Almanzor wins Champion Stakes on British Champions Day at Ascot
Almanzor crowned a brilliant season in the best possible way by winning the Champion Stakes at the British Champions Day at Ascot.
On the finale to the British Flat racing season and the UK’s richest race day with prize money of £4.2 million on offer, the race favourite beat Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe winner Found in a thrilling contest to further establish its credentials as the best horse in Europe.
The three-year-old, ridden by Christophe Soumillon, produced a superb turn of foot when it needed to which runner-up Found and Jack Hobbs coming in third simply had no answer to.
Trained by Jean-Claude Rouget, who has swept most before him in France this year, Almanzor broke tight against the rail but was moved wider by Soumillon.
The pair then settled into a midfield slot towards the inside, tracked by Ryan Moore and Found. Going well, the favourite shifted wide again to make his run and came head to head with Aidan O’Brien’s horse.
The battle between the two was short lived as Almanzor came away to win to add to his triumphs in the Prix du Jockey Club and Irish Champion.
Soumillon said: “He’s an amazing horse. Everything you do with him looks easy and he’s shown how good he is. He was nearly unbeatable all year and he’s getting smarter and smarter.
“I came a bit early on him and I knew Found was there and how strong she is, but he kept going. He’s a strong horse and his great thing is his turn of foot.”
Minding landed a seventh Group 1 victory to become the first filly since 1987 to win the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes.
The three-year-old filly finished third in the Irish Champion Stakes last month, however her male counterparts could do nothing to stop her on this latest successful outing.
Having proved adaptable over various trips, Aidan O’Brien returned the filly to a mile for the first time since just losing out in the Irish 1,000 Guineas in May, and Ryan Moore settled his mount splitting Ribchester from his pacemaker Barchan in the early stages.
The field split in two as Minding’s Irish 1,000 Guineas conqueror Jet Setting led the nearside however the far side proved the place to be. It was from here Minding powered clear inside the final furlong and hung on in the face of a determined last ditch effort from Ribchester in second, with Lightning Spear rounded off the placings in third.
The first race on British Champions Day was the Long Distance Cup which saw Sheikhzayedroad win his second successive big prize as he hung on to beat Quest For More.
Martin Harley had his mount, who was winner of the Doncaster Cup, close to a moderate pace throughout. When the dash for home began between Sheikhzayedroad, Nearly Caught and Quest For More, it was the winner who picked up the best, reaching the front half a furlong from the line before fighting off the final burst by Quest For More to win by half a length.
Simple Verse and Order Of St George, both placed further back in the field, were a disappointing third and fourth respectively. After finishing third in the Arc last time out, Order Of St George was sent off favourite, but never really looked like overcoming his poor position and stayed on only gradually in the straight.
In the Champions Sprint Stakes, The Tin Man achieved success at the highest level for the first time as the four-year-old took the honours with a surging run close to home under as jockey Tom Queally.
Fourth in the race last year, The Tin Man had produced a career-best effort on his last outing when finishing second in the 32Red Sprint Cup at Haydock last month. However the James Fanshawe-trained gelding overturned that form with a devastating turn of foot which left his rivals scrambling. The best of that competition was in the shape of outside chance Growl, who showed tenacity to get up for second, while Brando finished third for trainer Kevin Ryan.
John Gosden had been without a top-level victory since Golden Horn’s Prix de l’Arc de Triopmhe win more than a year ago, but Journey put that right when she powered home under Frankie Dettori in the Champions Fillies & Mares Stakes.
Gosden, champion trainer in Britain last season, has had Journey and this race firmly in mind for some time and with Dettori on board the pair did not disappoint.
Journey settled into second as Pretty Perfect took the 13-runner field along, before he took off one furlong out when prompted to by Dettori. Speedy Boarding was left trailing in their wake four lengths back with Queen’s Trust running on well for third. Race favourite, Yorkshire Oaks winner Seventh Heaven did not enjoy the easiest of races and could only come in fifth.
The final race of the day and the British Flat Season was the Balmoral Handicap, won by the Roger Charlton-trained Yuften.
In a strong field of 19 runners, Yuften under jockey Andrea Atzeni came home a length clear of Remarkable in second with Firmament third and Afjaan fourth.