The final leg of the British Champions Fillies & Mares series before the Flat racing season’s showpiece event at Champions Day at Ascot in mid-October recently took place at the Yorkshire Ebor Festival, with Snowfall unsurprisingly winning the Group 1 Yorkshire Oaks, and the Aidan O’Brien-trained horse now looks more certain than ever to be crowned the champion of the thrilling category next month.
So, as yet another top-class mare from the Irish trainers renowned yard looks to add her name to the history books with a mammoth victory on Champions Day, read on as we take a look back at the last five winners of the British Champions Fillies & Mares Stakes…
It wouldn’t be British Champions Day at Ascot without the prominent trainer/jockey duo of John Gosden and Frankie Dettori landing a victory in one of the meeting’s biggest races, and in 2016, that triumph came aboard Journey. A 4/1 shot in the horse racing betting, the second favourite behind O’Brien’s Seventh Heaven, the then four-year-old was being pushed along two furlongs out. However, when shaken up by the Italian jockey with a furlong to spare, she streaked clear of the rest of the field, beating Speedy Boarding by four lengths. It was a fourth victory in the race for Dettori, and a maiden win for Gosden.
Seventh Heaven may have come up short in the 2016 renewal of the British Champions Fillies & Mares Stakes, finishing third. However, O’Brien got his victory in 2017, with Hydrangea. Another 4/1 chance, the then three-year-old had opened up a lead two furlongs out, but that advantage was soon closed. When Ryan Moore asked more of Hydrangea, she reasserted her lead in the final furlong to win by two lengths clear of the market leader, Bateel. The defending champion, Journey, was back in sixth, over 12 lengths off the pace.
Moore and O’Brien were back in the winners’ enclosure the following year, this time thanks to Magical. The mare didn’t have the best of seasons that year, with just one victory from four races, and a 10th place finish in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe just weeks before Champions Day certainly didn’t indicate that she was in the best form heading to Ascot. However, whilst she may not have had the backing in the horse racing tips, Magical stormed into the lead one furlong out and she stayed on well to beat Gosden’s Coronet by a length. It was win number five for Moore in the Group 1 race.
2019: Star Catcher
A Group 2 winner in the Ribblesdale Stakes at Royal Ascot before winning back-to-back Group 1s, the Irish Oaks and the Prix Vermeille, Star Catcher headed into Champions Day as the favourite for the Fillies & Mares Stakes, and she duly delivered her third successive top-group victory. The then three-year-old made all the running and kept on well in the final furlong to hold off Musis Amica by three quarters of length. It was another triumph for Gosden and Dettori.
2020: Wonderful Tonight
After four years of toing and froing between Gosden and O’Brien, the almost £200,000 prize purse went to someone else’s yard, with Wonderful Tonight winning for trainer David Menuisier. The French-bred horse had most of its success on home soil last year, winning the Group 3 Prix Minerve at Deauville before landing the Group 1 Prix de Royallieu at Longchamp. Wonderful Tonight set off as the 4/1 favourite in the Fillies & Mare Stakes and jockey William Buick guided her to a two-and-a-half length victory.