Travel proved no problem for French classic winner Almanzor, as he finished well to secure a three-quarter-length victory over top filly Found in a particularly strong edition of the QIPCO Irish Champion Stakes (Ire-I) Sept. 10 at Leopardstown.
This year's Prix du Jockey Club (Fr-I) (French Derby) winner Almanzor extended his win streak to four races when he surged on the outside under Christophe Soumillon. The 3-year-old son of Wooton Bassett secured his first group I win against older horses.
"He's a great horse. I've won on him a few times and I knew today he was going to run a great race," Soumillon said. "It was not easy before the race to think that we were going to win it, because it was a really tough Irish Champion Stakes, but we got lucky that the pace was strong and he was very relaxed at the back."
Campaigned by Ecurie Antonio Caro and trained by Jean-Claude Rouget, Almanzor completed the 1 1/4-mile test in 2:08.93 on yielding turf, edging Found who settled for second a second straight year. Her classic-winning filly stablemate Minding was third, another 2 3/4 lengths back. Harzand, the 2-1 favorite, finished eighth.
Soumillon said he spotted jockey Frankie Dettori and Found attempting an inside rally.
"When I asked him to go he had a strong turn of foot. I was very confident, but when I saw Frankie coming on the inside, I knew he was going to give me a hard time for a couple of hundred meters because I know Found and she's very strong as well," Soumillon said. "However, only champions can win a race like this, and I'm so pleased to ride him."
Almanzor secured a spot in the Breeders' Cup Turf (gr. IT) with the win, as the Irish Champion is a Breeders' Cup Challenge "Win and You're In" event.
"He's a fantastic horse," Rouget said. "I was very relaxed—like him—for the first part of the race, and when I saw him coming on the outside I thought he could challenge for the victory and he did."
Last year's Breeders' Cup Turf winner Found continues to deliver strong efforts, although her season has been a bit frustrating—she registered a fifth straight runner-up finish. While her Coolmore-associated connections, of course, would like a win, those five straight runner-up finishes for the 4-year-old daughter of Galileo have come in five group I races, four against males.
Last year Found finished second to Golden Horn in the Irish Champion before turning tables on that rival in the Breeders' Cup Turf.
Trainer Aidan O'Brien said overall he was pleased with the way his two fillies ran and anticipates pointing Found next to the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe (Fr-I).
"They ran very good races. I was delighted with both," O'Brien said. "The plan always with Found was to go for the Arc after this and I imagine that will probably be the way with her. Minding got a few fairly tough bumps, but that's the way it is in a big field like that and she ran very well. I imagine she might go again. She's hardy and she's well. She had a good break coming into this."