Almanzor disappointed as British challenger First Sitting claimed a surprise victory in the Group 3 Prix Gontaut-Biron at Deauville.
The Jean-Claude Rouget-trained Almanzor won five of his six starts last season, including top-level victories in the French Derby at Chantilly, the Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardstown and the Champion Stakes at Ascot.
His reappearance this term had been delayed, with this his first competitive appearance in 304 days, but he was unsurprisingly a warm order to dispatch of five rivals at Group Three level.
Almanzor's pacemaker, Zafiro, did his job for much of the 10-furlong contest, taking the field along while Christophe Soumillon positioned the hot favorite in fifth until early in the straight.
Rouget's charge initially looked to be travelling strongly, but when push came to shove, the response was minimal and he was ultimately well-beaten.
First Sitting, a Listed winner for trainer Chris Wall at Goodwood back in May and most recently third in a G3 at Chantilly, tracked Zafiro before committing for home soon after the turn.
Garlingari finished strongly, but First Sitting held him at bay in the hands of Gerald Mosse.
Wall told At The Races: “The race went well. I'm not sure if the pacemaker was in there to go slow or go fast, but he set a reasonable pace.
“Gerald got him in a good position, we wanted to be handy. He quickened up well in the straight and put a bit of distance between himself and the others, a bit like he did at Goodwood.
“He's a very willing horse who runs to the line and the others weren't able to catch him, so that's excellent.
“Today was a step up on what he's done in the past. His two previous trips to France have been much faster ground than we've got today and although he's run well, he hasn't really let himself down. On this slightly easier ground today, he really showed what he can do.
“He trained really well for this race. I said to everyone who cared to listen that it's the best we've ever had him and he proved that today and ran out a good winner.
“We'll put him in the Prix Dollar on Arc weekend at Chantilly, that's a Group Two.
“In the meantime he's also engaged in a race in Istanbul, but I'll see whether the owner still wants to do that. Having won this, that might not be as high on the agenda, but we'll see.”
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