Fascinating Rock completes Weld's Champion plan

Fascinating Rock, a 10/1 shot, stepped up on anything he had shown on a racecourse before to land Saturday's QIPCO Champion Stakes at Ascot for trainer Dermot Weld.

The four-year-old winner, ridden by Pat Smullen in the colours of Maurice Regan's Newtown Anner Stud near Clonmel - which is where the horse was bred - came home one and a quarter lengths clear of runner-up Found, with evens favourite Jack Hobbs half a length away in third.

Weld said: "I like this place! Fascinating Rock has always had the potential to do what he did today, and I had this race planned for about six months. We knew it would be softer in the autumn, and he loves soft ground, and he was a decent horse in the spring.

"He was only just beaten by Al Kazeem in May's Tattersalls Gold Cup, with King George winner Postponed in third, then we left him off for the summer, giving him time by the banks of the River Suir - and then he came back in. I probably left him too short of work for Windsor [where he was third in Group Three company at the end of August] and on that occasion the box ran into traffic coming around Birmingham and he was on the lorry for about four hours longer than ideal. That may explain why he ran flat at Windsor. It was his first run for four months.

"Then he won by six lengths on Irish Champions' Day at Leopardstown and I was impressed with the way he did it, and then we stuck with the original plan which was this race today. The plan was to ride him off the pace and I told Pat to give him time and hunt away on him and he came home in front. That will be his final run this season.

"Ascot has been very lucky for me - I've won Gold Cups and St James's Palace Stakes and Prince of Wales' Stakes. We don't have many runners, but this day is also very special."

Fascinating Rock and jockey Pat Smullen delivered a 10/1 shock in the Group One QIPCO Champion Stakes, scoring by a length and quarter from Found. The evens favourite Jack Hobbs was third. 

Smullen admitted after the race he was aware of the competition he had to overcome.

He said: "It would be silly of me to say that we came here thinking, 'yes we are definitely going to win,' but this is a very talented horse and it was the first time in a long time that he got exactly the right conditions, a fast run mile and a quarter with good ease in the ground. It brought the best out of him.

"Everyone wanted to write him off after Windsor, but he is a huge horse and he was coming back off the back of a long break he needed the run more than we all thought. But he was very impressive at Leopardstown and even better again today.

"We always thought of him as a Group One horse. He was tactically very aware today, wherever I put him he picked up and just showed today how good a horse he is."

Speaking about race tactics Smullen added he was surprised about the pace set up front: "I didn't anticipate them going as hard as they did we went very, very fast and in truth I wanted to be closer to the pace than I was. I got further back but I was fairly happy that the speed they were going they were going to come back, but coming from the inside you need a little bit of luck to get the gaps.

"Some days you get the luck and other days you don't. We got the luck throughout the race today."

The son of Fastnet Rock was last seen winning a Group Three at Leopardstown by six lengths on September 12 and Smullen said he has proved his worth today: "He proved today how good he is, he beat Found, he beat Jack Hobbs and they are two very good horses. He beat them all on merit today, he got everything right today.

"This is an amazing place, an amazing racetrack. We have been very fortunate since we started, we (Dermot Weld) have had winners here every year bar one, it's been very special. To win this race is just huge."

Aidan O'Brien was pleased with the performance of second-placed Found, who stayed on well under Ryan Moore to finish a length and a quarter behind the winner, Fascinating Rock.

O'Brien said of the three-year-old filly: "I am very happy with the run today; she ran a big race in the Arc and that performance was excellent. We are delighted with that as it gives us something to look forward to next year.

"We couldn't help the race unfolding the way it did but Ryan was very relaxed and she ran very well.

"I imagine that will be her done for the season. Obviously the lads will talk about it but I imagine that is her all for this year. She is one to really look forward to next year."

John Gosden, trainer of third-placed Jack Hobbs, said the race had panned out in the way he had expected. The Irish Derby winner, who started as the evens favourite, finished half a length behind Found.

Gosden said: "Found has run a blinder. She ran a great race in Ireland; she got knocked over in the Arc; she ran a great race today, so it was no surprise to me [that she finished ahead of Jack Hobbs] - in fact I said to my wife Rachel on the way down in the car today this is what will happen: drawn wide, we're going to have to use him with the pacemaker, he's still such an immature horse it will catch him out in the last furlong, which is exactly what happened. So it's slightly what I thought.

"It's all about next year - he's a big, overgrown kid and I couldn't be more thrilled with him today and I couldn't expect him to beat horses like that [pointing at Found].

"I always say that if you are on that draw [12] you have to go but you will pay the price at the other end. But come to this next year or a race like the King George, and he'll be a bigger, stronger horse, so I'm not in the slightest bit disappointed. It's what I expected, between ourselves."


(British Champions Middle Distance)

Group 1, £1,358,750 For 3yo+ Weights 3yo colts & geldings 9st; fillies 8st 11lb; 4yo+ colts & geldings 9st 5lb; fillies 9st 2lb Entries 46 pay £ 5700 Confirmed 15 Penalty value 1st £770,547.12 2nd £292,131.24 3rd £146,201.50 4th £72,829.00 5th £36,550.38 6th £18,343.13


1 (7) Fascinating Rock (IRE) (Newtowmn Anner Stud Farm) Dermot Weld, Ireland 4-9-05 Pat Smullen 10/1

2 (8) Found (IRE) (Michael Tabor, Derrick Smith & Sue Magnier) Aidan O'Brien, Ireland 3-8-11 Ryan Moore 9/2

3 (12) Jack Hobbs (Godolphin) John Gosden 3-9-00 William Buick Evens Fav

4 (1) Racing History (IRE) (Godolphin) Saeed bin Suroor 3-9-00 James Doyle

5 (10) Air Pilot (Lady Cobham) Ralph Beckett 6-9-05 Harry Bentley

6 (4) The Corsican (IRE) (Fitri Hay) David Simcock 4-9-05 Jamie Spencer

7 (11) Tullius (IRE) (Kennet Valley Thoroughbreds) Andrew Balding 7-9-05 Jimmy Fortune

8 (6) Ribbons (Elite Racing Club) James Fanshawe 5-9-02 Frankie Dettori

9 (9) Palace Prince (GER) (Gestut Hony-Hof) Andreas Lowe, Germany 3-9-00 Silvestre de Sousa

10 (3) Sumbal (IRE) (Qatar Racing Limited) Francis-Henri Graffard, France 3-9-00 Christophe Soumillon

11 (13) Maverick Wave (USA) (Godolphin) John Gosden 4-9-05 Robert Havlin

12 (2) Lightning Spear (Qatar Racing Limited) Olly Stevens 4-9-05 Oisin Murphy

13 (5) Vadamos (FR) (Haras de St Pair/J M Camilleri) Andre Fabre, France 4-9-05 Vincent Cheminaud


13 ran

Time: 2m 06.31s

Distances: 1¼m, ½, 1½, nk, 1, 1, 2¾, hd, 3¼, 13, 8, 3¾      

Breeder: Newtown Anner Stud

Breeding: b c Fastnet Rock (AUS) - Miss Polaris (Polar Falcon USA))

Tote    Win: £12.10 Place: £3.10; £1.70; £1.10 Exacta: £63.80