VADENI BECOMES FIRST FRENCH-TRAINED HORSE FOR 62 YEARS TO WIN SANDOWN PARK’S CORAL-ECLIPSE AND FIRST UK WINNER FOR AGA KHAN SINCE HARZAND’S DERBY VICTORY IN 2016. By Graham Clark and Ben Cox
Top class French raider Vadeni became the first French-trained horse to win the Coral-Eclipse for 62 years in a thrilling renewal of the Group One contest at Sandown Park on Saturday 2nd July.
It was also a first UK winner for the Aga Khan since Harzand was successful in The Derby at Epsom Downs in 2016 and the first time the current Aga Khan has won the Coral-Eclipse.
The son of Churchill, who is trained by Jean Claude Rouget, was only supplemented at a cost of £50,000 for the race on Monday on the back of his stunning five-length victory in the Qatar Prix du Jockey Club (French Derby) at Chantilly last month.
Connections were richly rewarded as jockey Christophe Soumillon delivered the 11/4 chance perfectly to win by a neck from Mishriff (7/1) in second, Native Trail (3/1) who was a head further back in third and Lord North (33/1) who was half a length behind in fourth. Favourite Bay Bridge (9/4) and Alenquer (15/2) were fifth and sixth respectively.
With only a furlong left to run only two lengths separated all six contenders in the 126th running of the race, which was sponsored by Coral for the 47th year running making it the longest partnership of any Group race in the world.
Until today the Coral-Eclipse had been one of the very few major races to have eluded Vadeni’s owner-breeder H H Aga Khan IV, although his grandfather, H H Aga Khan III, was successful three times with Rustom Pasha (1930), Migoli (1947) and Tulyar (1952), while his father, Prince Aly Khan, owned the 1959 winner Saint Crespin.
The closest the current Aga Khan had previously been to Coral-Eclipse success had been with Kalanisi, runner-up to Giant’s Causeway in 2000.
Vadeni becomes the eighth French-trained Coral-Eclipse winner and the first since Javelot – who was trained by Percy Carter – back in 1960.
Afterwards winning trainer Jean Claude Rouget said: “He was very relaxed in the first part of the race. I was a little bit anxious at the beginning of the straight as he looked not very well (placed), but after a change of foot he came easily.
“Christophe (Soumillon, jockey) said he had a bad step about 80 metres from the post … so that cut his action. I thought at that moment he could be second but with his courage he became the winner. It was very important for him to win this race for his stallion career at home.
“If I decide to supplement a horse like that it is my basic instinct so I was confident. I have 43 years of training in my legs so I know it is always difficult to win a maiden and to win the Eclipse, for me it was a real challenge. Winning the Irish Champion with Almanzour we were the same. I hope this one will win the other race (Irish Champion).
“Almanzour had more physical (presence). They are two champions but they are a bit different. The change of foot of this one is terribly good and what we saw in the Prix du Jockey Club. Next will be the Irish Champion.
“It is a great event today – it is a bit like when I won the Champion Stakes with Literato (2007) and after when I won at Ascot, the Coronation Stakes in the same colours with Ervedya, when I won the two Champion Stakes (British and Irish) with Almanzour. It is a big moment.
“My career started very slowly with some jumpers and bad Flat horse so it is a long story. I work for the horse and his stallion career later on. For my owners that is very important.
“The programme for him was quite easy. They usually run in a Group Two in Deauville to prepare for the Irish Champion Stakes but the Princess (Zahra, daughter of the Aga Khan) said we don’t go back (in class) and I agreed. The horse came back from the Prix du Jockey Club in good shape. Four weeks was a good interval so we decided on supplementing one week after the Jockey Club.
“I told him (Soumillon) to come as late as possible. The last furlong he had strong courage to win the race. The last 180 metres of the race were quite difficult but he had a good neck at the end. They were strong Group One horses, Native Trail and Mishriff that he beat.”
Winning jockey Christophe Soumillon added: “Out of the gate he didn’t jump particularly fast and I saw William (Buick, jockey of Native Trail) was going to try have a good position.
“I didn’t want to put any pressure on anyone. Mishriff jumped out the gate very slow. When he came on my inside I knew he would stay on the rail so I just waited in the last position. The pace was just fine. We didn’t go really fast but for my horse everything was perfect.
“He was really relaxed and he changed legs perfectly everywhere I wanted and when I came out of the turn the pace started to pick up and for like 50 or 100 yards he was a bit off the bridle, so I had to give him a chance but when you go at the small uphill at the two furlong pole he took me the bridle and changed legs.
