Creation of single biggest raceday vindicated by stellar line-up
Britain's end-of-season Flat finale was on Thursday hailed a true industry success story in becoming established as one of the world's best racedays just six years after its launch.
Qipco British Champions Day was founded by bringing together the historic Queen Elizabeth II Stakes and Champion Stakes on one card to create the richest raceday in the Flat calendar.
The reward is a race meeting worth £4.3 million in prize-money comprising four Group 1 races, a Group 2 race and the richest mile handicap run in Europe which has attracted 21 individual Group 1 winners to Ascot on Saturday.
"It has been a great success, ahead of projections or aspirations, moving from a card with two Group 1 races to four in seven years and hopefully to five soon with the anticipated upgrade of the Long Distance Cup to Group 1 in the near future," said Nick Smith, Ascot's director of racing.
"The plan everyone had has been vindicated very quickly – which was to take the significant elements of two meetings to create Qipco British Champions Day – a regular 30,000 crowd, global media attention and ratings in excess of the Group 1 parameter across the Pattern card. It has been one of the most significant successes of modern times for our industry.
"Queen Elizabeth II Day and Champions Day at Newmarket were two fantastic occasions but occasions that were limited to 'us.' Internationally there are few racedays that host five pattern races with as high an average rating as these five attain collectively.
"You have to regard Champions Day as a great success. It is a genuine industry success, designed by many people, conducted by British Champions Series, with the commitment of Qipco, the BHA, the Jockey Club and other partner courses, and Ascot is proud to be its home."
International interest in the meeting is set to extend to mainland China where 40,000 people are expected to gather in the luxury quarter of Shanghai to watch the race meeting at the Best of British exhibition, which organisers Royal Enclosure claim will be the largest gathering outside of a racecourse to watch a British race.
At Ascot the racing is just one element of an occasion which sets out to broaden racing's popularity beyond the regular fan. Under 18s get in for free, as applies at other meetings, and there is a dedicated area for 2,500 students who have also been given free admission.
There is a 'Gods of Sport' photography exhibition by acclaimed sports photographer Chris Smith, a chance to win a VW Polo Beats car and an after-racing concert headlined by George Ezra.
The itinerary also includes the crowning of the Stobart champion jockey, champion trainer and owner plus a parade of former champion Flat jockeys, which will involve the likes Kieren Fallon, Joe Mercer and Willie Carson during the opening ceremony.
The meeting will also mark the debut of a new race replay system which will allow officials multiple screen views of continually synchronised content from up to 16 HD cameras.
The playback of footage will be controlled via an intuitive touchscreen system from within the Stewards' Room, replacing the 'talkback' system to an outside broadcast truck. It also provides the ability to record the whole of a day's racing to review any other incidents which might occur.
The system, which will be gradually rolled out to all courses, has been developed by Belgian company EVS, with support from Racetech, and has recently been used by officials on the British and Irish Lions Tour of New Zealand and the Super Bowl.
Rod Street, chief executive of Great British Racing, said: "We're really excited about Qipco British Champions Day, which has gone from strength to strength since it was first held in 2011.
"Saturday looks set to be a brilliant day's racing with 21 individual Group 1 winners lining-up including stars such as Ribchester, Harry Angel and Big Orange.
"Away from the racing there is, as always, loads of activity with under-18s attending one of the best day's sport for free. We're also looking forward to crowning the Stobart champion Flat jockey, as well as champion trainer and champion owner – it really will be a fitting finale to the European Flat racing season and a day not to be missed."