Racing: Alexandrova Oaks win sets up clash with Ouija Board
Thursday 24 August 2006
With the punters clinging to the shiprail, the swell plunging sickeningly beneath them, suddenly everything rolled back onto an even keel.
They had just seen the fancied Glistening mugged on the line by a 100-1 shot in the Totesport Ebor, and odds of just 4-9 about Alexandrova in the very next race must have exposed her supporters to nauseous anxiety. They cannot have been especially relaxed, halfway through the Darley Yorkshire Oaks, to see her ridden with such epic sang-froid by Michael Kinane. Turning in she was still detached from the field and Short Skirt, who beat her here in the spring, had already set sail for home.
But she cut through the field with total serenity, like a mermaid on the prow, and coasted three and a half lengths clear. In the process she restored bearings not only on her place among her own contemporaries, but also on the notion that Ouija Board and Alexander Goldrun - who tangled so memorably at Goodwood - could conceivably share certain superiority over such an exceptional filly.
Alexandrova has now won three consecutive Group One prizes on the bridle and is plainly qualified to meet the colts whenever her owners see fit. Unfortunately, they already have the favourite for the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe in Hurricane Run, and that would seem to condemn Aidan O'Brien to saddling her in the Prix de l'Opera instead.
But she is likely to stay in training next year, and in the mean time there remains the bewitching possibility that she could meet Ouija Board and Gorella in the Filly & Mare Turf, shaping up as one of the best races at the Breeders' Cup. "She gets there very easily, but once there she does tend to laze a bit," O'Brien said. "When she was beaten here in May, she cut them down and found herself in front very quickly, so we learned a lot about her that day. But she has unbelievable class."
Kinane will again hope to profit from Kieren Fallon's suspension from British racecourses when he partners George Washington for the stable at Goodwood on Sunday. This was a ride of rare swagger, but it was not the best of the afternoon, Jimmy Fortune having used finesse and force in equal measure to get Conquest home in the Scottish Equitable Gimcrack Stakes.
This colt has blazing speed, but he also seems to have a wandering mind, and Fortune kept him entertained, restraining him behind horses before choosing a congested path through the small field. Once in the clear he did not permit the colt to flinch, driving him out by three-quarters of a length from Wi Dud. This was a perfect 46th birthday present for his trainer, William Haggas, that patriotic Yorkshireman in exile, who will probably aim Conquest at the Middle Park Stakes next.
As for the Ebor, only those who backed Glistening could resent the success of Mudawin, one of just 10 horses in the care of Jane Chapple-Hyam. This was the fourth winner of her first season, and if it seemed a remote prospect beforehand, it did not seem any less likely for much of the straight, but his sustained finish under John Egan just sufficed to collar Glistening. Chapple-Hyam would love to take Mudawin to her homeland. "I was tempted by the Melbourne Cup but lately his form hadn't been good enough to enter this time round," she said. "We've always thought a lot of him and I thought he was a crazy price. It's difficult, with a small string, it's a case of getting wins on the board and hopefully this kind of thing gets you noticed."
Certainly nobody can have failed to spot that overnight sensation, Tim Pitt, who added another Listed prize to his dizzy haul when Not For Me completed a double for Egan in the Julia Graves Roses Stakes.
Nap: Able King
NB: Pride Of Nation
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