Qatar deepens commitment with Champions Day deal


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The Independent Online

If the Champions Series itself remains difficult to take seriously, even its harshest critic will celebrate the associated, twin blessings that were freshly amplified yesterday. One is the way it has caught the imagination of young, enormously wealthy sponsors from Qatar; the other is a Champions Day that needs only a better place in the calendar to complete its emergence as a legitimate new focus for the European Turf. Both those boons have now been reinforced by a new, five-year sponsorship deal with Qipco Holdings.

Already by far the most valuable card in the domestic calendar, at £3m, Champions Day is now on course to carry £4m in prize-money by 2016. That is on the basis that the three stakes races that do not yet have Group One status will be upgraded in the meantime – albeit that process is another that might be enhanced by a date more heedful of existing international targets.

These may be dazing sums, measured against the humiliating scale of day-to-day prize-money in Britain, but it is easy to see how the Al-Thani family might conclude they are getting good value for money. In hard times, they are making a massive difference to a grateful sport, with only a fraction of the investment made by their kinsmen in, for instance, the revival of Paris St-Germain, a sleeping giant of French football.

Qipco is owned by six brothers, nephews of the emir of Qatar. Their expanding racing and breeding interests potentially qualify them as one of the few forces competent to compete with the Maktoum family, of Dubai, in the bloodstock market. In announcing the new sponsorship deal, Sheikh Hamad bin Abdullah al-Thani reiterated the abiding appeal of the British sport to horsemen from the Gulf.

"We respect and appreciate its heritage and would like it to maintain its status as the most important and deep-rooted in the world," said the Qipco chief executive. "We are in the early stages of a journey we hope will contribute to the overall well-being of top-level Flat racing in this country for many years to come, with benefits filtering down to the industry as a whole. The deal reflects the very positive experience we have enjoyed with British racing, and the pleasure we derive from our association with its most famous meetings."

Rod Street, chief executive of the Series, added: "It took considerable effort and sacrifice to get the concept of British Champions Series and Champions Day off the ground and long-term commitment reflects the benefits of such innovation."

Turf account

Chris McGrath's Nap: Picabo (4.20 Yarmouth)

Not long with her new trainer, and back to form tried in a hood last time.

Next Best: Twin Shadow (3.20 Yarmouth)

Earned this modest rating with a third spin in a maiden that has yielded winners.

One to watch: Huntsmans Close (Michael Bell) made a promising start last week, picking up well and just edged out by more experienced rival.

Where The Money's Going: Mars is 10-1 from 12-1 for the 2013 Investec Derby with Paddy Power.