Fast becoming a favourite at Ascotís Autumn Meeting is the Group 3 Bengough Stakes, a sprint that moved to this venue from Newmarket in 2008. It is now conducted each October on the second day of the Annual Beer Festival, in association with CAMRA and Fullerís, where it shares the card with three other exciting Group 3 races. They include the Autumn Stakes and the Cornwallis Stakes as well as the Cumberland Lodge Stakes, which has recently joined the schedule from its traditional spot in September.
The £65,000 Bengough Stakes covers a distance of six furlongs on the straight turf of the renowned Ascot racecourse. Entry is open to Thoroughbreds aged three years and upwards. The youngest runners each carry a weight of nine stone even, while those aged four years and older must bear one extra pound.
An allowance of three pounds is granted to fillies and mares. Penalties are applied to entries that have been successful in meetings since 28th February of the same year. They amount to eight pounds for Group 1 winners, six pounds for Group 2 winners and four pounds for Group 3 winners.
The Newmarket editions of this event began in 1987, when it was known as the Bentinck Stakes. The name was given in honour of a successful racehorse owner, Lord George Bentinck (1802~1848). From the beginning, the race was contested over a distance of five furlongs, classified at the Listed level and sponsored by Ward Hill.
In 1991, TNT Aviation took up the role of principal backer for the event. Bedford Lodge Hotel followed as the sponsor in 1993, the year in which the race was lengthened to its full six furlongs. That sponsorship extended throughout the rest of the 1990s until Keyline Builders Merchants came on board in 2000.
From 2001 until the race gained its Group 3 status in 2003, there were no official sponsors. Then, Igloos took on the title role in 2004~07, followed by Willmott Dixon in 2008~09. Thatís when the race moved to Ascot and received its new name, the Bengough Memorial Stakes, commemorating Her Majestyís Representative at Ascot from 1984 to 1997, Sir Piers Bengough (1929Ė2005). From 2010 onward, Models 1 Agency has filled the spot as primary sponsor.
In its history, this race has not seen any horse win more than once. On the other hand, no fewer than six different jockeys have claimed two victories apiece here. The first of them was Michael Roberts, who succeeded on Umbelata in 1988 and On Tiptoes in 1991. He was followed by Willie Carson riding RaíA in 1990 and Hamas in 1992, and then John Reid aboard Montendre in 1993 and Royale Figurine in 1995.
Winning back to back on Danehurst in 2001 and Needwood Blade in 2002 was Seb Sanders. Darryll Holland got his two victories with Gaelic Storm in 1999 and Welsh Emperor in 2005, while Ted Durcan took first place honours on Royal Millennium in 2004 and Greek Renaissance in 2007.
Only one trainer leads all others in triumphs at the Bengough Stakes. That distinction goes to Saeed bin Suroor, who prevailed with Russian Revival (1996) and Bygone Days (2006) before gathering in his third win with Greek Renaissance.
Bookmakers have had nothing but solid hits and complete misses in forecasting this event over the past seven years. Among the favourites they picked correctly were Royal Millennium at 7/2 and Bygone Days at 7/2. Their errors, however, have been rather spectacular, at least from the perspective of bettors who like long shots.
In 2005, Welsh Emperor became the first double-digit winner of the new millennium with a pay out of 16/1. Two years later Greek Renaissance delivered at 12/1, and then Conquest romped home at 16/1 in 2008. The most recent big payout came in 2009, when Royal Rock succeeded at 11/1.