02 July 2022

Vadeni answers Eclipse questions in thrilling finish

02 July 2022

Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is not to stop questioning.

And of course every pound-shop Einstein would know this. Any overseas raider making the journey to these shores for the first time is put under as much scrutiny the questioner’s limited foreign vocab will allow.

The quizzical instinct is there. The basics are covered. Yet the outcome is often more Oliver Stone than Sharon Stone. There are no sexy suppositions to be made. No magic bullet.

A call to Jean Claude-Rouget is a thing of beauty. Aside from the language barrier, the quizzing is batted back with one-word responses, or often his own questions. ‘You think?’, ‘It is a strong race, no?’, or ‘An interesting race, perhaps?’.

What were the chances that the Aga Khan-owned Vadeni, who had impressed with victory in the Prix du Jockey Club last time and was supplemented for the Eclipse at a cost of £50,000, would become the first French horse to win the race since 1960?

Insight was limited. It was a mystery, wrapped in a riddle, inside an enigma. Yet sometimes the equines cut through jargon.

The accent on this bright, mid-summer day at Sandown Park was on sheer quality. Three Classic winners, five Group One winners and a colt in Bay Bridge who had won the Brigadier Gerard over course and distance at a canter, made this an Eclipse to relish. Six runners, 35 wins between them. A debonair half-dozen.

If Vadeni was to pass this test, he had to master the travel – he had not ventured out of France before – boss his elders, and conquer the climb to the lollipop.

Some things can get lost in translation, yet this is a horse who has yet to fluff his lines.

What we were treated to was two minutes and five-point-two seconds of 10-furlong excellence. If this sport has a job selling itself, races like this are the perfect advertisement.

Vadeni holds off Mishriff and Native Trail (left) (Nigel French/PA) (PA Wire)

Held up, Vadeni circled the field, went earlier than he wanted to and after cruising up on the outside, stumbled in the last half-furlong, leaving jockey Christophe Soumillon praying he would hold on.

To his credit, the classy son of Churchill did just that, getting the better of a battle royal with Irish 2,000 Guineas winner Native Trail, with the gutsy Mishriff powering home up the outside to nab second.

There was a neck and a head between the trio and for connections of the beaten horses, there was no shame in defeat.

Rouget, who is no stranger to European success, having saddled champion three-year-old Almanzor to success in the French Derby, Champion Stakes and Irish Champion Stakes in 2016, was far more loquacious afterwards.

The 68-year-old, who trains many of his horses in Pau, but keeps the star horses at his satellite yard in Deauville, admitted to being a little anxious as the race unfolded. He need not have worried. Vadeni spoke a very different tongue – a brogue of brilliance.

“He was very relaxed in the first part of the race and I was a bit unsure through the beginning of the straight. He looked not very well (placed),” said Rouget.

“Then after a change of foot, he came easy just outside, then he had a bad step about 80 metres from the post – a little hole maybe – so that cut his action. So, I thought at this moment we could be second. With his courage, he got the win.

“It was very important to win this race for him for his stallion career later on and that is it.”

Asked about his confidence coming into the race, he added: “If you decide to supplement for a race like that, it is my basic instinct.

So I was confident, but I have 43 years of training in my legs, so I know it is always difficult to win sometimes

“So I was confident, but I have 43 years of training in my legs, so I know it is always difficult to win sometimes. To win the Eclispe for me, was a real challenge, like Almanzor in the Irish Champion. We won both and I hope this one will win the other race.

“Almanzor had more physical (presence). He was a great champion, too. They are two champions and a bit different.”

The Vadeni vernacular is a little more distinctive, however. He has a blistering turn of foot, which he can produce off whatever the pace may be.

“The change of foot of this one is great,” added Rouget. “We saw it in the Prix du Jockey Club, but it is harder to see in the English races, which are going faster.”

Soumillon has had plenty of experience worldwide, yet if his mount overcame every obstacle, the Belgian was far from faultless.

Christophe Soumillon celebrates with his children (Nigel French/PA) (PA Wire)

His celebration fist-pump to the crowd after the line meant he did not look the other way and Vadeni veered right, tightened up Native Trail, who in turn, squeezed Lord North onto the far rail and into the back of Charlie Appleby’s runner. He was served with a 12-day ban (July 16-27), which sees him miss the Prix Robert Papin.

“It is my job to get from point A to point B. I’m not happy with the 12 days, but it is my fault,” said Soumillon.

While it could have been catastrophic, in the scheme of things, it proved nothing more than a minor faux pas, certainly not enough to dampen another glorious day.

Vadeni spoke the universal language that everyone could understand. Il est magnifique!

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