Fame And Glory (5h Montjeu-Gryada, by Shirley Heights) kicked off the inaugural British Champions Day at Ascot on Saturday in style when winning the G3 QIPCO British Champions Long Distance Cup under Jamie Spencer.
Having decided the early pace was not to his liking, Spencer drove his mount to the lead with a mile and a half remaining and kicked clear of his rivals at the top of the Ascot straight.
With runner-up Opinion Poll bearing down on him, closely pursued by third-placed Colour Vision and Nehaam, Fame And Glory dug deep for his rider’s urgings and landed the spoils by a length and a quarter.
Fame And Glory, victorious over Opinion Poll in the G1 Gold Cup over a further half-mile at Royal Ascot in June, could well be back at the course for that contest next June, with Stan James shortening him to 5/2 favourite from 7/2.
“It is very special to win here,” said trainer Aidan O’Brien. “Everybody knew that his big, main issue this year was the Ascot Gold Cup here and we trained him very hard for that. He was so courageous and gave it all that day, so in respect to the horse, we had to give him a break and be kind and gentle to him afterwards. We chased him hard for the Gold Cup and you don’t want to do that twice to a horse.
“He had his two lovely runs after but we left a little bit for today. He has so much class and when he needed it to day it was there – Jamie gave him a marvellous ride. It’s great to be back here, it’s a great meeting and it’s great timing.
“He is a horse that had a mile and a quarter class – he was a G1 winner – and he’s a two and a half-mile Gold Cup winner, so stamina is not a bother for him and class isn’t either. Jamie just got him into a rhythm and the rest is history, he gave him a great ride.
“After winning the Gold Cup here, you would imagine that he was on such a level of fitness for that that he probably wasn’’t at that Gold Cup level today. We were hoping that he wouldn’’t have to be.
“It would be great to come back for the Gold Cup in June. That’s a decision for the boys, Dr Hay and everybody. We are just privileged to be part of the team.”
Part-owner John Magnier, commented: “It was a good training performance by Aidan. When you train a horse to win a Gold Cup, you have to have them so supremely fit – it takes a lot out of them. He obviously got him back up to that level of fitness today.
“You have got to hand it to Jamie, it was a great ride. There is no better man than him on his day.”
Spencer added: “He was electric today and every time another runner came to me it was like they carried a buzzer that was setting him alight and he was shooting on ahead again. He was entitled to idle a bit once he got into the shadow of the last 100 yards.”
Of Fame And Glory’s reception by the crowd, Spencer said: “Everybody appreciated the horse today – it was a Group 1 race run under a Group 3 banner. These horses have been running against each other all year and that performance should see my horse as leading stayer. I’m delighted to be part of it. Somebody had to ride the first Champions Day winner and I’m thrilled to have done it.”