Challenge Stakes Betting

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Beginning in 2011, a new race day has been added to the Newmarket Racecourse calendaróThe Future Champions Day. Scheduled in early October, it takes place a full week earlier than the old Champions Day fixture, but it still retains six Group races, including two each of Group 1, Group 2 and Group 3 plus the totesport.com Cesarewitch long distance handicap.

One of the top events of the day will be the historic Group 2 Challenge Stakes, a seven-furlong sprint on the straight turf of the famous Rowley Mile. The race is open to Thoroughbreds aged three years and upwards, with a total prize purse of £100,000.

Each of the youngest runners carries a weight of nine stone one pound, while the four-year-olds and older horses bear an additional two pounds. An allowance of three pounds is given to fillies and mares. There are also four-pound penalties for previous winners of Group 1 or Group 2 events since 28th February.

When this event was inaugurated in 1878, it was originally open to horses aged two or older. At that time, it was known as the First Great Challenge Stakes and run over a distance of six furlongs.

In 1971, the Challenge Stakes was accorded Group 3 status. The length of the race was extended by a furlong in 1977 and the age requirement was increased to three years in 1985. Two years later, the event was promoted to the Group 2 level.

One of the earliest sponsors of the Challenge Stakes was Bisquit Cognac. They were followed in 1990 by Jameson Irish Whiskey, but for most of the 1990s, there was no primary backer here. In 1998, Compass Group took up the title role, followed by Championsí Gallery for a year. Then, in 2000, Victor Chandler came on board and the high street bookmakers have sponsored the sprint ever since.

No fewer than eight difference horses have won this event back-to-back over the years. Before the close of the 19th century, Kilcock was the first to do so in 1896-97. Then came Sonatura in 1900-01, Chacornac in 1902-03, Succour in 1907-08, Phalaris in 1917-18 and Moorestyle in 1980-81. Additionally, four horses won two non-consecutive runnings: Energy in 1882 and 1884, Mephisto in 1886 and 1890, Hornetís Beauty in 1912 and 1914, and Boldboy in 1973 and 1977.

The top jockey in Challenge Stakes with seven career wins is Lester Piggott. He started off with Princely Gift in 1954, and then came back to the winnerís enclosure on Forlorn River in 1967, Mountain Call in 1968 and Abergwaun in 1972. After getting the double aboard Moorestyle, Piggott added one more victory with Salieri in 1983.

Two trainers have brought five winners apiece to the Challenge Stakes. Atty Persse schooled the 1921 victor Sunblaze and later got wins with Twelve Pointer in 1925, Reedsmouth in 1929, Portlaw in 1931 and Bob Cherry in 1950. Equaling this feat in more recent years is Barry Hills, who trained the 1987 winner Asteroid Field in 1987, followed by Distant Relative in 1989, Last Resort in 2000, Munir in 2001 and Miss Lucifer in 2007.

Since the turn of the new millennium, three-year-olds have been successful here on five occasions, while five-year-olds have won four of the last seven editions. Four-year-olds have had two wins, but it only takes a look back to 1998-99 to find a pair of six-year-old winners, Decorated Hero and Susu, paying 11/2 and 8/1, respectively.

Double-digit payouts are not at all uncommon in the Challenge Stakes. Coming home first at 20/1 in the decade just past were Last Resort, Munir and Miss Lucifer, plus Le Vie Dei Colori in 2005. Additionally, Just James paid 16/1 in 2003.

But donít count the favourites completely out. Sleeping Indian won at 9/2 in 2006, as did Stimulation in 2008. With up to 15 sprinters at the starting line, the Challenge Stakes really is anyoneís race.

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