Racing: Eswarah in the mood to cause ripples
Oaks heroine puts best foot forward on Rowley Mile gallops to state her case for inclusion in King George
Sunday 17 July 2005
It takes a special girl to take on the boys in the great all-aged mid-season showpiece, and, notwithstanding Eswarah's authoritative success at Epsom last month, this workout was a make-or-break trial. The Michael Jarvis-trained daughter of Unfuwain had for company only the skylarks above, Richard Hills in the saddle and a few small clusters of interested observers on the ground as she and a stablemate enacted a centuries-old ritual on the timeless turf of the training grounds alongside the Rowley Mile.
After five furlongs of the seven-furlong straight run, Hills' voice shrieking "Faster ... faster" at the lad on the lead horse could be heard echoing across the stillness, above the growing drumbeat of hooves. Then Eswarah, her head, with its white, paint-spatter star, and neck bent like a bow against her rider's restraining hands, could be contained no longer. She burst clear of her galloping companion, giving the finishing incline short shrift, and all the promise of a glorious future was there in her acceleration and stride.
Relatively few fillies have run in the "King George" since its inception in 1951, and only four Oaks winners in their Classic year. The French-trained Pawneese, 29 years ago, was the first to try and the only one to succeed. She was followed by Sun Princess, second in 1983 (ironically beaten only by a year-older Epsom victrix in Time Charter); Oh So Sharp, nosed out by Petoski two years later; and the latest to try, Unite, second-last in 1987.
The final decision about Eswarah's participation at Newbury on Saturday will be left to her owner, Sheikh Hamdan. It would be a bold call to take on older colts like Azamour, Grey Swallow and Bago, but the Maktoum family are no strangers to such a challenge. Hamdan owned Salsabil, winner of an Irish Derby, while Godolphin's colours were carried by Balanchine, who followed in her hoofprints at the Curragh, and Cape Verdi, who ran in the Derby at Epsom seven years ago.
Jarvis fervently hopes the infinitely exciting bay filly, who has raced only thrice in her life, will get the go-ahead. Her alternative Group One engagement is against her own sex in the 10-furlong Nassau Stakes at Goodwood a week later. "I was very happy with what she did today," he said. "She has got such a turn of foot, and is improving almost by the minute." Eswarah was the subject of support for the King George during the week, but 10-1 is still available. Jarvis has made no secret of his desire to take his stable star to the race's temporary new home in Berkshire, and she will be left in the race at tomorrow's penultimate declaration stage. "She won her first two races at Newbury, so we know the track suits her," said Jarvis, "whereas Goodwood is a bit of an unknown. I'd prefer to stick to a mile and a half with her, too. But it will be up to the Sheikh to decide."
If she runs, Eswarah will take over the midsummer mantle of responsibility from fellow Epsom Classic winner Motivator. The Derby hero, beaten in the Eclipse Stakes 15 days ago, will not appear in public again until September. "He is on holiday at the moment," said his trainer, Michael Bell, yesterday, "and will next run in either the Prix Niel, the Irish Champion Stakes or the Newbury trial on the way to the Arc."
Girl power will be in evidence on another sunlit grassy plain today, when 13 fillies line up for the 111th Irish Oaks at the Curragh. Eswarah, a late bloomer who did not run at two, was never entered, but two of last year's best juvenile distaffers, Dash To The Top and Playful Act, are at the head of the market. They missed the Oaks after being slow to blossom this term, but both returned to action with victories.
British raiders have won four of the last six runnings; Dash To The Top, trained by Luca Cumani, and John Gosden's charge Playful Act are joined this afternoon by Thakafaat, from the John Dunlop stable. The other overseas challenger, Alain de Royer-Dupré-trained Shawanda, will be trying to become the first French winner since Lagunette, Pawneese's compatriot, joined in the Gallic annus mirabilis of 1976. The home defence is led by Pictavia, four and a half lengths behind Eswarah when third in the Oaks.
Some collateral form threads in today's big-race tapestry unravelled a little here yesterday, when Asawer, third in Thakafaat's Ribblesdale Stakes, and Shastye, fifth to her stablemate Playful Act in the Lancashire Oaks, could finish only second and last, respectively, to all-the-way winner Polar Jem in the feature Aphrodite Stakes.
At Newbury, Lady Livius did her own little bit for the female of the species with a deadly 100-1 victory in the valuable Weatherbys Super Sprint under Martin Dwyer. In beating another filly, 16-1 chance Nigella and another 100-1 shot Brandywell Boy, she gave her trainer, Richard Hannon, his sixth win in the five-furlong dash. The 2-1 favourite, Titus Alone, finished eighth.
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