Rouget favours Champions Day for Almanzor
11 Sep 2016
Zhukova and Awtaad also book tickets for Champions Day with fluent Leopardstown wins and Alice Springs is a possible
Almanzor could be heading for Ascot after his superb win in Ireland. Picture: Racingfotos.com
Jean-Claude Rouget is in favour of running brilliant French colt Almanzor in the £1.3 million QIPCO Champion Stakes at Ascot on October 15.
The French Derby winner was having his first run outside his native country when showing a great turn of foot to land the QIPCO Irish Champion Stakes at the expense of seven other Group One winners at Leopardstown on Saturday evening.
Connections also have the option of running him in the Qatar Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, 13 days earlier, but he is unproven over a mile and a half and Rouget believes the colt would be better served by sticking to a mile and a quarter.
“Ten furlongs for me is a good trip,” Rouget said at Chantilly on Sunday. “For me the (best) option is the English race [Champion Stakes], because of the distance and we have two weeks more.
“If he was mine he would run at Ascot. He could run in the Arc next year.”
Rouget said no final decision would be made until he has had discussions with the owners of Almanzor but, perhaps significantly, they already have a leading Arc contender in La Cressonniere, who is unbeaten after eight starts and is also trained by France’s champion trainer elect.
Definitely heading for Champions Day is the exciting Zhukova, who returned from a four-month absence to beat US Army Ranger, the Derby runner-up, in fluent style in the KPMG Enterprise Stakes on the same Leopardstown card.
Dermot Weld will run her in the £600,000 QIPCO British Champions Fillies and Mares Stakes.
“That has plan for her since April,” Weld said. “She enjoyed her summer break and has come back to be what I expected her to be – a Group One filly before the end of the year.”
Jockey Pat Smullen said: “She’s a lovely mare, with a lovely big stride on her. We always thought a lot of her but typical of the boss, he’s been very patient with her. She’s a big mare and she’s only showing the benefit of giving her that time now.”
Awtaad, the Irish 2000 Guineas winner, and Alice Springs, the Falmouth Stakes victor, also won at Leopardstown and their connections indicated that the pair could both run in the QIPCO-sponsored £1.1 million Queen Elizabeth II Stakes.
“The plan now is to go to Ascot for the QEII,” his octogenarian trainer Kevin Prendergast said. “”He’s keeping me going and gets me out of bed in the morning.
“He’s come back to himself. He had a bit of a dip after Ascot [St James’s Palace Stakes]. The ground was bottomless at Ascot and he ran well, finished third to two very good horses [Galileo Gold and The Gurkha].
“At Goodwood [Qatar Sussex Stakes] things just didn’t go right. The ground was probably a bit firm and he didn’t travel well – why I don’t know. He seems to be back to himself.
“I think he likes good ground. Most horses don’t like brick hard ground. On good ground, he’s himself. He’s a very good horse on his day. He’s run eight times and won five and been third twice.
“His blip was Goodwood and you’ll always give them one excuse.”