“That was the point I was thinking about waiting a bit more or not but I saw Mishriff on my inside completely stopped. I say ‘I’m not going to wait, I’m going to go through the gap to get my horse going’. I just let him go and that’s why I maybe came 50 or 100 yards too early to hit the front.
“Everything was fine but maybe 80 to 100 yards from the line he stumbled and he was unbalanced for a few strides and I had just like a neck in front of William. For the last 50 yards I felt a horse come to my outside and I was like ‘please don’t give up – keep going!’
“He was a bit like Almanzour. When Jean Claude brings a champion like that on top form, even on a tough track they give you that bit extra that these champions can give you.
“For me he is a pure mile and a quarter horse. In the beginning of the race he doesn’t show too much speed but the way he accelerates and if you look at him physically he really looks like that. We will see how he goes. Next is probably for the Irish Champion Stakes and from there we will see. For sure he is a really special horse.”
Referring to his celebrations after crossing the line and veering over towards the placed horses on his inside, Soumillon added: “I don’t know the track and when I passed the line I didn’t see William and James on my inside and my horse just shifted to take the corner.
“At that point I wasn’t looking in front of me the last 20 yards. Unfortunately they had to check both their horses quite badly and like I said to the stewards that is my fault. I shouldn’t have first celebrated like that and I should have looked to my inside to make sure I hadn’t put them in trouble at that point.”
Asked to reflect on winning a race of this magnitude on a Frenc- trained horse he added: “It is amazing. I don’t know if it is better than winning the French Derby but it is something special because it is so difficult.
“I came here a few times maybe 20 years ago to ride the race with a horse I won the French Guineas on and then after that I came one time for Aidan O’Brien as well and that was very tough.”
In a separate interview he told ITV Racing: “It’s great. I was really confident in him. We knew the pace would be alright and I didn’t want to do anything stupid with him. I just wanted to get him cover and relaxed and as you can see when I asked him to quicken he came so well.
“The thing is when you ride French horses they have quite a good turn of foot and they know how to run to this kind of pace, but honestly today he did something amazing.
“I knew when I came onto the straight I would be there but I didn’t believe he would be able to quicken that much.
“It’s amazing because my wife was supposed to come but my daughter she has an exam on Tuesday and she has to learn a lot so they couldn’t come over so my wife said go with the boys and give them some nice holidays!”
John Gosden, who trains the runner-up Mishriff and fourth home Lord North along with his son Thady, said: “Mishriff has run a great race. He just missed the break and the plan was to follow Bay Bridge, which meant we wound up on the inside.
“David (Egan, jockey) has done everything right and I am thrilled with the horse. Three year olds get a lot of weight at this time of year and so to split two of the star three year olds of this season is a great performance.”
Mishriff was making his first appearance since disappointing when defending his Saudi Cup crown at Riyadh back in February but Gosden explained there were valid reasons for that effort.
He added: “Nothing went right for him in Saudi this year. The track was different and he came back with his lungs full of dirt.
“I think we will now be looking at going back to York with him for the Juddmonte International (which the horse won in 2021) and we could also look at the King George (at Ascot) for him.
“Lord North also ran a good race. He just got squeezed up a bit but has still run well.”
Charlie Appleby, who trains third placed Native Trail, said: “William (Buick, jockey) said he had no excuses. They have gone steady and they’ve not gone a mad gallop. He felt he was in the right position and the horse was comfortable throughout the race and over the trip.
“He said he saw it out but take nothing away from the winner and the eventual second. That was a strong event and it was always going to be a tight finish. I don’t think you were ever going to see a horse win by a couple of lengths.
“I posed the question ‘do we come back to a mile?’ but he said he is comfortable at that and I see no reason why we don’t stay at a mile and a quarter. That might give him a few more options.
“There are no excuses anyway. I posed the question to William in that do we come back for the mile for the Prix Jacques Le Marois but as William said there is no reason not to stay at a mile and a quarter as he saw it out well and he is a very straightforward horse to ride in the race and park him up where you like.
“We were beaten by a better three year old and Mishriff is not a bad older horse. Maybe on a slicker track where they go a better gallop it might just suit him. I’m not making any excuses today. He has run a solid race and more importantly he has opened up his options where we place him.”
The Coral-Eclipse forms part of the QIPCO British Champions Series.
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