With his victory in the Champion Stakes at Ascot on Saturday, Almanzor reaffirmed a margin of superiority over Found (by Galileo), who had been second to Almanzor in the G1 Irish Champion Stakes before she won the G1 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe.
There is a strong possibility that Found now needs 12 furlongs to show her absolute best form, and Almanzor’s two victories against the gutsy Galileo filly have come at 10 furlongs. Almanzor’s trainer Jean-Claude Rouget said he preferred to keep the dark bay son of Wootton Bassett at 10 furlongs this year and that the attempt at 12 would be made next season.
Almanzor’s chief asset is his excellent acceleration, which he used so successfully in his two Champion Stakes efforts. That was also the case when the colt won the Prix du Jockey-Club at Chantilly earlier in the year. Those are the colt’s three G1 victories, and Almanzor has won five of his six starts this year, losing only his seasonal debut when third in the G3 Prix de Fountainbleu.
Last season, Almanzor won his first three starts, including the listed Grand Criterium de Bordeaux, then was unplaced in the G1 Criterium International in his last start as a juvenile. To date, Almanzor’s record shows 10 starts, 8 victories, one third, and earnings of more than 2.1 million pounds.
Bred in France by Haras d’Etreham, the colt sold for 100,000 euros at the Arqana August yearling sale in 2014. Almanzor is from the first crop by the high-class racehorse Wootton Bassett (Iffraaj), who was the high-rated French 2-year-old of 2010, when the dark brown colt was unbeaten in five starts. Wootton Bassett finished his season with a sharp-looking victory in the G1 Grand Criterium, but in four starts the following season, he never finished in the top three and retired to stud at Haras d’Etreham.
Wootton Bassett is one of six G1 winners by Iffaaj, whose daughter Chriselliam won the G1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf. Wootton Bassett was foaled in the first crop by his sire, and Iffraaj is represented this season by the high-class Ribchester, who won the G1 Prix Jacques le Marois this season and was second to classic winner Minding (Galileo) in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes on the Champions Day program at Ascot over the weekend.
During his racing days, Iffraaj won 7 races, including three at the G2 level, and was second in the G1 July Cup. Sent to stud in 2007, Iffraaj has sired 19 group stakes winners and 23 listed stakes winners. Iffraaj was one of 53 stakes winners by his sire, the 2,000 Guineas winner Zafonic (Gone West). A very attractive and talented racehorse, Zafonic retired to stud at Banstead Manor outside Newmarket in England. Bred in Kentucky by Juddmonte Farms, Zafonic was one of the fastest and most influential sons of his sire, who was an icon in Kentucky breeding.
For a generation, Gone West was one of a triumvirate of stallions, alongside Storm Cat and A.P. Indy, who dominated American breeding, and all three of these long-lived stallions were out of stakes-winning daughters of Triple Crown winner Secretariat.
For a time, there were a rash of Gone West stallions available to breeders, but today it appears the primary descent of the line will come through Speightstown and Elusive Quality in the States and through Zafonic in Europe. The typical influence of these branches of the Mr. Prospector line is for speed, but they are especially susceptible to being molded into racers who can carry their speed past a mile and upwards of 10 furlongs.
That distance suits Almanzor perfectly, and the strong, good-looking colt is also well-suited to quick conditions underfoot, which ought to help him if he ventures across the sea to challenge in the Breeders’ Cup next year. That will not happen this year because Rouget has announced that Almanzor will be rested over the winter with a plan for the top European races next season, including the attempt at 12 furlongs in one or more of the top all-age events.
Almanzor may be aided in that attempt by broodmare sire Maria’s Mon (Wavering Monarch). The colt is the first foal of the unraced Darkova, a daughter of Maria’s Mon and listed stakes winner Darkara (Halling). Darkara is a half-sister to stakes-placed Darinska (Zilzal), the dam of European champion Darjina (Zamindar, a full brother to Zafonic). This is a family that has been in the Aga Khan studs for generations, with the unraced Darkova being culled as a broodmare prospect and producing a G1 winner for her first foal.
In addition to the speed of this family, Maria’s Mon adds some classic quality as one of the few stallions to sire two winners of the Kentucky Derby: Monarchos and Super Saver.
Almanzor has clearly inherited the ability to show his top form at 10 furlongs, and he may prove just as adept at longer distances or over dirt courses, which could open new avenues of interest in these fabled bloodlines.