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Vadeni Prevails in Dramatic Coral-Eclipse

Victorious jockey Christophe Soumillon was given a 12-day careless riding suspension.

Christophe Soumillon celebrates a victory from Vadeni in the Coral-Eclipse Stakes at Sandown Park

Christophe Soumillon celebrates a victory from Vadeni in the Coral-Eclipse Stakes at Sandown Park

Ian Headington/racingfotos.com

He has trained more winners than any other trainer in Europe, yet there was no disguising the pleasure in Jean-Claude Rouget's voice having just seen Vadeni win a vintage Coral-Eclipse Stakes (G1).

Never one to shun a challenge, Rouget became the first trainer based in France to land the Eclipse for 62 years, having urged the Aga Khan to supplement his Qatar Prix du Jockey Club (G1) winner at a cost of £50,000 at the start of the week.

It proved money well spent, with Vadeni showing the same brilliance he had displayed at Chantilly 27 days earlier, quickening past the entire field having been settled in last by Christophe Soumillon, before fending off the late surge of Mishriff down the outside.

Despite having sent Bay Bridge off the 9-4 favorite, a crowd nudging 10,000 lapped up a barnstorming finish, with the official margin of victory a neck, with Tattersalls Irish Two Thousand Guineas (G1) hero Native Trail a further head away in third.

In 2016 after Almanzor had won the Irish Champion Stakes (G1) at Ascot, Rouget amazed reporters when declaring that victory had been number 6,035 of an unparalleled career.

Fast forward six years and Rouget was at it again, revealing he was now on the cusp of 7,000 winners, a total unmatched by any trainer past or present in Europe.

"I can tell you today I'm on 6,982 now," said the Pau-based trainer with a Gallic chuckle. "It's a great moment. My career started very slowly with some jumpers and some bad flat horses, so it's a long story."

Asked how confident he had been heading into the race, the 68-year-old added: "If I decide to supplement a horse like that, it's my basic instinct, so I was confident. I have 43 years of training in my legs, so I know it's always difficult to win.

"To win the Eclipse for me was a real challenge, like when Almanzor won the Irish Champion Stakes. I hope this horse will also win the Irish Champion and that will be his next race. They are two champions."  

Having hit the front a furlong out, Vadeni had looked to be on course for a cozy success, but Soumillon reported the son of Churchill to have taken a false step in the final 100 yards and he had to show tenacity to repel the late flourish of Mishriff on the outer, as well as the renewed challenge of Native Trail on his inner.   

"We wanted him very relaxed in the first part of the race," said Rouget, who before Saturday had never had a runner at Sandown. "I was a bit anxious at the beginning of the straight but with his turn of foot he came (through) easily.

"Christophe said he had a bad step 80 meters from the post and at that moment I thought we could be second, but he showed his courage.

"For me he's a typical mile-and-a-quarter horse. It was very important to win this race for him and for his stallion career later on."

For Soumillon, who punched the air in jubilation crossing the line, the victory evoked memories of the great Almanzor and the French-based Belgian was in no doubt Vadeni was in the same class.

"I was in last position but the pace was just fine," he said. "We didn't go really fast but for my horse it was perfect. When we came off the turn the pace started to pick up and for 100 yards he was a bit off the bridle, so I had to give him a chance.

"At the two-furlong marker he took hold of the bridle and changed legs. That was the time when I was thinking maybe I wait a bit longer, but I could see Mishriff on my inside completely stuck. I just let him go and that's maybe why I hit the front 50 to 100 yards too early.

"Everything was fine but unfortunately 80 yards from the line he stumbled and lost balance for a few strides, but he was a bit like Almanzor and gave me that extra gear only champions can give you."

It was not all good news for Soumillon, who was handed a 12-day careless riding ban as he allowed Vadeni to cause "considerable interference" with Native Trail and Lord North after the line as he celebrated.

He added: "I didn't see William Buick and James Doyle on my inside and the horse just shifted to take the corner. Like I said to the stewards, that's my fault. I shouldn't have celebrated first and made sure I didn't put them in trouble at that point."

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