Although Champions Day began well for favorites, the Ascot festivities concluded with major upsets. Hitherto unbeaten Baaeed could muster only fourth in his finale, as Bay Bridge returned with a vengeance in the Champion (G1). One race earlier, Bayside Boy sprang a $78.10 surprise in the Queen Elizabeth II (G1).
A rising star earlier in the season for Sir Michael Stoute, Bay Bridge had been sidelined since his fifth in the July 2 Eclipse (G1). That was his second straight loss as the favorite, having been upended in the Prince of Wales’s (G1) here during the Royal meeting. The common thread was good-to-firm ground.
On an Ascot course reportedly riding softer than the official “good-to-soft,” a rejuvenated Bay Bridge outkicked Adayar and a surprisingly one-paced Baaeed to deliver a $30.40 upset. The James Wigan homebred thereby completed a big-race double for sire New Bay, also responsible for Bayside Boy, and his stud home, Ballylinch, the co-owner of both Champions Day winners.
Piloted by Richard Kingscote, Bay Bridge stalked front-running Stone Age and began to move on the turn. Adayar launched a bold bid out wide to make use of his proven stamina over further, while My Prospero likewise got rolling to steal a march on stablemate Baaeed.
Meanwhile, Baaeed had been reserved further back from his rail draw. Regular partner Jim Crowley maneuvered to steer him a path or so off the fence, but still inside, and he altered course to follow the aforementioned trio as they struck for home. The Shadwell homebred found his way into the clear in plenty of time, only to lack his usual punch.
By then, Adayar had served it up to Bay Bridge and My Prospero. Bay Bridge rose to the occasion, summoning extra to regain the advantage from Adayar. My Prospero couldn’t maintain his position between them, but found more once switching to the outside.
Bay Bridge crossed the wire a valiant half-length in front of Adayar, who barely salvaged second from a resurgent My Prospero. Few would have forecast that the William Haggas sophomore would have 1 1/4 lengths to spare over stable star Baaeed.
Stone Age tired to fifth. Next came Haggas’s other runner, Dubai Honour; Helvic Dream; Mac Swiney; and early pace attendant Royal Champion, who dropped back quickly. According to the stewards’ report, Royal Champion was diagnosed with an irregular heartbeat.
Bay Bridge covered 1 1/4 miles in 2:09.46 to book a spot in the Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1), although Geoffrey Riddle reports that he will not run again this year.
The four-year-old had hinted that more was to come when he demolished the May 26 Brigadier Gerard (G3) in his Sandown reappearance. That marked his fifth straight win. Stoute had brought him along in his trademark fashion, through the handicap route and a listed stakes, Newmarket’s James Seymour S., in his 2021 finale. His Group 1 breakthrough enhanced his record to 10-6-1-1.
“Bay Bridge was very brave,” Stoute said after winning his third Champion, but first since it was transferred to Ascot for Champions Day. “I am absolutely thrilled. The staff have done a great job with this horse, and we are all delighted.
“He was in very good shape coming here. He came back from Sandown with a knock and we had to back off him, so he’s been very consistent this year with the exception of that race.
“We thought the favorite was unbeatable – or I did – but I thought he had a great chance of being second, because he was in terrific shape.”
Baaeed was undone by the conditions, according to Crowley.
“The ground, simple as that,” his rider said. “I turned into the straight and normally where he would pick up, normally he would be able to do it on good to soft, that kick just wasn’t there. It was heavy weather really.
“As soon as I went for him (I knew I was in trouble). In the past, it has just been instant. It just wasn’t there, simple as that. I pressed the button today and it wasn’t there.
“Baaeed has captured the imagination and I’m sorry we couldn’t do it today. He is a special horse still.”
Haggas was gracious in defeat, keeping it in perspective as Baaeed retires to stud with a 10-for-11 ledger.
“He has brought untold joy,” the horseman said. “He is a marvelous horse and a great character. Everyone has loved the journey, obviously my family, but my staff who are so important to the operation.
“They will be really sad, but they shouldn’t be sad as we have been privileged to have him. He is a belter of a horse and I’m just sorry he didn’t show everyone here his best form today. It’s no one’s fault, and that is horse racing.
“There are lots worse things going in the world to worry about apart from a few horses going round a field.”
Queen Elizabeth II (G1)
New Bay kicked off his Champions Day double courtesy of Bayside Boy in the QEII over a straight mile. Trained by Roger Varian for Teme Valley and breeder Ballylinch Stud, the three-year-old suddenly kicked into gear to overhaul Modern Games and pacesetter Jadoomi. Hot favorite Inspiral totally missed the break and wound up sixth.
The QEII serves as a “Win and You’re In” for the Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1), but it remains to be seen if Bayside Boy’s connections would entertain it. Modern Games and Jadoomi are both bound for Keeneland.
