Azamour Cruises to Newbury Course Record

Azamour Cruises to Newbury Course Record
Photo: AP/PA, David Davies
Azamour and jockey Mick Kinane, center, win the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Diamond Stakes at Newbury.
Azamour charged past all 11 rivals in the final straight for a stunning victory in the star-studded King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Diamond Stakes (Eng-I) on Saturday.

At the back of the field for more than half the race, the 4-year-old colt, which had never gone 1 1/2 miles before, cruised through the field to win by 1 1/4 lengths at Newbury in a course-record time.

The 5-2 favorite gave owner/breeder the Aga Khan his second victory in the race in three years, and handed jockey Mick Kinane a fifth triumph in the $1.13 million race. John Oxx trains the Irish-bred multiple grade I winner by Nightshift.

"I was very impressed with him today," Oxx told PA Sport. "Once he started to get going the race was all over. When he gets to the front he does nothing. He thinks that his job is done."

Oxx said the Irish Champion Stakes (Ire-I) at Leopardstown, which Azamour won last year, would be his next race.

"Then obviously the Arc is a possibility," the trainer added. "We'll see after that."

Kinane kept Azamour at the tail for all but five furlongs of the race, which was run at Newbury because Ascot is being redeveloped.

The colt appeared to have a lot to do, but he produced an impressive burst of speed to make up ground on the leaders, reaching the front with more than a furlong left and pulling clear with 200 yards to go. The winning time of 2:28.26 on good to firm going was nearly a full second faster than the previous course record – dispelling any doubts about the winner's stamina.

Norse Dancer, a 50-1 shot ridden by John Egan, nipped the French champion Bago, which had Thierry Gillet aboard, for second in the final strides by a short head. Last year's Arc (Fr-I) hero drove to challenge with a quarter mile to run and had every chance but lacked the needed response.

It was five lengths back to the grinding Warrsan, who was followed by Ace, Doyen, Grey Swallow, Eswarah, Gamut, Phoenix Reach, Mubtaker and Policy Maker.

Doyen, last year's winner of the King George, led at the start but was headed by Gamut after a furlong. Ace and Mubtaker also raced close up, but none were around when the back markers launched their furious charge in the straight.

Queen Elizabeth II presented the Aga Khan, who won the race with Alamshar two years ago, with the trophy.

"I've always had every confidence in this horse," Kinane told BBC Sport. "From stall 12 I would have had to have raced wide to be handy and I didn't want to do that, so I left them to it."

Kinane said he had no doubts about Azamour's ability to handle 12 furlongs.

"He arrived there too quick – he was going too well. Then he just dossed as he does when he gets to the front.

"He's a very high-class horse. I said to his Highness and to John that I wasn't going to change what I've always done on him."

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