Christophe Soumillon given chance by Aidan O’Brien to make headlines for right reasons

‘There’s no doubt he’s a world-class rider,’ says O’Brien about controversial Belgian jockey

Aidan O’Brien has given Christophe Soumillon an opportunity to make headlines for all the right reasons by giving him the ride on Order Of Australia in a $1 million Grade One in Keeneland on Saturday night.

French racing’s best-known jockey lost his job as the Aga Khan’s retained rider on the back of his notorious unseating of Irish jockey Rossa Ryan at Saint-Cloud last week.

A 60-day suspension handed out by France-Galop stewards begins next Friday, ruling Soumillon out of some major end of season international fixtures, including next month’s Breeders’ Cup.

That takes place at Keeneland and a “sighter” of the Kentucky track takes place on Saturday with the Coolmore Turf Mile taking centre stage.


Order Of Australia is back at the scene of his greatest success where he sprang a 73-1 shock in the 2020 Breeders’ Cup Mile.

The son of Australia had a less happy time in this race a year ago, suffering a minor fracture when finishing last, but has bounced back this season with some more high-class displays in Europe.

Successful in the Minstrel Stakes at the Curragh, he was runner-up to Dreamloper in last month’s Prix Du Moulin at Longchamp.

Order Of Australia will break from stall three of 16 runners in a race off at 10.45 Irish-time and shown live on Sky Sports Racing.

The Irish hope is an 8-1 shot in local morning-line betting.

Soumillon has been successful for O’Brien at the top-level in the past including partnering Excelebration to victory in the Prix Jacques Le Marois a decade ago. He also rode Dylan Thomas to win the Prix Ganay in 2007.

However, he hasn’t ridden much for the Ballydoyle team in recent years and Coolmore’s opting for the controversial Belgian now, in a race they sponsor for the first time, has attracted some criticism.

O’Brien wouldn’t comment on that but said on Friday: “We’ve used Christophe before plenty times. There’s no doubt he’s a world-class rider and always has been and obviously we’re delighted to use him when he’s available.”

With Ryan Moore on duty at Newmarket, where he will try to supply O’Brien with a record-equalling eighth victory in the Darley Dewhurst Stakes aboard Aesop’s Fables, Soumillon is trying to make the most of his new availability status.

Favourite for the race is the Arlington Million winner Santin, while Smooth Like Strait, runner up in that Million, also takes his chance.

Wise Dan a decade ago was the last horse to win Saturday’s race and then double-up in the Breeders’ Cup Mile. The 2020 winner Ivar is also in the line-up.

Soumillon misses out on Saturday’s action at Chantilly but Irish trainer Kieran Cotter will be there hoping to secure Group Two success for his two-year-old filly Matilda Picotte.

Third in York’s Lowther Stakes last time out, the Irish hope lines up in the six-furlong Criterium De Maisons-Laffitte off at 1.15. Arc winning rider Cristian Demuro has been engaged by Cotter for the ride.

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor is the racing correspondent of The Irish Times. He also writes the Tipping Point column