09/10/2004 11:00PM

Azamour wins Irish Champion


Azamour came out on top in a surprising renewal of the $1.25 million Group 1 Baileys Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardstown on Saturday, which saw the odds-on favorite, Doyen, trail home seventh of the eight runners.

Doyen was beaten early in the stretch, at which point Powerscourt had moved into a one-length lead. Norse Dancer took over in front with 150 yards to run, but he was collared in the final 40 yards by Azamour, who came from last to sweep down the outside and score by a half-length. Powerscourt was a length back in third with Grey Swallow, the Irish Derby winner, another three-quarters of a length back in fourth. The winning time for the 1 1/4 miles on good to firm turf was 2:01.97.

Azamour, a son of Night Shift owned and bred by the Aga Khan and trained by John Oxx, was ridden by Mick Kinane and was sent off at 8-1.

Oxx, who won the race for the second time compared with Kinane's six victories in it, said, "We were concerned that there would be quite a few horses trying to sit just behind the pace, and Mick had no option but to hang back. He is a very good horse, the fastest in the race, and he was able to use his turn of foot. He clearly stays a mile and a quarter well, and we will have to see if he gets further."

The other Group 1 race on the Leopardstown card, the $325,000 Coolmore Fusiachi Pegasus Matron Stakes, saw 4-year-old Soviet Song confirm her superiority over the top 3-year-old filly, Attraction - but only just.

Attraction, a three-time Group 1 winner this season, set her usual fast pace and, having been four lengths clear at the three-eighths pole, it was only in the last 40 yards that she was caught by the odds-on favorite, Soviet Song, who scored by a half-length. Owned and bred by the Elite Racing Club and trained in England by James Fanshawe, Soviet Song covered the mile in 1:36.82 to raise her own tally of Group 1 triumphs in 2004 to three.