The globetrotting French gelding had a tremendous constitution for racing and, even as a nine-year-old, was able to win at the highest level. His connections finally called time on his career in late March, 2016, after a ligament problem was discovered.
He ran his first race in 2008 and went on to win 22 of his 67 races, two of them in QIPCO British Champions Series races. Overall, he was placed in 26 other contests and earned his connections more than £6 million in prize money. Here’s how his career unfolded.
As a two-year-old, Cirrus Des Aigles failed to win in four starts, although he was placed in minor events at Maisons-Laffitte, Saint-Cloud and Deauville.
He ran no fewer than 17 times as a three-year-old, winning six races. He began the year by running four times on the all-weather surface, chalking up his first win in late January. He returned to the turf to win two races at Longchamp in May and was then moved up to Listed class. He was placed four times before winning the Grand Prix du Lion d’Angers at Le Lion-d’Angers Racecourse in August. The following month Cirrus Des Aigles contested his first Group race. Ridden by Frank Blondel, he was driven out to take the lead in the closing stages and beat World Heritage by three quarters of a length in the Prix du Prince d’Orange at Longchamp. A month later he won the Prix du Conseil de Paris by six lengths. n He signed off a hectic year at Sha Tin, where he finished fifth to Daryakana in the Kong Kong Vase.
Cirrus Des Aigles ran seven times as a four-year-old. He won twice, including the Prix Dollar. After missing much of the summer, he secured his first win at Group Two level in October when he won the Prix Dollar "comfortably" by two lengths from Budai. Cirrus Des Aigles again ended his year in Asia, finishing unplaced in the Japan Cup and the Hong Kong Cup.
Cirrus Des Aigles ran 11 times as a five-year-old, winning five races and making his mark on the QIPCO British Champions Series. He was placed in the Prix Exbury, Prix Ganay and Prix d’Ispahan (beaten a neck by Goldikova) before recording his first win of the year at Longchamp in June. He was narrowly beaten by Sarafina in the Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud but then won his next three races – the Grand Prix de Vichy, the Prix Gontaut-Biron (by eight lengths) and then the Grand Prix de Deauville (by ten lengths). He was made favourite for a repeat win in the Prix Dollar, but was beaten a short neck by Byword, the Prince of Wales’s Stakes winner, who was receiving 4lb. In October, Cirrus Des Aigles was sent to race in Britain for the first time when he contested the QIPCO Champion Stakes over ten furlongs at Ascot. Ridden by Christophe Soumillon, Cirrus Des Aigles raced just behind the front-runners before moving forward to challenge for the lead a furlong from the finish. In a strongly contested finish, he prevailed by three-quarters of a length from So You Think, with Snow Fairy half a length back in third. Controversial new whip rules had been introduced beforehand and Soumillon was given a five-day riding ban and lost his £50,000 share of the prize money for using his stick six times inside the furlong. At the Cartier Racing Awards, Cirrus Des Aigles was named European Champion Older Horse.
Began with a bang with victory in the Dubai Sheema Classic at Meydan. In the process, Corine Barande-Barbe became the first female trainer to saddle a winner on Dubai World Cup night. The gelding tracked the leaders before taking the lead in the straight and holding off the late challenge of St Nicholas Abbey by a neck. He returned to France and won the Prix Ganay by eight lengths from Giofra and Reliable Man. In May, Cirrus Des Aigles was beaten three quarters of a length by Golden Lilac. Several weeks later it was revealed that Cirrus Des Aigles had tested positive for a banned anti-inflammatory drug. Barande-Barbe denied any wrongdoing. A minor injury in summer took longer than expected to heal, and Cirrus Des Aigles was forced to miss planned engagements in the King George and Juddmonte International Stakes. The gelding finally reappeared for the Prix Dollar at Longchamp in October. Cirrus Des Aigles stormed home by nine lengths. Two weeks later, Cirrus Des Aigles crossed swords with Frankel in the QIPCO Champion Stakes at Ascot. The gelding made much of the running before being overtaken by Frankel in the straight. He finished one and three quarter lengths behind the wonder horse, and two and a half lengths clear of the third placed Nathaniel. In December, Cirrus Des Aigles was sent to Hong Kong to contest the Hong Kong Cup but was withdrawn after sustaining an injury.
With Frankel retired, Cirrus Des Aigles was the highest rated racehorse in the world in early 2013 but struggled to justify it. He was only fifth in the Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud and was then only fourth in the QIPCO-sponsored King George, won by Novellist. Cirrus des Aigles was dropped in class but failed to win in two races at Deauville in August. It seemed he was in decline. In September, Cirrus Des Aigles recorded his first win for almost a year at Maisons-Laffitte. The following month he became the first horse to win the Prix Dollar for a third time, winning by one and a half lengths from Mandour. Two weeks later, he was sent to England to contest his third Champion Stakes and he started 6-4 favourite in a field of ten. He made a strong challenge in the straight but was beaten a neck by Farhh. In December he finished third in the Hong Kong Cup.
Cirrus Des Aigles began his 2014 season in a race on the Polytrack surface at Chantilly. That was his prep for the Dubai Sheema Classic, in which he was one and a half lengths second to Japanese mare Gentildonna. On his return to Europe, Cirrus Des Aigles came up against the undefeated world champion Treve, the brilliant Arc winner in 2013, in the Prix Ganay at Longchamp. The gelding took the lead in the straight and fought back after being overtaken by Treve to win by a short neck. Four weeks later, Cirrus Des Aigles followed up in the Prix d’Ispahan. He subsequently ran in the Investec Coronation Cup at Epsom in June and was a comfortable winner at 10-11. His jockey Christophe Soumillon dismounted immediately after the winning line concerned that his mount may have gone lame, but he was pronounced fine shortly after. In October he was first past the post in the Prix Dollar for a fourth time, only to be demoted to fifth place after a steward’s enquiry. Two weeks later he contested the Champion Stakes for the fourth time and started the 7-4 favourite. He finished a below-par fifth behind Noble Mission. He ended the season with a fourth in the Hong Kong Cup.
Did not reappear until May, when he won the Prix Ganay for a third time, at the chief expense of Al Kazeem. Three weeks later he started second favourite for the Prix d’Ispahan but finished last of the four runners behind Solow after breaking a shoe in the early stages. A bruised fetlock prevented him from contesting the Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud and he was rested until autumn. In September he contested the Irish Champion Stakes but finished last of the seven runners behind Golden Horn. He ran better in the Prix Dollar but was unable to add another win in the race, finishing fifth. As usual, he ended the year in Hong Kong, but failed to make an impact.
Cirrus Des Aigles was back in training and set to race on, but was retired when a ligament problem became apparent. Picking out three highlights of his amazing career, Barande-Barbe said: "Maybe his first Group One at Ascot and when he beat Treve in France, plus when he won on that magic night in Dubai. He did so much."
BCS Career statistics
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