Racing: Attraction unable to resist Soviet's power

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The Independent Online

The most compelling filly in training ran into defeat for the first time in nine starts here yesterday as she ran into an older horse for the first time. Soviet Song was the winner of the Falmouth Stakes and she proved fatal for Attraction.

The most compelling filly in training ran into defeat for the first time in nine starts here yesterday as she ran into an older horse for the first time. Soviet Song was the winner of the Falmouth Stakes and she proved fatal for Attraction.

The measure of Attraction's impact on Flat racing these last two seasons could be measured by the crowd. Over 12,800 racegoers gathered under the sun, a record opening day crowd for the July meeting, up almost 30 per cent on last year. They witnessed a devastating performance, but not from the filly they imagined.

In truth, it did not require a magnifying glass to find the clues to Soviet Song's success. You could stumble over them like boulders. The course-and-distance winner was second only to Russian Rhythm among the miling fillies last season and she was dispatched yesterday by the local yard of James Fanshawe which sent six horses to Royal Ascot and saw all of them finish in the first three.

Soviet Song was one of them, beaten only a whisker in the Queen Anne Stakes by Refuse To Bend, the subsequent Eclipse Stakes winner. Afterwards it seemed so obvious, but then, when you are in love, you see nothing else.

The worshippers gathered six deep by the paddock, like adoring figures under the Peron balcony. The committee-designed Attraction is no thing of beauty, but she impressed all the same with her sheer bulk and majestic calm.

Soviet Song, on the other hand, was running like a burn with anticipation. Sweat seeped out from under her saddle-cloth as she was escorted by attendants on either side.

Just as in last year's Cherry Hinton Stakes, Attraction made a puzzlingly slow departure from the gate. Kevin Darley soon had her wonky, long limbs unravelled though and the odds-on favourite was sent to the fore. She was apparently not tanking along, a visual impression which would later be questioned by the clock.

Soviet Song was plumb last of the seven runners, going well, but apparently taking a chance with Attraction in the lead. Two furlongs out she was still in front and, as usual, had left several gasping in behind. But not all. An asp was coming to visit the Queen.

Soviet Song joined battle about a furlong and a half out and then, rather shockingly, left Attraction behind. She crossed the line two and a half lengths to the good, in a time of 1min 36.11sec, the second fastest ever recorded down Newmarket's Bunbury Mile.

No recrimination was visited on Fanshawe. Quite the opposite. Training a winner for the 15,000 members of the Elite Racing Club, Soviet Song's owners, means never having to say sorry. But the Pegasus Stables trainer recognised he had put a little legend on the floor.

"It's a pity to spoil the Attraction party as she's achieved an awful lot," Fanshawe said. "I really do feel bad, but I'm glad it's me and not someone else."

It was, in fact, a tactical triumph for the trainer and jockey, Johnny Murtagh, who was riding his first winner on the July course. They had the nerve to devise a plan which meant sitting a long way off Attraction.

"We really felt we must hold her up because there would be plenty of people trying to rev up Attraction, sit on her tail so she wouldn't get away," Fanshawe said. "The trouble with Attraction's style is that she is always there to be shot down. There were plenty of people looking to hunt her today. But I didn't want to be the chaser. We let the others do the donkey work."

Murtagh added: "I dropped her in and followed Kieren [Fallon on Favourable Terms] all the way. You have to ride a horse to its strengths and the strength today was going to come if I dropped her in, got her to relax and then used her turn of foot.

"I hit the front a furlong and a half out and Kevin came at me for a bit. For half a furlong she hung with me, but my horse is a really special filly. I'm glad she's done it like that because she's silenced all those who said she wasn't a winner."

Johnston was fussing around his filly on her return, perhaps looking for a physical explanation for defeat. There was none apparent. Like many others, he could not believe.

"No unbeaten run can go on for ever, but it is disappointing, particularly in view of Attraction's style of racing," the Middleham trainer said. "She has done it all so easy and never had to battle, but Soviet Song attacked us wide and she was travelling faster then we were throughout the last two furlongs. Time will tell whether we were below par.

"It is a shame that the winning run is over, but we have been trying to prepare ourselves for this day for a long time now."

Team Johnston may have been alert, but, for the Newmarket throng, there was no readiness for the breaking of racing's most recent glorious spell.