Christophe Soumillon delivered Almanzor (light blue silks) down the outside
PICTURE: Getty Images
Report: Leopardstown, Saturday
QIPCO Irish Champion Stakes (Group 1) 3yo+, 1m2f
ALMANZOR proved himself a champion as the French Derby winner got the better of Found in a stirring finish to a vintage renewal, featuring eight individual Group 1 winners who boasted 15 successes at the highest level.
In a field that included dual Derby hero Harzand and six-time Group 1 heroine Minding, Almanzor travelled like the good horse he clearly is before quickening down the outer under big-race rider Christophe Soumillon to outpoint Frankie Dettori and Found.
It was perhaps not the two horses many had anticipated would be battling out the finish but both Almanzor and Found were already proven at the top level and there was certainly no fluke about the impressive winner.
While he had a clear passage, Almanzor, trained by Jean-Claude Rouget, had to make his challenge from off the pace and out wide – but his acceleration was superior to his rivals as he surged past Breeders’ Cup winner Found close home.
Christophe Soumillon: showed his appreciation of Almanzor
PICTURE: Patrick McCann (racingpost.com/photos)
“It was a great feeling,” said winning rider Soumillon. “It was a very high-rated race with a lot of champions. We know how good he is but you never know when you go overseas for the first time.
“He was very relaxed today and when I asked him to quicken he gave me a great turn of foot and won like a champion.”
The winner was cut to 5-1 (from 16-1) for the Qatar Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe at Chantilly and trainer Jean-Claude Rouget said: “We’ll see but he looked to have quite an easy race, but it is a Group 1.
“When I saw the field before the race, with all these champions, I thought the 7-1 was a bit too short, but after the race, the betting was good! We’ll see if he goes to Ascot or Chantilly for the Arc.”
Runner-up Found (right) still on for the Arc
PICTURE: Alain Barr (racingpost.com/photos)
Harzand was sent off favourite to add another success to his dream season but the warning signs were flashing from an early stage, with Pat Smullen rowing away to maintain an early position as he dropped back in trip.
He was later examined by the Turf Club veterinary officer and reported to have been struck into behind.
Minding travelled more kindly and although locked away on the rail where space was at a premium, she appeared to be in the clear soon enough if good enough, but ultimately came up short as she took on the boys for the first time. Admittedly she lost little in defeat back in third.
The runner-up looks destined for the Arc after another gutsy performance and trainer Aidan O’Brien said: “I’m delighted with both Found and Minding.
“Minding got a couple of fairly tough bumps but that’s the way it is in a big field like that and she ran very well.
“The plan always with Found was to go for the Arc after this and I’d imagine that will probably be the way.”
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