Christophe Soumillon conjured up some magic aboard Zagrey as Yann Barberot’s colt prevailed in a thrilling finish to the 153rd Wettstar.de Grosser Preis von Baden.
The four-year-old brought some high-class form to the table ahead of the Baden-Baden Group One having finished third behind Equinox in the Dubai Sheema Classic in the spring before picking up a silver medal when bumping into an on-song Westover in the Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud.
However, victory in Germany looked doubtful when Soumillon found his passage repeatedly blocked at the business end of the 12-furlong contest.
The experienced rider managed to get his mount rolling at just the right moment and timed his challenge to perfection as he edged out Henk Grewe’s Mr Hollywood in the shadow of the post.
“From the start it was a very difficult race and the jockeys changed their lines quite fast,” Soumillon told Wettstar.
“I wasn’t in a great position approaching the first turn and I had to take a bit forward down the backstraight.
“When I came into the straight, my horse changed legs and he was not fine. I gave him time and there was not a big gap but I knew the main contender was right in front of me, so I was just trying to follow him.
“He has such a big heart and he fought so hard the last 150 yards. He is an amazing horse and it is a pleasure for me to be here.”
Torquator Tasso won the Grosser Preis von Baden before tasting Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe glory in 2021, while last year both Mendocino and the defending champion booked their place in the ParisLongchamp line-up when finishing first and second respectively in this contest.
Not only does Zagrey’s victory enhance his own Arc claims, but it also provides a welcome boost to the form of Ralph Beckett’s Westover, who is as short as 8-1 for Europe’s richest middle-distance contest.
Zagrey could now head to the French capital on October 1 with a first Group One success under his belt and his handler was full of praise for the horse.
“It is never easy to win a Group One, even with a horse as good as him,” said Barberot.
“It was a great race in the straight. Obviously there wasn’t a lot of room in the last 500 metres, especially in a race where there was no pace early on. But the horse showed a lot of courage to get there.
“Having said that, I was quite worried heading into the home straight.”