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Matt Chapman talks all things Champions Day, BHA rules and Aidan O’Brien in his latest column

IT’S crass that decent ground wasn’t used for Champions Day at Ascot last weekend when it was readily available – and the BHA should act immediately to make sure it is in the future.

British racing’s finale showpiece Flat meeting was once again a success, with Cracksman smashing up a top class field in the Qipco Champion Stakes.

But the fixture took place on soft ground (heavy in places down the hill in Swinley Bottom), when there was absolutely no need for that to be the case.

Cracksman
Cracksman powers clear of the field
Getty Images

You see, Ascot has an inner track. If that had been used the ground would have been called ‘good’, which is perfect for top class Flat horses.

And please think twice before you say something ridiculous like: “But it’s Autumn Matt, and you have to expect soft ground at this time of year. It gives a chance for soft ground horses.”

This is Champions Day for goodness sake, where the best are crowned. It’s not ‘I’ve a soft ground horse’ day, or an afternoon where a bog-loving horse can be saved to perform.

The BHA has a Board meeting at the end of November. At that meeting they should insist that horsemen agree that Ascot have permission to run Champions Day on whatever track it has that is nearest to good or, indeed, ground slightly on the fast side of good.

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It’s in everyone’s interest. And if everyone agreed on the stance at the start of the season, there can be no claim of bias.

People will always enjoy themselves at such a glitzy event, but purist on the track validity means Champions Day is strongly ground dependant. Unbelievably, even though the horses can run on a better surface, British racing has placed rules that stop Ascot from using it. OMG!

You see it’s a breach of the rules to swap courses after the 48-hour declaration stage unless the track is unraceable, or close to it, on the outer course. The contingency is not there – and neither is a rule – which would allow Ascot to race on good ground on the inner track instead of soft on the outer.

Ascot racecourse
Champions Day at Ascot featured soft ground again
Getty Images

That should be changed instantly, and horsemen should have the common sense to agree Ascot uses the fastest surface available. Officials would have no trouble at all swapping courses on the day of the meeting provided, of course, preparations has been made during the week.

If Champions Day is ever going to truly grab the world it needs the season’s best horses to have every chance of doing what they have done during the summer. It’s not rocket science. Although you might think it is. Sort it BHA.

That BHA meeting takes place on November 28, and will feature not only Board members but also some of the Executive team.

Matt Chapman’s TV Tips

1.45 Doncaster – Staxton: ‘This ultra-consistent type definitely has an each-way chance’ (add to your betslip)

2.00 Cheltenham – Doing Fine: ‘Recent spin over hurdles should help and has some top handicap chase form’ (add to your betslip)

2.15 Newbury – Raheen House: ‘Stays very well and is pretty classy on a going day’ (add to your betslip)

2.35 Cheltenham – Bedrock: ‘On ratings it should be easy now Defi Du Seuil doesn’t run’ (add to your betslip)

2.50 Newbury – Dream Today: ‘Mark Johnston’s horse could outstay his rivals’ (add to your betslip)

2.55 Doncaster – Reshoun: ‘This isn’t a great contest but he’s in form for Ian Williams’ (add to your betslip)

3.10 Cheltenham – Foxtail Hill: ‘Should make a bold effort from the front’ (add to your betslip)

3.25 Doncaster – Saxon Warrior: ‘Can give Aidan O’Brien a record breaking win’ (add to your betslip)

3.45 Cheltenham – Whataknight: ‘Has an each-way shout following a decent third last time’ (add to your betslip)

4.00 Doncaster – Orion’s Bow: ‘Was banging on the door earlier this season and now looks well handicapped’ (add to your betslip)

You can just imagine the conversation as Nick Rust, the BHA chief executive, takes the floor: “Now give yourselves – all of you – a pat on the back. We’ve really sorted the seasons out now.

“The Flat jockeys championship is a huge success. Missing out the start of the season and a Group 1 at the end is a fabulous idea. I mean, look at what they have done in Ireland. The battle between Pat Smullen and Colin Keane right to the end of the campaign has been a dreadful bore.

“Oh, and speaking of seasons, isn’t it great that the All-Weather Championships have started before the end of the Turf? Take a bow for that people. Now, hands up who knows when the Jumps get under way. Come on. You silly lot. No-one know? It’s been under way for ages. Well done us.”

Aidan O'Brien
O’Brien is congratulated after equalling Bobby Frankel’s record at Ascot
Getty Images

Aidan O’Brien may make history in today’s Racing Post Trophy by taking back his world record from Bobby Frankel by training a 26th Group or Grade 1 winner of the season.

O’Brien and Frankel could not be more different characters. Before becoming a world class trainer, Frankel was thrown out of college, worked in construction by day and went punting crazy at night. O’Brien is pure.

What they both have is a dedication to the game and a desire to be best of the best.

I’m hoping Saxon Warrior will win the Racing Post. I put him up on ITV earlier in the campaign as a horse to follow this season, and if he takes this prize under Ryan Moore he will have proved my point!

ITV of course cover Doncaster, but are also at Cheltenham where I’ll be for the jumps. Alas, Defi Du Seuil was not declared for the Masterson Holdings Hurdle but I can’t wait to see the smashed up Triumph Hurdle winner when he does return.