Almanzor turns Champion double over Found; Minding’s the Queen

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October 15th, 2016

French star Almanzor, who’d edged Found in the September 10 Irish Champion (G1), outkicked the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (G1) winner once again in Saturday’s Champion S. (G1) at Ascot.

Perfectly handled by Christophe Soumillon after a sluggish start, the Jean-Claude Rouget sophomore produced his trademark late burst to prevail by two lengths over a valiant Found. Comebacker Jack Hobbs was third, to the satisfaction of trainer John Gosden, who’s already thinking ahead to the 2017 Dubai Sheema Classic (G1).

Almanzor, who clinched his ranking as the best colt of his generation, will also be back in action next year. Rouget hinted that his French Derby (G1) hero may finally test the waters at 1 1/2 miles next year, with an Arc bid on the horizon.

“He's a super horse,” Rouget said. “I would rank him very highly against all the horses I have ever trained.” 

Soumillon echoed the sentiment.

“The way he won last time out I was really sure he would be one of the best horses I have ridden - he gave me a sensational feeling,” the Belgian ace commented. “It was not easy before the race to be confident because he was drawn in stall one and we needed luck to get out in the straight.

“I was looking for Found because I know how strong she is. I've raced against her a few times and I didn't want to give her a length so I made the decision to go early.”

Found, who was trying to make history as the first horse ever to win the Arc and Champion in the same year, turned in her characteristically gutsy effort. The cutback from 12 to 10 furlongs, just 13 days after her Arc in blistering time, may have played a role in her margin of defeat.

Although no concrete plans have been set, O’Brien cast doubt about her mounting a title defense in the Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1) at Santa Anita.

“I'm not sure about going to the Breeders’ Cup with her,” the horseman said. “The lads will have to decide on that as Highland Reel will possibly go for the Turf…so I don't know about that.

“The climate will be different there this time around and it will be very fast ground so I'm not sure whether she will go to America.”

Indeed, Found may have engaged in her last battle, with retirement possibly beckoning. That was the flavor of O’Brien’s tribute:

“Found is an amazing filly. She has a great constitution and I really appreciate all the work the team have done with her. She is incredible.”


Earlier, O’Brien celebrated his other “incredible filly,” Minding, who defeated males in the Queen Elizabeth II (G1) to earn an amazing seventh career Group 1 tally.

Most recently a tough-trip third to Almanzor and Found in the 10-furlong Irish Champion, Minding reverted to a mile here and simply had too much firepower. Under Ryan Moore, the daughter of Galileo and Lillie Langtry quickened smartly and held off Ribchester and the elder Lightning Spear. Guineas winners Awtaad and Galileo Gold could do no better than fourth and fifth, respectively.

“I was taking her back for the first half of the race,” Moore said. “She has lots of pace and has masses of talent.”

Minding’s Group 1 haul spans an impressive range of distances, from the seven-furlong Moyglare Stud (G1) and Fillies’ Mile (G1) at two, and the 1000 Guineas (G1) in her reappearance, to the 1 1/2-mile Oaks (G1) at Epsom and the 1 1/4-mile Pretty Polly (G1) and Nassau (G1).

“She's won at the top level at a mile, mile and a quarter and a mile and a half and then to bring her back down in trip to win an all-aged mile race, they have to be very special. I can't say enough about her,” O’Brien said.

Minding is unlikely to head to Santa Anita, unless the Coolmore principals furnish a plot twist.

“I'd imagine that would be it now for her for the rest of the year,” the trainer said. “The plan was to come here and try and win and maybe the lads will now bring her back to race again next year. They'll sit down and talk about that now but hopefully she can race again.”

Trainer Richard Fahey confirmed that runner-up Ribchester would not contemplate the Breeders’ Cup.

“He came back at Minding at the end of the race there, but I am a huge admirer of the winner,” Fahey said. “She is a wonderful filly and we can be proud of how our horse has run.

“That was his last run of the season – he's finished now.”

Third-placer Lightning Spear, who’d filled that same spot behind Tepin in the Queen Anne (G1) on the same tract of ground during the Royal meeting, could persuade Sheikh Fahad’s Qatar Racing to bring him back for another campaign.

“It was a career-best performance,” trainer David Simcock said. “Hindsight says the far side (of the course) would have been better, but he's quickened up very, very well and has been beaten by two very good horses.

“Minding is a filly of a lifetime, so we're delighted…It would have been lovely to have won it and gone straight off to stud, but we'll have to sit down and think now.”

