CHRISTOPHE Soumillon cannot wait to throw his leg over likely favourite Vadeni in the Royal Bahrain Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardstown next weekend.
The 10-times French champion jockey won the Leopardstown race in 2016 aboard Almanzor, whose trainer Jean-Claude Rouget also has care of Vadeni, already winner of the Prix du Jockey Club and Eclipse Stakes this season.
Speaking to The Irish Field on Friday, Soumillon said: “It is going to be another big test and we will see what he can do. It’s a very big race and you need a champion to win it.
“I feel now much the same as I did in the days before Almanzor won it and in some ways they are the same type of horse.”
Soumillon rode work on Vadeni last week and will do so again on Monday. “He had a small break after Sandown and the plan since has always been to get him to Ireland 100% at the top of his form. He has already shown enough at Sandown and in the Jockey Club, so I don’t feel that he has to prove himself any more, but I am hopeful that he has improved a lot since the Eclipse.”
Rain is not a concern for connections. Soumillon said: “I am not particularly worried about the forecast rain, I think that Vadeni can handle any type of ground. His only bad run came on heavy at the end of last season, but he was not in the same kind of condition then that he is now.”
A win for Vadeni in a race consistently rated among the very best in the world would be a big boost for French racing.
“It has been very difficult over the last few years for French horses to compete against the best from overseas,” admitted Soumillon.
“When I am aboard a French horse in any big foreign race I really feel the support of French racing fans. At the recent Deauville meeting it was very hard for us, and the only big race that we managed to keep at home was the only one where we didn’t have to face a big opponent from abroad.
“I am approaching the race with a lot of enthusiasm, and am so happy for His Highness the Aga Khan. It is so important to the whole team and everyone at the studs, and also to Jean-Claude Rouget.”