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Rouget eyes Royal Ascot for Almanzor

16 Oct 2016

Best horse in Europe confirms status with superb victory in the QIPCO British Champion Stakes


Soumillon and Almanzor breeze ahead in the QIPCO British Champion Stakes at Ascot. Picture:

Almanzor confirmed his status as the best horse in Europe with an emphatic victory in the QIPCO British Champion Stakesvauqbsfdffvfx at Ascot.

And the good news for racing fans is that he will race on as a four-year-old next year, with the Prince of Wales’s Stakes at Royal Ascot already an intended target.

The 11/8 favourite outclassed his rivals in the £1.3 million ten-furlong Group One contest, always travelling smoothly for his jockey, Christophe Soumillon.

The pair stretched clear in the final furlong to record a two-length victory over Found, the 5/2 second favourite, and recent Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe winner, Found. Jack Hobbs kept on to be third, a position he had also filled a year earlier.

It was a repeat one-two of last month’s QIPCO Irish Champion Stakes.

Rouget had come under pressure to run Almanzor in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe but stuck to Plan A.

“It was the right decision to run here as the track and ground were going to suit him well,” he said. “I love this horse. It was always the plan to come here since the summer. I didn’t change my mind on what I was going to do and I’m glad I didn’t.

“I would rank him very highly against all the horses I have ever trained. It’s fantastic to win this race and fantastic to win a Group One race here. I have won this race before with Literato but that was when it was run at Newmarket. I love to come here and I love to win races here.”

Christophe Soumillon had few anxious moments aboard Almanzor despite his mount fluffing the start and said: “It’s amazing to ride a champion like him.”

Just 13 days on from her success in the Prix De L’Arc de Triomphe, Aidan O’Brien’s Found resumed her role as a perennial bridesmaid, finishing second in a QIPCO British Champions Series for a sixth time this season. She has still to win one and is now unlikely, with retirement on the cards.

O’Brien was quick to heap praise on the four-year-old, commenting: “It is an unbelievable run from her. I am delighted. What can I say really? To run so well here after running in the Arc just two weeks ago, it was a great run.”

Jack Hobbs was returning to the racecourse for the first time since suffering a stress fracture to his pelvis at Newmarket in late April.

John Gosden, his trainer, said: “It’s lovely to have him back. He wants a mile and a half, as you all noticed, and he plays about a bit – he’s still a bit of a kid.

“I’m thrilled – he’s finished behind the best three-year-old colt in Europe and the Arc winner. He’s run a great race. The mile and a half Dubai Sheema Classic [at the 2017 Dubai World Cup meeting] is our plan.”