‘One of the top horses in the world’ – Rouget hails Ace Impact

Jean-Claude Rouget’s unshakeable confidence in Ace Impact proved fully justified, as the unbeaten colt produced a performance for the ages in the Qatar Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe at ParisLongchamp.

The son of Cracksman’s path to becoming Europe’s premier middle-distance colt has not been a conventional one, but then this is no ordinary colt.

Provincial wins at Cagnes-Sur-Mer in January and Bordeaux in early April suggested Ace Impact was a horse of some potential. But few could have envisaged at that stage he would go on to secure one of the most visually striking Arc wins in recent memory.

The three-year-old was dominant when claiming Classic glory in the French Derby in June – and while the margin of his next triumph in the Prix Guillaume d’Ornano did not leave every onlooker purring, Rouget knew there was more in the tank.

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Cristian Demuro returns with Ace Impact
Cristian Demuro returns with Ace Impact (PA)

Baked in Parisian sunshine, Ace Impact went to post for his biggest test as the 5-2 favourite and it was impossible to be anything but blown away by the way he found a Dancing Brave-esque turn of speed to run down the leaders and ultimately win with consummate ease.

It was put to Rouget in the aftermath that the majority of those in attendance were left speechless, but he said: “Actually, I more or less expected to see that turn of foot and that acceleration.

“He wasn’t able to show it at Cagnes-Sur-Mer or Bordeaux, but even after a slow beginning in the Prix du Jockey Club he literally flew home.

“At Deauville he wasn’t ready and I know people we were saying he had not run at Longchamp before, but I thought he would be able to deploy that acceleration, especially on the ground we have today.

“My last reflection before the start of the race was to say to myself, ‘it’s too good to be true’, but it was not too good, it was true!”

Ace Impact after his sensational triumph at ParisLongchamp
Ace Impact after his sensational triumph at ParisLongchamp (Ashley Iveson/PA)

Supporters of Ace Impact will undoubtedly have been a little worried beforehand, as he was noticeably on his toes in the parade ring before Cristian Demuro was given the leg-up.

Rouget – who struck with the Demuro-ridden Sottsass in 2020 – insisted he was not overly concerned, adding: “You just have to manage it. He’s like a child, an adolescent who needs to be looked after and reassured constantly. If he was able to talk, he would tell you he’s a very sensitive being.

“I knew the horse was in stronger shape than he was for the Prix du Jockey Club, which is normal as he’s more mature now. He was in marvellous shape before the race.

“The best acceleration I’ve ever seen is Zarkava and this horse is not far off. Sottsass was a very good horse and a very strong horse, but he was not the same type of horse. He was an extraordinary horse, but this one has the power of acceleration of one of the top horses in the world.”

Demuro was able to begin celebrating before passing the post in front, such was the authority with which Ace Impact won, before performing a Frankie Dettori-like flying dismount on returning to the winner’s enclosure.

Ace Impact before winning the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe
Ace Impact before winning the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (PA)

He said: “I knew it was the last day (at Longchamp) for Frankie, so I did it for him!”

Of Ace Impact, he added: “I knew when I was going to push the button he was going to accelerate, and that is what he did.

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“It’s amazing to win the Arc for the second time with an amazing horse. He has a wonderful turn of foot. He’s just a champion.

“I started screaming 200 metres from the post because I saw I was going to win, so I started screaming with the horse.”

What the future holds for Ace Impact remains undecided, with various possibilities on the table.

He could be retired to stud with an unbeaten record, he could have a crack at the Japan Cup before the year is out and he could even be back next season, but connections are understandably keen to let the dust settle before committing to anything.

Pauline Chehboub, representing part owners Gousserie Racing, said: “It was a dream to be able to run the horse against all those champions in that race today.

“Obviously we have to take some time and see how the horse is after his race and then discuss it with the whole team, to see what is next.

“The Japan Cup is one of the greatest races on the whole planet, so we we will see. It’s not a no, but we don’t know about the future.”

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