British Champions Series stars to stud: Almanzor
8 Nov 2017
In the first of a new weekly series we focus on the outstanding French-trained colt who shone in 2016
Almanzor and Soumillon return in triumph after winning the QIPCO Champion Stakes at Ascot. Picture: Racingfotos.com
Almanzor developed into Europe’s top middle-distance performers in 2016 – his superb win in the QIPCO Champion Stakes at Ascot on Champions Day being achieved after impressive victories in the French Derby and QIPCO Irish Champion Stakes.
Trained by Jean-Claude Rouget, in France, he won eight of his 11 races and earned his connections more than £2.1 million in prize money. A fair return for a horse who as a yearling changed hands for 100,000 euros at Arqana’s August sale.
As a two-year-old, Almanzor won his first three races before coming up short in the Group 1 Criterium International at Saint-Cloud.
Almanzor suffered another reverse on his return as a three-year-old, in a Group 3 contest at Chantilly, but from then on went from strength to strength.
He won his remaining five starts that year with his victories in the Prix du Jockey Club (French Derby), QIPCO Irish Champion Stakes and QIPCO Champion Stakes being the highlight.
Sadly, the decision to keep Almanzor in training as a four-year-old was not rewarded. The Rouget yard was affected by a stable in the first half of the campaign and Almanzor was among those under the weather.
When he belatedly reappeared, at Deauville on August 15, he started at 1-2 to beat inferior rivals in a Group 3 event. However, he failed to pick up and beat only one of his five rivals. Within a week, his connections took “the difficult decision” to retire him.
His three Group 1 wins were all impressive but it was his smooth two-length success in the £1.3 million QIPCO Champion Stakes at Ascot which confirmed his superstar status. Sent off the well-backed 11-8 favourite, Almanzor started a little awkwardly but travelled strongly and showed his trademark acceleration to again beat Found, who in between had won the Arc. It was enough to earn him with an official rating of 129 at the end of the year. The runner-up had previously won the Arc but could not lay a glove on him (she had previously got to within three quarters of a length of him in the QIPCO Irish Champion Stakes), while Jack Hobbs, a similar distance back in third, won the Group 1 Longines Dubai Sheema Classic when next seen.
What they said:
Jean-Claude Rouget said after Almanzor won the QIPCO Champions Stakes at Ascot: “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.
“The pace of the race was a bit too slow to begin with but, at the four-furlong post, the race started to get faster. It’s not like in France because sometimes you are blocked because the pace is so slow but here, it is easier to find a gap at the important time. He’s a super horse. I would rank him very highly against all those I have ever trained.”
Part-owner Nicolas de Chambure said at the same time: “It is very, very special because we have followed the horse since he was born as we bred him, and to be co-owner of the horse is wonderful.”
Where he will stand:
The Almanzor story began at Haras d’Etreham in Normandy – his sire, Wootton Bassett is among six other stallions who stand there – and his next chapters will also be written there. His initial fee 35,000 euros. The stud has existed for more than a century and has produced champions such as Maximova, Urban Sea, Seventh Heaven, Anabaa Blue and King’s Best.
Belonging to the De Chambure family since the 1940s, today it is the fourth generation that runs the stud farm, where the grasslands extend for more than 250 hectares.
What should we expect from his offspring?:
Almanzor ticks plenty of boxes with his record, physique, pedigree and temperament – he won Group 1 races in three different countries. He never got the chance to show what he could do over a mile and a half but there is stamina on his dam’s side, so he makes for an interesting mix for potential breeders.
There is no reason why he will not have winners over a range of distances – depending on the mares who visit him – and there is encouragement for thinking they could be early developers. Almanzor won his first three races as a juvenile and Wootton Bassett, his sire, was a Group 1 winner as a two-year-old.