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Almanzor stars in stellar Irish Champion Stakes

Published 10/09/2016

Almanzor wins the QIPCO Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardstown
Almanzor wins the QIPCO Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardstown

Almanzor won a thrilling race for the Qipco Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardstown.

The French Derby winner pounced on the outside under Christophe Soumillon, after being held up in the rear early on in a race run at a strong gallop, to continue a brilliant season for trainer Jean-Claude Rouget.

The Aidan O'Brien-trained Found - second last year to Golden Horn - put in a strong challenge under Frankie Dettori, replacing the injured Seamie Heffernan, but Almanzor (7-1) was just too strong close home.

Minding, also trained by O'Brien, was third.

Soumillon said: "He's a great horse. I've won on him a few times and I knew today he was going to run a great race.

"It was not easy before the race to think that we were going to win it, because it was a really tough Irish Champion Stakes, but we got lucky that the pace was strong and he was very relaxed at the back.

"When I asked him to go he had a strong turn of foot. I was very confident, but when I saw Frankie coming on the inside, I knew he was going to give me a hard time for a couple of hundred metres because I know Found and she's very strong as well.

"However, only champions can win a race like this and I'm so pleased to ride him."

Rouget said: "He's a fantastic horse. I was very relaxed like him for the first part of the race and when I saw him coming on the outside I thought he could challenge for the victory, and he did.

"He looks not to be very tired after this race. Christophe told me it was quite an easy race for him.

"We'll see what the plans are now. He looks to have had quite an easy race, but it was still a Group One. When I saw the field before the race with all these champions, I thought 7-1 was a bit too much, but after the race I think the betting was good.

"We'll see if he goes to Ascot (Champion Stakes) or he goes to Chantilly for the Arc.

"We'll decide after a good night!"

William Hill slashed the winner to 5-1 from 16-1 for the Arc on October 2. RaceBets went 5-1 from 12-1 for the Chantilly showpiece and 6-1 from 10-1 about his Ascot chance on October 15.

O'Brien said of Found and 1000 Guineas and Oaks heroine Minding, who looked to have every chance once in the clear: "They ran very good races. I was delighted with both.

"It was an evenly-run race. Highland Reel sat handy and the fillies sat mid-division and Sir Isaac Newton was towards the back.

"It was a big field and in a competitive race like that you don't always get a clear run.

"The plan always with Found was to go for the Arc after this and I imagine that will probably be the way with her.

"Minding got a few fairly tough bumps, but that's the way it is in a big field like that and she ran very well.

"I imagine she might go again. She's hardy and she's well. She had a good break coming into this."

Dual Derby winner Harzand was well-beaten in eighth place and his jockey Pat Smullen looked after Dermot Weld's star colt in the closing stages.

"When I knew he wasn't going to win today I looked after him," he said.

"Unfortunately he hadn't got the pace early to get into the position we wanted to be in.

"At the furlong pole I accepted I wasn't going to get anything today so I had to think of the next day.

"He hasn't run a bad race and it's probably the best race I've ever ridden in.

"He'll bounce back and I think back at a mile-and-a-half we'll see the best of him.

"A furlong down when I realised I wasn't going to achieve anything today I was thinking of the Arc."

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