By Simon Jackson.
Ascot continues the countdown towards the £4.1million Qipco British Champions Day with the two day Autumn meeting today (Friday) and tomorrow.
The Berkshire track this afternoon hosts a six race card headed by a Listed contest over 14 furlongs which precedes another six race fixture on Saturday that includes two Group 3s and a brace of Listed races.
The fixture is the last at Ascot before Champions Day on October 17 and follows news of the first non-European runner on Champions Day, after connections of the Singapore-trained Emperor Max confirmed he would contest the Group 1 British Champions Sprint Stakes.
Emperor Max – the winner of 10 of his 20 races – at his last start won a Group 3 at Kranji in September and trainer Stephen Gray is looking forward to Champions Day.
“We are stepping into the unknown bringing Emperor Max to Britain but we are not coming for nothing as Max is a true race horse and a tough customer,” Gray said.
“For me and my family it is a dream. I was at Ascot the day that Black Caviar won and I said then that it would be a dream to bring a horse here one day.”
“My family will be coming over including my two children, aged 14 and 12, who are very excited as it will be their first chance to watch Max race live – the strict government rules in Singapore do not allow children to go to the races.”
“It is also a dream for Corey Brown, one of Australia’s best jockeys and a Melbourne Cup winner, who will ride Max. And my head lad, Peter Hutton, a former jockey in England, is also very excited.”
In other news ahead of Champions Day Corine Barande-Barbe, trainer of 2011 Champion Stakes winner Cirrus Des Aigles, has said that she will not make a final decision on his participation in this year’s race until after he runs on the first day of the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe meeting at Longchamp on Saturday.
“Cirrus Des Aigles is in cracking form. He needed his last race in Ireland on his first start for three months and I think that he’s better than ever,” Barande-Barbe said.
“He runs in the Prix Dollar at Longchamp on Saturday and then it’s the plan to go back to Ascot. How he is after the Dollar will make the ultimate decision – the horse will decide.”
A total of 27 horses remain in the Champion Stakes that this year carries prize money of £1.3 million.
Read ‘Horse Talk with Simon Jackson’ at London24 for the latest horse racing news.