Bayside Boy’s victory offered a bit of irony, since his only previous Group win had come at the expense of the late Queen’s Reach for the Moon in last fall’s Champagne (G2). As that back story suggests, Bayside Boy was a smart juvenile. He was always thereabouts in good company, just missing in the Denford S. (aka Washington Singer) and placing third in the Dewhurst (G1) and Vertem Futurity Trophy (G1).
His classic campaign, however, was blighted by uncharacteristically poor efforts. Never traveling from a wide draw when 14th behind Modern Games in the Poule d’Essai des Poulains (French 2000 Guineas) (G1), Bayside Boy couldn’t act on good-to-firm when seventh in the St James’s Palace (G1). Those conditions, plus the twists of Goodwood, worked against him when fourth in the Thoroughbred (G3). Adding blinkers, dropping into listed company, and getting soft going all contributed to a turnaround in the Sept. 14 Fortune S. at Sandown.
Thus Bayside Boy entered Champions Day on the back of a confidence boost. While he was taking a leap to the top level, he still had the blinkers and ground to help. Almost as slowly away as Inspiral, Bayside Boy was patiently handled by new rider Tom Marquand.
Up front, Jadoomi was having things his own way, tracked by Varian’s other runner, El Drama, and Modern Games. The leading trio appeared to get a break on the field, until Bayside Boy erupted on the far side to win going away by 1 1/4 lengths in 1:45.53.
Modern Games, whose acceleration was blunted on this going, soldiered on to nip Jadoomi for runner-up honors. Checkandchallenge closed for fourth. Next came El Drama, Inspiral, The Revenant, Raadobarg, and Tempus.
Bayside Boy improved his resume to 10-4-1-2. His dam, the stakes-winning Anabaa mare Alava, is also responsible for multiple Group 2 hero Forest Ranger.
“We thought Bayside Boy was a lively outsider,” Varian said. “I’m not going to say I thought we would win because he would need to step up massively.
“He showed a great turn of foot. We’ll enjoy this moment. I hope he is a horse who will still be with us next year. I’m not sure what’s next, but we’ll enjoy today.”
British Champions Sprint (G1)
Marc Chan’s Kinross warmed up for the Breeders’ Cup Mile by justifying favoritism in the British Champions Sprint (G1), posting his fourth straight victory. The Ralph Beckett trainee was cutting back to six furlongs after sweeping the City of York (G2), Park (G2), and Prix de la Foret (G1) over an extra panel, but the slower surface made him effective versus the specialist sprinters.
Kinross was well drawn nearer the stands’ side in post 17, the right side of the action as the race split into two groups. The Kingman gelding was also well placed by Frankie Dettori, who had him drafting just behind the Godolphin front runner Naval Crown, in proximity to Godolphin’s defending champion, Creative Force. When Creative Force played his hand, Kinross pounced to a 2 1/4-length decision in 1:15.57.
“I kicked earlier than I usually would with him,” Dettori said. “I know seven is his optimum trip so I said let’s go, come and catch me.”
One of the biggest longshots on the board, the 150-1 Run to Freedom, got up for second by a neck. Trainer Henry Candy commented that the half-brother to multiple Group 1-winning sprinter Twilight Son is responding to cheekpieces that help him settle.
Creative Force rounded out the trifecta on the stands’ side, while fourth-placer Rohaan fared best of the lot on the far side. Tenebrism also ran with credit in that disadvantaged group in fifth. Next came Vadream, Perfect Power, Art Power, Go Bears Go, King’s Lynn, Fresh, Naval Crown, Ventura Diamond, Brad the Brief, Double or Bubble, Gulliver, Garrus, and Castle Star.
“What a horse,” Beckett enthused, going on to reveal a pre-race concern. “Kinross pulled a shoe off last Thursday and had no shoe on for three days. He’s got paper-thin soles, so we had to sweat a bit. But he doesn’t need work – he trains himself, pretty much.”
Kinross, who was sixth in the pandemic-delayed 2000 Guineas (G1) of 2020, only found his way after being gelded. Out of the stakes-winning Selkirk mare Ceilidh House, herself trained by Beckett, the bay will bring a scorecard of 21-8-1-1 to Keeneland.
“I have always wanted to do this,” Beckett said of the six-furlong venture. “As a three-year-old, the late James Delahooke, who managed the stud for Julian and Sarah Richmond-Watson who raced him at two, rang and said, ‘should I be backing him for the Guineas?’ I said, ‘I don’t know, James, but I think he’s quick enough to win a July Cup (G1).’
“I’ve always had a little bit of a hankering for him to do it at this trip and now was the time, even with a Breeders’ Cup Mile on the horizon. He’ll go there as well, with any luck.”
