Azamour's Big Rally Captures Irish Champion

The Aga Khan's Azamour got a patented late-rallying ride from Mick Kinane to collect the Baileys Irish Champion Stakes (Ire-I) Saturday at Leopardstown as favored Doyen turned in a disappointing effort.

Azamour rallied from last in the eight-horse field to win the 1 1/4-mile contest by a half-lenth over Norse Dancer. Ballydoyle's Powerscourt, who won last month's Arlington Million (gr. IT) but was disqualified, finished third. Grey Swallow, the Irish Derby (Ire-I) winner, finished fourth.

Godolphin's Doyen, the 4-5 choice, beat only his pacemaker Millstreet. He raced third into the straight, but lacked any finishing kick.

Azamour, a 3-year-old son of Night Shift, gave Kinane his sixth win in the Champion by coming from far back in a time of 2:01.97 on good to firm going. He passed Norse Dancer and Powerscourt 40 yards from the wire. Norse Dancer took second by a neck.

Trainer John Oxx got the best from his colt off of a three-month layoff. Oxx previously won the race with Timarida for the same owners in 1996.

"Azamour has three big-race entries – the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes, the Champion Stakes at Newmarket and the Arc," he told Racing Post. "He pulled a shoe off in today's race and we will have to see how he is in the morning before we start thinking about the immediate future. I hope he won't pull out lame."

The win came in Azamour's first try at 10 furlongs.

"We always thought he would stay the distance, but you can never be sure until a horse is tested," Oxx noted. "We did all we could to have him spot-on for today, but not having had a run for three months was a bit of worry especially as he has developed so much physically over the summer.".

Kinane, whose contract with Ballydoyle was terminated after last season, admitted that the victory was his sweetest.

"For now it is, but I don't do politics any more," he said. "I said no to following Doyen and decided to sit and wait. I was either going to look good or get shot. But the way he responded when I gave him a back-hander I knew we were in business."