10/15/2016 11:33AM

Almanzor beats Found in Group 1 Champion Stakes


The French 3-year-old Almanzor in May had started five times. His appearances in two Group races had produced a seventh and a third, and even after winning a Group 3 in May, he was a 20-1 shot to win the French Derby. Win it he did, though, and now, as he goes off to rest for the winter, Almanzor looks like the best horse in Europe following a decisive victory over Found in the Group 1 Champion Stakes on Saturday at Ascot.

Almanzor had validated his French Derby win with a strong three-quarter-length victory over Found in a excellent renewal of the Irish Champion Stakes on Sept. 10, and the form of that race could not have looked stronger after Found came back to win the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe two Sundays ago and Minding, third in the Irish Champion, won the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes earlier on the British Champions card Saturday.

And if there was any doubting Almanzor’s legitimacy, he put it to rest in the final three furlongs of the 1 1/4-mile Champion.

Breaking from the inside stall under Christophe Soumillon, Almanzor was guided outside in the final furlong, passed a couple of horses, but wound up back on the fence, stalking from midpack for the better part of a mile. Ryan Moore on Found positioned the filly just behind and outside Almanzor, and as Soumillon came off the fence a little more than a quarter-mile out, Moore and Found made their move, too. 

Soumillon straightened up once outside The Grey Gatsby, who had taken the lead turning for home, and Almanzor and Found began sprinting, but it soon became clear that Almanzor was going the better of the two. He left Found behind in the final furlong and dashed under the wire a two-length winner. Found, solid in defeat, was 1 3/4 lengths better than the late-running Jack Hobbs.

It was the fifth straight win for Almanzor, who now is likely to be named the Cartier Horse of the Year in Europe for trainer Jean-Claude Rouget and owner Ecurie Antonio Caro.

“He’s an amazing horse,” said Soumillon. “Everything you do with him looks easy. This just shows how good he is. I would never have thought in the beginning of the season he would be that strong. He’s nearly unbeatable, and he’s getting smarter and smarter.”

Almanzor, by Wootton Bassett and out of Darkova, by Maria’s Mon, won for the eighth time in 10 races. He will race again next year at 4, Rouget said, and could at some point target the 1 1/2-mile races, like the Arc, that his connections avoided this season. “We’ll see in the springtime,” said Rouget.

Found, who lost little in defeat, won the Breeders’ Cup Turf over Arc winner Golden Horn in November, returned to the races in April, was making her ninth start this season, and ran back just 13 days after her Arc win. She figures to be retired as a broodmare after her 2016 campaign, but whether that campaign extends to the BC Turf at Santa Anita remains to be seen.

Jack Hobbs, making his first start since fracturing his pelvis this past spring, will be aimed at the Dubai Sheema Classic in late March, as will fifth-place The Grey Gatsby, who finally showed improvement Saturday after a difficult year.

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