Monday 23 April 2018

Rouget eyes Leopardstown feature for Almanzor

Trainer Mark Johnston Photo: Edward Whitaker
Trainer Mark Johnston Photo: Edward Whitaker

Thomas Kelly

The Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardstown and its equivalent contest at Ascot have emerged as major targets for French star Almanzor.

Jean-Claude Rouget's three-year-old has not been seen in competitive action since he sprang something of a surprise in the French Derby at Chantilly at the start of June, but he is closing in on a return.

The son of Wootton Bassett holds an entry in the Juddmonte International at York on August 17, but Almanzor is instead set to reappear at Deauville two days earlier.

Rouget said: "I am thinking of taking Almanzor to Deauville for the Prix Guillaume d'Ornano (August 15), then to Leopardstown for the Irish Champion Stakes and after that to Ascot for the Champion Stakes on Champions Day. That's the plan, but it can change."

The Pau-based trainer landed the Champion Stakes, then run at Newmarket, with Literato in 2007.

"Literato was tough and so is Almanzor, both with good temperaments," Rouget observed. Literato was a small horse with a big action. Almanzor has more scope and is bigger."

Unbeaten stablemate La Cressonniere, who won the French Oaks in June, will warm up for the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe in a Group Two at at Deauville later this month.

Mark Johnston's Lumiere will drop back down to six furlongs following her dismal display in the Prix Rothschild at Deauville on Sunday.

Last season's Cheveley Park Stakes heroine trailed home last of 16 runners on her return to action in the 1000 Guineas, but got her career back on track with a stunning victory in a Listed event at Newmarket's July meeting.

The three-year-old returned to the highest level in France at the weekend, but after racing prominently, she weakened quickly in the closing stages and finished ninth of 10 runners in the one-mile Group One.

Lumiere is now in the frame for a potential tilt at the Haydock Sprint Cup, for which she will have to be supplemented, on September 3.

The trainer explained: "It (Prix Rothschild) was desperately disappointing, but she pulled too hard and didn't get home - it was as simple as that. She'll come back to six furlongs and we'll see what happens then."

Elsewhere, David Loughnane intends to turn British Embassy out quickly after the top weight put up a game display to win at Pontefract.

PJ McDonald set a strong pace from the outset on the Galway native's four-year-old (10/3) which kept pullng out more to see off Mime Dance by half a length. "He loves something to come and fight him," said the trainer. "We'll get him something again straight away. He's a horse that loves to race."

Irish Independent

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