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Rouget's Ace Impact seriously impressive in French Derby

Cristian Demuro Cristian Demuro
© Photo Healy Racing

Jean-Claude Rouget’s Ace Impact extended his unbeaten record with a brilliant performance to land the Qatar Prix du Jockey Club at Chantilly.

Having completed a hat-trick on his previous run over 10 furlongs at this track last month, he gained a fourth success in scintillating fashion, coming from well off the pace in the hands of Cristian Demuro to collar long-time leader and favourite Big Rock inside the final furlong.

The additional half-furlong certainly helped the son of Cracksman, as Ace Impact looked better the further he went.

British raider Epictetus, trained by John and Thady Gosden, held every chance turning in, but Frankie Dettori’s mount faded to finish fifth, while Aidan O’Brien’s Continuous was in third throughout, before failing to see out the final furlong, eventually finishing eighth of the 11 runners.

Rouget, winning the race for a sixth time, was impressed with the way the Ace Impact quickened up to win going away by three and a half lengths.

“I was impressed with his acceleration, because he really comes from a long way off,” said the trainer. “To think that Big Rock was in front and has got the race in the bag, and then 300 metres from the winning post he comes and gets him.

“We always saw in the mornings that he was a really good-moving colt and it is really impressive how he comes and gets Big Rock.”

Ace Impact was unraced as a two-year-old but has steadily progressed since making a winning debut over 10 furlongs at Cagnes-Sur-Mer in January.

Rouget added: “I actually had plans to take him to Deauville last summer to have his first race there.

“But when he arrived at Deauville from Pau, he didn’t have a very nice coat and didn’t seem to acclimatise himself very well.

“So, I decided to leave him alone and also didn’t think about the autumn. Then I saw his brother had won at Cagnes, so I thought why not try that? And he demonstrated that he had a really good stride and could quicken very quickly.

“This race (today) makes me think of the Epsom Derby in that the horse in front (King Of Steel) I thought was going to win, until Auguste Rodin came from the back, so it was very similar.”

The winning time of 2:02.63 was a track record, beating that recoded by Sottsass who won the same race for Rouget in 2019. He went on to finish third in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe that same season, before triumphing in the European middle-distance championship the following year.

Asked if he is a horse who could head to ParisLongchamp in the autumn, Rouget confirmed: “I think he has got the profile. He is that type, he has that stride. I think he will prefer better ground.

“He will have to try to emulate Sottsass, who was effective in both good ground and soft ground. There are other races before the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe obviously, but we will aim him at the Arc.”

Paddy Power and Betfair cut Ace Impact to 10-1 from 50-1 for the Arc, while Coral make him their 5-1 favourite for the Eclipse.