As racing on the all-weather grows steadily in popularity, the All-Weather Championships have proven to be a revelation and long may they continue.
About the All-Weather Championships
Arena Racing Company (ARC), owners of the some of the highest profile tracks in the country, founded the All-Weather Championships back in 2013.
The championships have been a revelation. Although some top-class operations take part, the series has meant that while the John Gosden’s and Charlie Appleby’s of the flat world are quiet over the winter months and will dominate in the summer, some of the smaller yards can gain their own success in a specific genre.
The idea is that horses, jockeys and trainers take part in qualifying events through the all-weather season in the winter, gaining points all the time, before a very rich Finals Day takes place on Good Friday each year at Lingfield Park.
Horses gain automatic entry, free of any fees, to Finals Day races should they win any Fast-Track Qualifier during the season. There are four Fast-Track Qualifiers in each category, staged at various all-weather tracks throughout the country.
The tracks involved, not all owned by ARC, are Chelmsford, Kempton Park, Lingfield Park, Newcastle, Southwell and Wolverhampton.
Throughout the season, you may see the title of a race on the all-weather printed in the racing press, with ‘Fast-Track Qualifier’ listed next to it. Many punters have never truly understood what this meant.
It’s similar to the States, where starting places for the Kentucky Derby and the Breeders’ Cup events are rather limited, and the term ‘Win and You’re In’ is used. In other words, winning a qualifying race gains a horse automatic entry to the meet in question, which in this case is to Finals Day at Easter.
Four Fast-Track Qualifiers exist in each category around the country and even over in France and Ireland, those categories and their attached races being:
The 3-Year-Old Championships
- Six-furlong conditions race, Newcastle, October
- Six-furlong conditions race, Wolverhampton, December
- Six-furlong conditions race, Kempton Park, January
- Spring Cup, seven-furlong Listed race, Lingfield Park, February
- Golden Rose Stakes, six-furlong Listed race, Lingfield Park, November
- Five-furlong conditions race, Newcastle, January
- Cleves Stakes, six-furlong Listed race, Lingfield Park, February
- Prix Anabaa, six-furlong conditions race, Chantilly, March
- Hyde Stakes, one-mile Listed race, Kempton Park, November
- One-mile conditions race, Newcastle, January
- Saonois, one-mile Listed race, Cagnes-Sur-Mer, February
- Lady Wulfruna Stakes, seven-furlong Listed race, Wolverhampton, March
- Two-mile conditions race, Newcastle, December
- Two-mile conditions race, Wolverhampton, January
- Two-mile conditions race, Kempton Park, February
- Two-mile conditions race, Chelmsford, March
Fillies & Mares Championships
- Fleur De Lys Stakes, one-mile Listed race, Lingfield Park, October
- Cooley Stakes, one-mile Listed Race, Dundalk, November
- Seven-furlong conditions race, Wolverhampton, January
- One-mile conditions race, Chelmsford, February
- Churchill Stakes, mile-and-a-quarter Listed race, Lingfield, November
- Lyphard, mile-and-a-quarter Listed race, Deauville, November
- Winter Derby Trial, mile-and-a-quarter Listed race, Lingfield Park, February
- Winter Derby, mile-and-a-quarter Group 3 race, Lingfield Park, February
These races are of course subject to change from season to season, and it is very much hoped that more Listed and Group races are added to the schedule as time goes on.
Finals Day is the culmination of everything the horsemen, as well as the equine stars themselves, have been working towards throughout the autumn and winter. It is staged on Good Friday over the Easter weekend at Lingfield Park, making the date changeable.
While the 2021 Finals were rather hit by the lack of crowds, making races worth from £75,000 to £100,000, the usual purse for such events is £150,000 with a cool £93,000 going to the winner – providing proper rewards to those who have supported all-weather racing throughout the campaign.
As per the categories listed above, the current All-Weather Championships Finals Day card shapes up like this:
- All-Weather Sprint Championships Conditions Stakes – Class 2, six furlongs, 4yo+
- All-Weather Mile Championships Conditions Stakes – Class 2, one mile, 4yo+
- Easter Classic All-Weather Middle-Distance Championships Conditions Stakes – Class 2, one mile, two furlongs, 4yo+
- All-Weather Marathon Championships Conditions Stakes – Class 2, one mile, seven-and-a-half furlongs, 4yo+
- All-Weather Fillies & Mares Championships Conditions Stakes – Class 2, seven furlongs, 4yo+
- 3-Year-Old All-Weather Championships Conditions Stakes – Class 2, six furlongs, 3yo
- All-Weather Championships Apprentice Handicap Stakes – Class 2, seven furlongs, 4yo+
Past Finals Day cards have seen some very good winners. In 2019, all-weather sprint legend Kachy, who now has a race named after him at Lingfield, landed the Sprint while Middle-Distance winner Matterhorn has since become a Group 1 winner in Dubai.
In 2017, Sir Michael Stoute and Ryan Moore teamed up to win the Easter Classic with Convey, their Winter Derby hero who went on to run in a million-pound Group 1 race in Hong Kong.
Jockey and Trainer Championships
While the much sought-after jockeys and trainers’ championships are contested primarily on the turf from spring to autumn, separate championships exist for both on the all-weather tracks.
From late October, all trainers and jockeys are vying to win their respective categories, the series ending on Lingfield’s All-Weather Championships Finals Day on Good Friday.
While many statisticians keep track of strike-rates, level-stakes profit and winning prize money, the trophies are ultimately given out to the trainers, jockeys and apprentice riders simply with the most wins during the season which are presented on Finals Day.
The championships are taken extremely seriously these days, Midlands-based Mick Appleby in particular taking great pride in the amount of winter winners he trains and quite rightly so.
What Can Be Done Next?
The All-Weather Championships Finals Day, the culmination of hundreds of races and 24 Fast-Track Qualifiers, has been a fantastic addition to racing in Britain.
The way in which this series is structured is similar to the Breeders’ Cup in the States. There, horses can enter from all over with prize money amounts counting towards their participation, though a number of ‘Win and You’re In’ races around the world mean some are guaranteed their place.
Other than being two full days of Grade 1 racing, the major advantage the Breeders’ Cup has over the All-Weather Championships is that qualifying essentially takes place all year round.
It would be great to see another All-Weather Championships take place towards the end of the traditional flat season, tempting in the major yards, jockeys, owners, breeders and sponsors along the way.
This would also give the British horse racing community the chance to bring forward something that is surely on the cards in the future anyway – bringing a permanent Group 1 race to the all-weather.
Right now, of Britain’s 28 Group 1 races only 6 of them, one at Haydock, two at Doncaster and three at York, are staged in the north with none at all in Scotland. None of them are on a synthetic surface and none of them are over seven furlongs other than a single juvenile race, so it seems there are plenty of opportunities for change.