After riding legend Frankie Dettori had got what was billed as his final day riding in Europe off to the perfect start by winning the opening Qipco British Champions Long Distance Cup on former York Ebor handicap winner Trawlerman, Yorkshire stepped into the spotlight.
First, Great Habton trainer Tim Easterby’s Art Power finally landed the Group One success his career had always threatened, with victory in the six-furlong Qipco British Champions Sprint Stakes.
The 40-1 outsider led for most of the way in the soft conditions under David Allan, but the pair looked set to be beaten by Dettori and Kinross – the victors 12 months earlier.
But as Kinross swept to the front – touching 1.01 on Betfair in the process – Art Power responded to Allan’s urgings to battle back and claim the £284,000 prize and provide the jockey with a first Group One success, too.
Easterby said: “Dave gave him a fantastic ride, he jumped out and he travelled. When he travels he’s hard to beat. He looked great today, he’s put weight back on as he lost a load in France, and he’s just come back. Dave had the edge on them and that was it.”
A delighted Allan, added: “It felt awesome after! It was nerve-wracking half a furlong from the line when Frankie went past me, but obviously it’s awesome to get it (Group One) on the board – especially a horse who has had, I think, 14 goes previously in Group Ones.
“Everything was in his favour today, we were expecting a big run and it all went perfectly.”
Leyburn trainer Karl Burke’s Spycatcher came home in third and Swingalong fourth, with Harry Herbert of Highclere Racing, owners of the former, saying: “He’s the most wonderful horse and has had an incredible season.
“He got caught up and couldn’t get through at a key time but did it make a difference, I don’t know. He’s got another £45,000 to add to his tally and hasn’t been unplaced all season.
“He’ll be back next year and on this ground he’s a Group One sprinter. I imagine the Prix Maurice de Gheest will figure highly once again.”
Burke went even better in the following race, the Qipco British Champions Fillies & Mares Stakes, when his Poptronic led from start to finish after a brilliant frontrunning ride by Sam James.
A winner of the Lancashire Oaks earlier in the season, the four-year-old was sent off at an unfancied 22-1 after disappointing in Group One company the last twice.
Both eventual second Bluestocking and the 3-1 favourite Jackie Oh in third stayed on stoutly to push Poptronic all the way, but she held on to claim the £301,000 prize.
James, on his first ride at Champions Day, said: “What a day, I can’t believe it. It’s a bit surreal. I’d like to thank the owners and Karl. It didn’t go right the last day in France when she was a bit buzzy, but she’d shown her ability to beat Sea Silk Road at Haydock and she went and won a Group One.
“She is a little bit on her toes, but Karl does a great job with her and so does Kelly (Burke’s daughter), so a lot of credit goes to her as well."
Upper Helmsley’s David O’Meara had four runners in the concluding Balmoral Handicap, but it was Middleham’s Charlie Johnson – with his only runner at the track – who won it with The Gatekeeper (25-1).
Ascot specialist Ropey Guest and the Hayley Turner-ridden Docklands, along with O’Meara’s Bopedro, tried their hardest to reel in soft-ground loving The Gatekeeper, but Joe Fanning had a willing partner and he kept on stoutly for a one-length triumph in Europe’s richest one-mile handicap.
“We knew he would like the ground, I don’t know that it’s key to him but we knew he would handle it,” said Johnston’s father, Mark.
All in all a brilliant day for Yorkshire racing and if you’d been lucky enough to back the winning treble – it paid out at a cool 24,517-1.