Channel leads new wave for Boudot, Graffard and love-struck owner Barros
From the moment winning jockey Pierre-Charles Boudot hurled his helmet into the crowd, it became obvious youth was having its day in the sun, as Channel made her rising star of a trainer and first-time owner Classic heroes in the Group 1 Prix de Diane at Chantilly.
Boudot needed to be at his strongest to drive Channel to a head victory over Commes – now a narrow runner-up in two Classics – while the well-backed Siyarafina ran on to be sixth, her draw in stall 16 of 16 effectively ending her chance.
"I was 80 per cent sure we'd won passing the post but I can't say I was absolutely certain," said the 26-year-old Boudot, who has the head of a man three times his age. "I felt like I was ahead and that we'd won bar an unfortunate nod of the head. Once I knew we’d won it was a huge moment."
Trainer Francis Graffard had suffered the agony of watching Volta and Homerique beaten by narrow margins in recent times, but said he found the closing stages here strangely calming as he secured his first Classic triumph.
Graffard said: "When I saw the way she accelerated and that nothing else was really coming after her, I knew she wouldn’t stop. I felt she would run all the way to the line and that's exactly what she did."
Coral introduced Channel as a 20-1 shot for the Qatar Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe and Graffard admitted that, in common with the trainers of Treve, Golden Horn and Enable in recent seasons, he had thought about making the entry and decided against it in mid-May.
Not that he wasn't confident in the latent ability of Channel, arguably the smallest filly in the 16-runner line-up.
Graffard said: "I didn’t make a hatful of Classic entries back in February but she'd already done a really nice piece of work and I talked to Bertrand [Le Metayer, who bought Channel] and told him I thought it was worth putting her in. So the race has been in my mind since the start of the year."
No firm plans will be made regarding the Arc but one factor that will weigh in favour of supplementing her will be Graffard's confidence an extra furlong and a half is not beyond her limits.
Graffard may not have finished his Group 1 spree for the week, with Watch Me heading for the Coronation Stakes at Ascot on Friday.
Channel is the first thoroughbred to run in the colours of businessman Samuel de Barros, who described his involvement in racing as an affair of the heart, having been drawn in by wife Elodie, a successful breeder in the trotting world.
"I was living a comfortable life in Paris but love struck and the rest is history," he said. "It's a story of love and of a gang of forty-somethings."
Commes came up just short for the Jockey Club-winning combination of Cristian Demuro and Jean-Claude Rouget, whose Etoile also came charging home in fourth.
"Commes ran well although there was never really a moment when I thought she really accelerated," said Rouget. "To be beaten a head or a short head is part of racing and I have to congratulate the winner."
Of the British challengers, Nausha enjoyed a good position on the rail but gradually backed out of the fight in the straight, while Entitle was a never-nearer tenth.
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