French sensation Almanzor turned in another dazzling display, as the Qipco British Champions Day lived up to its lofty billing.
Jean-Claude Rouget had taken the decision to bypass the Arc in favour of the Champion Stakes, after his colt romped to victory at Leopardstown in the Irish Champion. As in Ireland, his main rival was the fabulous filly Found. She had stormed to a sensational victory in the Arc just two weeks earlier, and those exertions may well have left their mark. Once again the two were locked in battle entering the latter stages, but just as a month earlier, it was the French raider that possessed that extra fizz in the final furlong.
Speaking to Channel 4 Racing, Rouget said: "He's a champion, he did the same performance as in Leopardstown. He had the time, five weeks between the two races, which was perfect. He beat Found a little further today because I think she felt the Arc in her legs, just 13 days ago, but still she's a champion, too. With him, Found, Minding - it really is Champions Day.”
With one eye on the future, the trainer added: “I wanted to keep him at this distance, we keep him next year and we'll see if he goes to the Arc then. He'll have a good rest in the winter and we'll see where we go in the spring. He was quite backward at two, he didn't show he was a Group horse but he improved from race to race. He wasn't better today than five weeks ago. He was just doing his job.”
Christophe Soumillon spoke in glowing terms of his mount: “He is an amazing horse. Everything you do with him looks easy, it just shows you how good he is. I never thought at the beginning of the season he would be that strong the whole year. He is getting smarter and smarter. A few horses were going left and right in the beginning. I was trying to get a good position but unfortunately I had to go on the inside. When I came on the outside with The Grey Gatsby I knew he was going to give me something.”
He went on: “I came a bit early for him and I knew Found was there and how strong she is, so I was giving him a chance to finish well and the last 100 yards he kept going. We have never tried a mile and a half but I am sure he will stay.”
And though defeated, it was once again an incredible performance from Found. Yet another top two finish in a Group 1 event, and Aidan O'Brien was rightly proud of his wonder-filly when saying: “I'm delighted for her, she only ran in the Arc two weeks ago. She's a great mare and she still kept coming with her head down. Ryan gave her a great ride as she was drawn out wide which is a difficult enough place. She looked great and was well in herself. I'm not sure about the Breeders' Cup, the lads will have to talk about that.”
Though Ballydoyle failed to win the showpiece, they grabbed a huge consolation prize when another sensational filly, Minding, outgunned the colts in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes. She had too much speed for her market rival Ribchester, and though the runner-up was staying on again at the finish, he never looked like getting to the winner.
She was landing her seventh Group 1, and Ryan Moore was understandably thrilled with the victory: “I'm really delighted with her today. It was some performance. She's had a hard year and Aidan's just freshened her up. It's some achievement to see off the colts. She was too good for them, too strong. She has lots of pace and masses of talent.”
She’s likely to stay in training, and having shown such great versatility throughout the campaign, O’Brien has to be excited at what may lie ahead.
Earlier in the afternoon The Tin Man had caused something of an upset when scorching to victory in the Champions Sprint. In a race that saw several disappointing performances, Fanshawe’s talented speedster was probably best suited by the sounder surface. A thrilled trainer told Channel 4 Racing: “All year it has been stop-start with him, he had a problem in the spring and I've not been able to get him ready. We didn't have the smoothest run going to (Royal) Ascot, then we had a small problem after that and before his next race we had the coughing.”
The trainer added: “It was a hot race, I walked the course and in the past you've wanted to be drawn high but I was quite happy we were low today. It's great for Tom (Queally), he's been a big help, he was really cool, he rode a beautiful race and it's great for him to ride a Group One winner again. It's great that he's a half-brother to Deacon Blues who won this in 2011.”