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2016 will see the inaugural staging of the Dubai Future Champions Festival over two days at Newmarket’s famous Rowley Mile course.

Formerly ‘Future Champions Day’, it has gone through a couple of facelifts in its relatively short existence, and the races run on this day have changed a few times also. In addition, it’s place in the calendar has shifted, and it now fills a weekend between the Middle Park Stakes and the Champions Day at Ascot in October. 

Ryan Moore riding Air Force Blue to victory in the Dewhurst.

Future Champions Day schedule

The schedule for the Friday of the Dubai Future Champions Festival runs as follows:

  • The Dubai Cornwallis Stakes
  • The Dubai Oh So Sharp Stakes
  • The Dubai Challenge Stakes
  • The Dubai Fillies' Mile
  • The Dubai Old Rowley Cup (Heritage Handicap)
  • The Dubai Maiden Fillies' Stakes
  • The Dubai Pride Stakes (formerly The Severals Stakes)
The schedule for the Saturday will host the following races:

  • The Dubai Fillies' Nursery Handicap Stakes
  • The Dubai Autumn Stakes
  • The Dubai Dewhurst Stakes
  • The Betfred Cesarewitch Handicap Stakes (Heritage Handicap)
  • The Dubai Zetland Stakes
  • The Dubai EBF Stallions Boadicea Fillies' Stakes
  • The Darley Stakes

Without a doubt, the highlight of the two days is the Dubai Dewhurst Stakes. This is one of the jewels in the crown of the two year old season, and has proved in the past to be a useful guide to the following season’s 2000 Guineas (which is also run on the Rowley Mile course). The Dewhurst has also thrown up plenty of Derby winners, and the roll of honour includes horses such as Rock of Gibralter, Dr Devious, Zafonic, Sir Percy and the great Frankel.

FUTURE CHAMPIONS DAY TIPS

The Saturday schedule provides plenty of contrast, with punters moving from the precocious juveniles in the Dewhurst Stakes to the battle hardened handicappers in the gruelling Cesarewitch Stakes. Run over an extended two miles and two furlongs, it starts in Cambridgeshire and finishes in Suffolk.

The supporting card provides plenty of races for two year olds, hence the title ‘future champions’. The Cornwallis Stakes gives the speedsters a chance to shine over the flying five furlongs, and recent winners include top sprinting mare Quiet Reflection. The Oh So Sharp Stakes is restricted to two year old fillies, and is run over seven furlongs. It is named after Oh So Sharp, the winner of the fillies triple crown in 1985 (the 1000 Guineas, the Oaks and the St Leger), who was also trained in Newmarket by Sir Henry Cecil.

The Fillies Mile is the highlight of Friday’s racing. Restricted to two year old fillies, it has been won by some top horses in the past, including 1000 Guineas winners Minding, Oh So Sharp and Bosra Sham. It provides a stamina test that many of them would not have experienced at this stage of their careers, and winners are always earmarked for the following season’s Classic races.

The Zetland Stakes (run on the Saturday) provides a stern examination of the stamina of the two year olds, and has been won by some top stayers in the past. Double Trigger took this race in 1993 before going on to establish himself as one of the top stayers of his generation in the following seasons.

All in all, the Dubai Future Champions weekend provides racing fans with a glimpse of the future. With so many top class races for younger horses all in two days, champions for the coming seasons are almost guaranteed to be on show – the trick is spotting them!

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