Aidan O'Brien praise for Arc victor Found ahead of Champion Stakes quest
Aidan O'Brien hailed Found "the most genuine horse I've ever seen" ahead of a sensational renewal of the Qipco Champion Stakes at Ascot.
Runner-up to Fascinating Rock 12 months ago, the daughter of Galileo went on to claim the scalp of the brilliant Golden Horn in the Breeders' Cup Turf on her final start at three and hopes were high she could establish herself among the middle-distance elite this season.
Overall Found has endured a frustrating campaign, filling the runner-up spot in five consecutive Group One events in the space of five months.
But she enjoyed the big-race victory her consistency deserved after producing a stunning performance in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe and returns to Ascot less than a fortnight later in a bid to follow up.
O'Brien said: " The Arc was always her (principal) target. All the other races were on the way to the Arc.
"She takes her races so well. We did it last year (ran in the Irish Champion Stakes, Arc and Champion Stakes) and she's been fine since France. It's the way she is.
"We all knew a long time ago that there's something different about her. She's incredible, really, the most genuine horse I've ever seen.
"She empties the tank every time. The problem is not to let her empty too quick - she goes right to the bottom of herself.
"It's very unusual."
O'Brien also saddles US Army Ranger.
If Found is to emerge triumphant, she will need to reverse previous form with French challenger Almanzor.
The Wootton Bassett colt swooped late to deny the Ballydoyle filly in last month's Irish Champion Stakes and trainer Jean-Claude Rouget appears in confident mood ahead of the rematch.
He said: " He's been in really good form since the Irish Champion Stakes, I'm extremely happy with him.
"The colt's been based in Deauville for a while now and he did his final piece of work on Monday morning over a mile on the grass with Christophe Soumillon, which really pleased us.
"The other runners in the race don't interest me. I like to concentrate on my own horse being at the top of his game, which is the most important.
"He's a very laid-back individual, who is a lovely looking horse with a fantastic turn of foot, which should serve us very well."
Fascinating Rock has met Found twice since winning the argument a year ago, with Found prevailing in the Mooresbridge Stakes before Fascinating Rock gained his revenge with a comprehensive success in the Tattersalls Gold Cup back in May.
Dermot Weld's charge has run just once since, finishing runner-up to Success Days in the Royal Whip Stakes in August, and subsequently missed the Irish Champion Stakes due to a setback.
Jockey Pat Smullen said: "It's a tremendous race, but our horse is in great form.
"He hasn't run for a while, but we think he's ready for the race and if he runs up to his best it puts him right in the mix.
"He's a very good horse and if they get a drop more rain, that would suit him even better."
The John Gosden-trained Jack Hobbs was third in last year's renewal, having previously claimed Classic glory in the Irish Derby.
He was pulled up on his return to action in the Jockey Club Stakes in the spring and has not been seen since, but connections saw enough encouragement in a recent racecourse gallop at Kempton to allow him to line up this weekend.
The Clarehaven maestro also fields Maverick Wave, who can be expected to adopt a pacemaking role.
Gosden said: " He's in great form and we're very pleased to have him back on Saturday. It's a particularly easy race to come back in I thought!
"I thought Almanzor's performance in the Irish Champion was undoubtedly the best performance of any three-year-old this year, in fact any horse in Europe this year. I thought it was quite scintillating.
"Jack Hobbs has strengthened well. He's had the summer off, which has given him time to develop. Strangely enough, I think the time off has benefited him enormously.
"He's in great order for it and a mile and a quarter is no problem for him.
"He's not a type that's ring rusty, he won very well first time out as a three-year-old, but we're aware we're coming back in a fantastic renewal of the race."
My Dream Boat caused an upset when narrowly denying Found in the Prince of Wales's Stakes at the Royal meeting in June, but needs to raise his game after being held in the Coral-Eclipse and Irish Champion since.
Trainer Clive Cox said: " There were eight Group One winners in the Irish Champion Stakes - it was probably the best race I've had the privilege to run a horse in.
"He's had a nice time from that race to here and I'm very pleased with him.
"He's shown his best ever level of form at Ascot, which is good, and he maintained his form at this time last year.
"Some horses go off the boil at this time, but last year he definitely kept a spark about him.
"We are very much looking forward to the race."
Saeed bin Suroor's Godolphin runner Racing History makes his first appearance since finishing fourth a year ago.
The four-year-old is a full-brother to 2013 Champion Stakes winner Farhh.
"He was injured early in the season so we haven't been able to run before now," said Bin Suroor.
"We've taken our time with him, he's working well and his last piece on the Limekilns was really good.
"We're hoping to see a good run from him and then we'll see.
"There's a race in Germany, a Group One, on November 1 he could run in."
One-time Derby favourite Midterm, The Grey Gatsby and Gabrial complete the field.