British Champions Fillies & Mares (G1)
Dettori made it a quick double aboard another favorite, Emily Upjohn, in the British Champions Fillies & Mares (G1). The John and Thady Gosden sophomore was fulfilling her early-season promise following a string of bad luck – a brutal beat in the Oaks (G1), missing the Irish Oaks (G1) due to a freak travel problem, and overracing when last in the King George VI & Queen Elizabeth (G1).
Emily Upjohn benefited from a freshening, and the addition of a hood, to earn her Group 1 laurel. Reserved about midpack on the outside, the daughter of Sea the Stars surged past longtime leader Rosscarbery and defending champion Eshaada to prevail by three lengths.
“I have been riding her last couple of mornings,” Dettori said, “and she has been given me the ‘wow’ factor again. It is an amazing job what the team has done.”
Thunder Kiss rallied for second in a bang-up career finale, and fellow Irish shipper Insinuendo also closed well to snatch third from Eshaada. Rosscarbery weakened to fifth, trailed by Emily Dickinson, Lilac Road, Albaflora, Verry Elleegant, Sea La Rosa, Sweet Lady, Mimikyu, Eternal Pearl, and Stay Alert.
Campaigned by Lloyd Webber, Tactful Finance, and S. Roden, Emily Upjohn negotiated 1 1/2 miles in 2:33.76 to advance her line to 6-4-1-0. The close relative of dual classic star Harzand had won her first three outings, capped by the Musidora (G3).
“The whole team have done a great job with her,” John Gosden said, “and to get her confidence back, that’s the other thing. When you run a race like that (in the King George) and finish a distance last, you’re going to be a little shaken mentally, but she showed her class today. She was unlucky in the Oaks and thank God we won a Group 1 this year.
“She stays in training and the aims next year will be the King George and the Arc. She’s won her Group 1 and we’ll let her have a holiday now.”
British Champions Long Distance Cup (G2)
History hung in the balance when two-time defending champion Trueshan was tackled by Coltrane in the British Champions Long Distance Cup (G2). No horse had ever won three times on Champions Day. Moreover, last time out, Coltrane had just denied Trueshan in the Doncaster Cup (G2), and he threatened to upstage the favorite once again here.
Yet on the softer going at Ascot, Trueshan would not allow it. Battling back under regular rider Hollie Doyle, the Alan King veteran forced his head in front to complete two miles in 3:30.22.
Doyle was handed suspensions for two different infractions in the race. In the jostling to secure early position with cover, Trueshan cut in front of Coltrane. And in turning for home, Trueshan muscled past Wordsworth. Both moves put him in the right spot to win, so Doyle probably won’t mind sitting out a total of five days.
“I was caught in a pocket,” Doyle said, “and it was one of them where you either kick in or get flattened. I kicked in and some people suffered as a consequence.”
Three lengths astern in third came Trawlerman, followed by Stratum, early leader Quickthorn, Wordsworth, disappointing St Leger (G1) winner Eldar Eldarov, and the eased Waterville.
Singula Partnership’s Trueshan has compiled a mark of 21-13-3-1, including the 2021 Goodwood Cup (G1) and Prix du Cadran (G1) alongside his Champions Day triple. The French-bred son of Planteur extended his winning spree in his first two starts of 2022, in the Apr. 6 Further Flight S. at Nottingham and a Newcastle handicap under the staggering weight of 148 pounds. But the ground was a bit too quick for him when third to Kyprios and Stradivarius in his Goodwood Cup title defense, and King believes that told on him at Doncaster.
“I think last time at Doncaster he was remembering Goodwood and wouldn’t let himself down,” his trainer said. “He came to challenge and he went right, he went left – he just wouldn’t go forward and I think he was just remembering things.
“I think the one thing we’ve learned it that he does not go on quickish ground again. He’s not as good on it and it leaves its mark. A few people doubted me for that, and I’ve had all the criticism for withdrawing him on numerous occasions, but you’ve got to. As long as we mind him, he could be around for a few years yet. I just want a very wet June, because the one thing I’d love to run him in is the Gold Cup (G1) (at Royal Ascot).”
Champions Day round-up
Trainer David O’Meara continued his success in the Balmoral H., although it took the least-fancied of his quintet, Shelir, to furnish a $141.30 shocker with Jason Watson.
William Buick was honored as the year’s champion jockey, Godolphin took home a 15th owner’s title, and Benoit de la Sayette garnered apprentice jockey honors.
Riding legend Willie Carson and the late Sir Henry Cecil were inducted into the British Champions Series Hall of Fame.
Recently-retired Stradivarius paraded for fans, and found longtime partner Dettori greeting him. His place assured in Ascot history as a three-time Gold Cup hero, among numerous other titles, the eight-year-old will begin his new career at the National Stud.