Racing: Islington leads the Euro stars

Furious finish brings repeat win for High Chaparral in thrilling dead heat as Krone blazes trail for women
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The Independent Online

The monopoly that has excluded British and Irish runners from the winners' circle at Breeders' Cups in California was finally broken yesterday, and it all began, appropriately enough, with the angel that is Islington.

The monopoly that has excluded British and Irish runners from the winners' circle at Breeders' Cups in California was finally broken yesterday, and it all began, appropriately enough, with the angel that is Islington.

High Chaparral, for Ireland, later retained his Turf title when he tied over the line with Johar, the first Breeders' Cup dead-heat in the extreme heat of east Los Angeles. The temperature achieved 100F but British and Irish horses no longer need to make excuses about the furnace. They do not need to make excuses about anything. Now they have made it.

Islington, by just over an hour, emerged as the first to break the chains. Sir Michael Stoute's filly took the Filly and Mare Turf segment of the 20th running of racing's annual world championships. "With the exception of the French, the Europeans have not really performed very well in California," the trainer said, "so it's nice that we're finally learning how to do it."

Islington's performance was much more than nice. It was an exhibition of what quality allied to forcefulness can achieve. It was no cakewalk for the four-year-old on the Bermuda grass, but when Islington was presented with a winning opportunity she gathered it relentlessly. The focal point was at the top of the stretch. That was when both she and Kieren Fallon decided to do the business.

The Americans hold limited affection for Fallon's crashing style, but once he produced his partner to challenge those who were on Islington knew there was no man, at this racecourse or any other, more capable of getting her home. The filly got the idea pretty quickly as well. It was not pretty, particularly in comparison with Edgar Prado's tight style on the runner-up, L'Ancresse. But they will not mention that in the form book. Instead they will detail the winner.

L'Ancresse was followed home by her Ballydoyle stablemate, Yesterday, to make it a clean sweep for Europe. Fallon admitted later that he himself had been expecting a cleaner kill, that the runner-up had proved an annoying limpet at his side. "I was surprised because I thought I had by far the best filly in the race," he said. "She's one of the best fillies I've ever ridden. She's much better than the second and I was surprised it took me so long to get by her. But, it's been warm and a long season so she's done very well."

It was a white-hot finish to the Turf, in which the powerful trident of High Chaparral, Sulamani and Falbrav arrived to do battle for the Europeans. The last-named was eager to get on with things and it may have been an enthusiasm which damaged him at the other end of the contest. Darryll Holland pushed on Falbrav at the top of the stretch and, for a persuasive moment, he thought the jewels were his. "When I kicked him in the belly on the turn he just exploded in my hands," the jockey said. "I didn't think anything could pass me."

The trouble with rockets, though, is that they can extinguish quickly. In the last 20 yards, Falbrav faltered and the merciless took advantage. First High Chaparral swept by and then Johar emerged at the last to force a dead-heat. Kinane was initially told he had won, but after cantering back up the straight he realised matters were still alive. "That's when I started to get a bit tentative," he said. "It was very tough opposition, but when it got down to stamina I knew my fellow would get the upper hand. You have to drag it out of him sometimes, but he always has something to offer."

Like chic and cuisine, the French had seemed to do the Breeders' Cup in California so much better than the British. Six Perfections' victory in the Mile was the sixth Gallic victory in six rotations in the state. It all seemed so numerically predictable.

Less pleasantly reliable was the fortune of British and Irish horses on the west coast. The rank capitulation in the Mile of both Oasis Dream and Refuse To Bend, who finished 10th and 11th respectively, was further refuse on the stinking mound the shippers seem to leave here. Before Islington and the High Chaparral that is. Oasis Dream's high draw obliged Richard Hughes to make a popping start, but that mission accomplished, the jockey found returning the cork into a fizzing bottle slightly more problematic. Oasis Dream gobbled up his energy far too early.

There was another Breeders' Cup landmark when Halfbridled in the Juvenile Fillies enabled Julie Krone to become the first woman in the 20-year history of the series to return home a winner. The partnership had been saddled with a discriminatory draw on the wide outside, but minimised the effect by angling over from the start. "She finessed her way round that first bend like an ice-skater," Richard Mandella, the winning trainer, the winning trainer of four horses on the big card, said of Krone.

It was an unusual observation as fires blazed on the hillsides around Los Angeles. The temperature was the burning matter because at Breeders' Cup XX British and Irish runners finally proved they can stand the heat in California.