Plans had already called for Awtaad to begin his stud career. Galileo Gold’s jockey, Frankie Dettori, commented that he ran as though “tired” and in need of a vacation. It’s probably not going out on a limb to say that the Breeders’ Cup isn’t in the cards.


Dettori had a much happier passage aboard Journey in the British Champions Fillies and Mares (G1). Second in this race a year ago, the Gosden filly stormed clear Saturday by four resounding lengths.

“She picked up like she had roller skates!” Dettori enthused. “It was instantaneous. She's not straightforward, but she keeps on winning so I like her!”

“She showed great acceleration,” Gosden said. “She was just caught out last year when the ground was just too soft, but it was a marvelous effort given that she was beaten by the St Leger (G1) winner, Simple Verse.  

“She is a bit quirky at home - she's one of those fillies that you don't argue with. She's got her mind set on what she wants to do and you go with her. If you try and impose your will upon her she will quickly tell you what to do.”

Last-out Prix de l’Opera (G1) winner Speedy Boarding took second in her likely swan song, while the troubled third, Queen’s Trust, will be kept in training in hopes of a Group 1 laurel next season.

O’Brien’s Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf (G1) candidate Seventh Heaven, the 5-4 favorite, was a closing fifth.

“The race was a little bit messy and rough but she has come back OK. She ran well enough,” O’Brien said. 

Another O’Brien favorite, Order of St George, was likewise overturned in the British Champions Long Distance Cup (G2). Perhaps feeling the effects of his third in the Arc, the 4-6 shot couldn’t bridge the gap with the more prominently placed runners and wound up fourth.

The Simcock-trained Sheikhzayedroad, who mugged Quest for More in the Doncaster Cup (G2), nabbed him again by a half-length here. Simple Verse, opting to face males going two miles rather than defend her Fillies and Mares crown, acquitted herself well in third.

“I'm very proud of the horse,” Simcock said. “He's been with us a long time - he's seven years old now - and he's a pleasure to train as he trains himself. It's as simple as that.

“He's better going the other way though (left-handed) and we were just worried about him hanging across the course. He sticks his neck out - though he has his quirks, we all know that.”

Trainer Roger Charlton expressed the same sentiment regarding Quest for More, who was making a quick return after capturing the Prix du Cadran (G1) on Arc weekend.

“I'm really, really proud of him because he's so consistent,” Charlton said. “To think these two horses were separated by inches at Doncaster, and a few feet today - it's consistent.

“You can only be pleased and arguably this was his best run ever. The horses behind him were better than in the previous races.”

Quest for More will now set his sights on the Dubai Gold Cup (G2) on World Cup night.

Simple Verse is in no rush to become a broodmare, since she’ll be set for the Cups next season.

“The steady pace would not have helped her,” trainer Ralph Beckett noted. “That's it for this year.”

In the British Champions Sprint (G1), The Tin Man emulated his half-brother, 2011 winner Deacon Blues, by getting up in time on the more favorable far side of the track. The James Fanshawe charge bested 50-1 Growl and 14-1 Brando while the market leaders (Quiet Reflection, Shalaa, and Twilight Son) all disappointed. Mecca’s Angel labored on the stands’ side rail and weakened to 12th of 13 in her final start.

Fanshawe observed that The Tin Man, who was reversing form with Quiet Reflection from the Haydock Sprint Cup (G1), has had a trying season.

“He's been a very difficult horse to get right this year,” the trainer said. “This is the first time this year we've had a really clear run with him, although it's easy to say in hindsight.”

The Tin Man is owned by the Fred Archer Racing syndicate, put together by James’ wife, Jacko. Winning rider Tom Queally emphasized that this was a score for owners of modest means.

“There are loads of people involved in this horse and it is a big deal for a lot of people who aren't really, really wealthy - I understand what that means, and know what has gone into this horse,” Queally said. 

The jockey is part of the feel-good story himself, having gone four years without a Group 1 tally – since the great Frankel retired.

“The post-Frankel years have been difficult. But it's like poker - if you keep going to the table, you've got a chance of getting a hand. I was dealt the best hand of all time a few years ago, but I know I am capable of playing a hand if I get it. 

“This horse will get better, I'm sure of it.”

The Tin Man is a four-year-old gelding with only 11 starts under his belt, so Queally’s view is likely right.

All photos courtesy of Champions Series via Twitter