven’t been a huge fan of the concept either, although I’ve been to the reunion a few times and never failed to watch it.

Why am I not a fan of the idea? Because on the horse side, the season does not end today for the stars who will line up on the track. Some of them will move on to the Breeders’ Cup, Japan Cup or Hong Kong in early December as they travel the world in search of big prizes and add international competition to big races.

The competitive nature of European model racing was designed to encourage the best flat horses to compete against each other at different stages of the year while giving horses the opportunity to win races that create the matchups people want to see. It wasn’t rocket science, but it took a lot of smart people to negotiate and align the program across the continent, with the UK, France and Ireland leading the way.

In reality, this meeting should take place next weekend, three weeks after Paris, but that leaves only two weeks for the Breeders’ Cup.

Therefore, this is not the case, but it also shows the importance of the global racing cycle. There are only a limited number of stars, and driving international competitions is where the sport can grow.

At the beginning of November, at the Breeders’ Cup, the American motoring press kept saying: “The Europeans are in town. This brings new competition and additional interest.

In December, Hong Kong has a whole international card to attract foreign superstars to promote a very healthy sport, but the new competition is stirring up interest.

I accept that Ascot has some fantastic clashes today, but that is not always guaranteed and, as with international competition, a scattering of Irishmen and the odd French runner attracts all that day.

Britain defends the start of the summer from the Derby in June to York in August and have huge highlights to showcase their sport throughout this period, but if today may be a swan song for some , it’s just Champions Day in terms of champion jockey.

In the UK, the season doesn’t even end today for anyone else, and a two-year Group 1 competition will be held in Doncaster next weekend, so the coaches title can linger depending on the calculation of the prizes won and the one that is still offered.

The only title that will be decided today has been a competition and has gotten all the racing fans interested in some pretty mundane action all week.

Since Buzz talked about Burning Victory in Cesarewitch last Saturday, all my interest – and I think that of many other people – has been focused on the battle between the two men who rode those two horses.

In the win, Buzz gave Oisin Murphy a seven-winner lead over title rival William Buick in the Jockeys’ Championship. Goodwood on Sunday were 1-0 to William, who was then six behind with six days remaining.

Monday was a 1-1 draw, as they were at different fixtures, Wolverhampton and Kempton. No change, only less time. William won 3-1 at Leicester on Tuesday. Four days back and four days to go still meant a chance for him, but the math still favored Oisin.

Late in Wednesday’s game, William netted a brace at Nottingham and won the day 2-0. For the first time all week, you started to feel the momentum was with him, and Oisin was out of ammo.

Two down with three days to go, and it looked doable for William, but Oisin fought back with a Thursday draw at Chelmsford, 1-1.

Not a victory, but for him, mentally, the tide had been stemmed.

They were both at the same meeting again yesterday, Haydock, and as had been tradition all week, William outnumbered Oisin in runs or chances, 8-5.

At 2:20 p.m. William hit the chairman of the board to reduce Oisin’s lead to just one with 11 carries remaining for the two, but the defending champion responded at 3:30 p.m. on Magistral and with only nine races to play, the calculations and odds were stacked well in his favor.

By the time they had finished the day, Oisin had struck again in the last on Whiteheaven and, for the first time all week, had won the day, 2-1.

Three clear rounds with six races to go. Mathematically not certain, but it’s game over, the balloon is burst.

William’s strike rate this season is an impressive 22%, but four winners out of six rides demand a 66% strike rate from him this afternoon, and on this type of map, that’s going to take a lot of luck.

For starters, he rides neither Stradivarius nor Trueshan in the Long Distance Cup. He also does not ride Snowfall in fillies and mares, nor on Palace Pier or Baaeed in the QEII.

His best lap at the start of the map is Creative Force in the Sprint but guess what? Oisin rides the favorite, Dragon Symbol, so before he even gets the chance to throw his leg at Adayar in the Champion Stakes, Oisin Murphy will most likely be champion jockey.

A total of 153 winners is a massive tally for a jockey to ride in the UK now, with the one meeting a day restriction, and it has been a tough eight days for the Kerry native.

To be fair to him, he kept walking away.

The momentum and some support have probably waned since failing a breathalyzer test at Newmarket last Friday, but he hasn’t been hiding and has managed to get where he wanted to be.

He has almost retained his champion jockey crown now. Can it supplement the alcohol-free in the QEII?


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