What was the Festival of British Racing?
Inaugurated on September 26, 1987, the Festival of British Racing was a forerunner of British Champions’ Day at Ascot. However, the Festival of British Racing was a far cry from the star-studded meeting that, since 2011, has marked the finale of the British Flat racing season. It featured just one solitary ‘championship’ race, the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes, which was upgraded to Group One status for the first time in 1987. The supporting card did include the Group Two Diadem Stakes, which would become the British Champions Sprint in 2011 and upgraded to Group One status in 2015, but the only other Pattern race, the Group Three Cumberland Lodge Stakes, was not included in the British Champions Day programme.
In truth, the Festival of British Racing is probably best remembered as the backdrop against which Lanfranco ‘Frankie’ Dettori achieved his so-called ‘Magnificent Seven’ in September, 1996. In 2011, British Champions Day was created by cherry picking the best races from the Festival of British Racing and the Champions Stakes Meeting at Newmarket, including the Champion Stakes itself; thanks to a massive injection of prize money by an enthusiastic and committed sponsor, Qipco, the meeting finally became the spectacle that the Festival of British Racing had always aspired to.