Almanzor (left) is out to better Found (right) once again
PICTURE: Alain Barr (racingpost.com/photos)
By Scott Burton 7:32AM 15 OCT 2016
THERE was a time when French trainers viewed the Champion Stakes as consolation for beaten horses in the Arc: Pride gained compensation at Newmarket having been narrowly beaten by Rail Link at Longchamp a decade ago.
But Jean-Claude Rouget has made the Leopardstown-Ascot Champion Stakes double the priority for Almanzor since midsummer and arrives with a horse who tops the rankings for the year in Europe.
Almanzor emerged on the international scene with a burst of acceleration that swept away the opposition in the Prix du Jockey Club at Chantilly in June and, while the form of the horses he beat that day has not always held up, the winner has gone from strength to strength.
That progress was underlined with a last-to-first success in the Irish Champion Stakes five weeks ago, form that received the mother of all boosts when runner-up Found – a rival again today – landed the Arc.
Asked if Found was the rival he feared most, Rouget said: “I’m not more worried about her than last time because she has the Arc in her legs, which is hard. But she is the main opposition along with Fascinating Rock. They’re the three favourites in the race.”
Despite Almanzor having won the Jockey Club on soft ground, Rouget has always felt he is best on a sound surface, and a repeat of his Leopardstown form would require a career-best from one of his opponents to deny him victory.
“I think at this time of year you’re just trying to keep them at the same level,” said Rouget. “It’s a very good line-up but I don’t see it as any better than in the Irish Champion.”