Racing: Passage Of Time returns for Oaks test

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The Independent Online

Kipling was referring to she-bears in the Himalayas when he first made his remark about the relative potency of the sexes 97 years ago. But it may be that this season the females of the equine species are deadlier than the males. Certainly, they have attracted more publicity and plaudits; the 1,000 Guineas heroine Finsceal Beo has been judged better, at this stage, than her colt counterpart Cockney Rebel.

Her agonisingly narrow defeat in Paris on Sunday notwithstanding, her's was one of the best 1,000 Guineas-winning performances in recent years. The official handicappers awarded it a mark of 120, the same as Cockney Rebel's in the 2,000 Guineas the previous day.

"On paper the colt and the filly are the same horse," said the British Horseracing Board's Flat ratings chief Dominic Gardiner-Hill. "I discussed it with Garry [O'Gorman, his Irish equivalent] and we agreed that had Finsceal Beo run in the 2,000 Guineas with her sex allowance, she might well have won it."

The handicappers have yet to analyse the result of the Poule d'Essai des Pouliches, in which Jim Bolger's charge was caught on the line by Darjina, but her Newmarket victory was rated the best since Cape Verdi's romp in 1998, after which she started favourite for the Derby. Sleepytime (1997) and Sayyedati (1993) also achieved 120 on the Rowley Mile. But the 1,000 Guineas is only a starting point; the winner who proved the best of the lot in the past 20 years, Bosra Sham, came out of her Classic on 117 and finished her career rated 131.

Another potentially superior filly is poised to make her seasonal debut at York tomorrow. Passage Of Time, long-time favourite for the Oaks, steps out in public for the first time as a three-year-old in the Musidora Stakes, easily the best trial for the Epsom showpiece.

Though she was the subject of a recent scare over a sore throat, Passage Of Time has much to recommend her as a top prospect. In her final race as a juvenile she brought the Group One glory days back to Warren Place by winning the Criterium de Saint-Cloud, and beating colts in the process. And her immediate pursuer Soldier Of Fortune did not exactly degrade the form when winning a Derby trial in France, the Prix Noailles, and one here, last week's Chester Vase. Passage Of Time will have just four rivals on the Knavesmire tomorrow in a contest her trainer Henry Cecil knows full well how to win. And three of his previous seven winners, Diminuendo, Snow Bride and Reams Of Verse 10 years ago, went on to put their names on the Oaks roll of honour. The Musidora Stakes has produced six Oaks winners, most recently Alexandrova last year after she finished only second at York.

The first top-level mile contest for older horses, the Lockinge Stakes, takes place at Newbury on Saturday with last year's winner Peeress early joint-favourite to become the fourth back-to-back winner. Given that the Cheveley Park colourbearer is a five-year-old mare, and girl power is also set to be represented by Nannina and Red Evie, it could be that Rudyard does indeed have a point.

Rewinding to the jump season recently ended, yesterday was the day when gongs were handed out at a gathering of the winter clans in London and, not surprisingly, Kauto Star more or less swept the board. The seven-year-old, owned by Clive Smith and trained by Paul Nicholls, claimed no less than four Oscars, including the coveted Horse of the Year title. He was also also crowned champion two-mile, two-and-a-half-mile and three-mile plus chaser.

The British Horseracing Board chairman Paul Roy said: "To be top-rated in every distance category is an outstanding achievement, and he was a unanimous choice as horse of the year."

Mighty Man was named champion staying hurdler for the second successive season, while Hardy Eustace and Sublimity were joint champion two-mile hurdlers.

* An appeal by Jamie Spencer against a two-day ban he picked up at Ascot on Saturday will be held on Thursday. If the jockey, currently leading the championship race, does not overturn the suspension it will be added to one of 10 days issued by the French stewards over his riding of fourth-placed Excellent Art in the French 2,000 Guineas on Sunday and he faces missing the Derby meeting at Epsom.

* Today's Newton Abbot meeting was abandoned yesterday due to false patches of ground.

Chris McGrath

Nap: Megalo Maniac (Southwell 5.00)

NB: Luckylover (Southwell 3.00)