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13 Apr 2014: British Championship Day Adding £250,000 Handicap

British Championship Day, the race meeting held at Ascot in October, has decided to change its climatic race. The apprentice jockey’s race that has ended card since the event’s creation in 2011 will be replaced by a new £250,000 handicap.

The Balmoral Handicap (sponsored by Qipco) will be run over the straight mile used for the Royal Hunt Cup, and is seen as a better fit with the elite races on the rest of the day than the apprentice race.

It also becomes the richest mile handicap in Europe. But British Championship Day is known for being the richest day in British racing, with £3.4 million in prize money in 2012, so this is not surprising.

The contest will be open to a field of thirty, all of whom must have run at least sixth on one of eighteen qualifiers. These qualifiers will begin at next month’s Guineas meeting.

“We are always looking to improve the day,” said Rod Street, chief executive for British Champions Series. Street said the apprentice race, a 0-100 handicap, had been dropped as it was “not quite a fit with the super, premium races we have on the day” and noted that other major meetings across the season are “predicated on big handicaps”.

“Our aspiration is to get all the main races to Group 1 and then have the handicap at the end,” Street added.

Much debate has been had over the October slot being too late in the season, but now talk has turned to the influx of overseas competitor competitions moving into similar spots. The Arc takes place two weekends before, and the Breeders’ Cup two weeks after.

On the ever-present competition, Street said: “We are realistic as a group of nations that no nation gets all the horses. We fill a role and are really happy with our October slot.

“If you’re a racing aficionado it will work pretty well, kind of a mini Breeders’ Cup if you like. It is a nascent day and it may well change in future but it is a weekend for purists.”

Ascot sought permission from the Queen to adopt the Balmoral title for the new handicap, whose £250,000 purse helps lift prize-money for the Weekend of Champions to £4.75 million.

Charles Barnett, chief executive at Ascot, said: “Her Majesty the Queen has graciously consented to the name being re-introduced.

“The last time the race title was used was at Royal Ascot 2003, when it was a five-furlong handicap, which was replaced to make way for the then new Group 2 Windsor Forest Stakes. It has very much been on our mind to bring back this name when an appropriate opportunity such as this arose.”

Will this new handicap be a success? Only time will tell. Make sure to keep an eye on Betfair Betfair for when the field is announced and betting opens.

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