Racing: Peeress proves it pays to be top drawer

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The Independent Online

The wide, rain-soaked track provided anything but a level playing field; only the trio who raced near the far-side rail were ever in contention and in the end Peeress beat Summitville and Musicanna, for all practical purposes her sole rivals, fairly comfortably.

The 7-1 half-length winner was, as far as the market was concerned, the third string from Sir Michael Stoute's stable, but she was not winning out of turn and her route up the ladder this season had been carefully plotted: a Listed win, then placings, successively, in Group Three, Two and One races. Her previous appearance had been when she finished third to the top-class pair Soviet Song and Alexander Goldrun, who runs at Longchamp today, in the Falmouth Stakes in July.

Her fellow Cheveley Park Stud colourbearer Chic had started 9-4 favourite on the strength of her unlucky narrow defeat by Attraction in last month's Matron Stakes at the Curragh, but could manage only fifth. "This was always the target for Peeress," said Chris Richardson, the Newmarket nursery's manager, "and we had her freshened up nicely for it. It might have been compensation for Chic, but her main target had been the Irish race."

Peeress, a four-year-old daughter of Pivotal, was ridden by Kevin Darley, who had beaten Chic on Attraction in Ireland and here 12 months previously, but who revealed no Einsteinian master-plan. "She was keen from the gate and I wanted a lead," he said. "The only one in front of me was Summitville so I followed her. Mine handles the ground and once I asked her to go she lengthened and kept up the gallop really well."

It was a sad sight to see this year's 1,000 Guineas winner Virginia Waters trail in last at the scene of her finest moment. But her trainer Aidan O'Brien keeps the production line going and yesterday pulled out another queen to add to his already impressive Classic hand when Race For The Stars took the seven-furlong Listed contest.

Kieren Fallon gave the elegant Fusaichi Pegasus filly a gem of a ride, allowing her to find her balance and rhythm after a slow start and keeping her covered until inside the last half-furlong, when he popped her through a gap to beat Scottish Stage by half-a-length with her ears pricked. The runner-up, also sluggish at the start, had been asked to begin her run for home much earlier by Jamie Spencer and had no answer to Race For The Stars' late pounce.

O'Brien already has the 1,000 Guineas favourite in today's Longchamp contender Rumplestiltskin and brought Race To The Stars, a half-sister to Hawk Wing, here with the express purpose of testing her on the Classic course. Her performance may not have cut much ice with the bookmakers - 33-1 is still available - but it made her connections happy. "Kieren said she handled the downhill run really well," said O'Brien, "and she'll be better on faster ground. She's just a lovely filly."

The draw bias was once again obvious in the feature handicap, the Cambridgeshire, in which the first four home raced from high-numbered stalls on the far side of the track. And after last year's 100-1 shocker, Spanish Don, the punters had the best of it this time as the 5-1 favourite Blue Monday hit the front a furlong out under Steve Drowne and drew clear to beat the 16-1 shot Evaluator two and a half lengths. My Paris (33-1) and Crosspeace (17-2) came next, with Ace Of Hearts (66-1) winning the race on the stands side in fifth.

It was an action replay for Blue Monday's trainer Roger Charlton and owner Martin Myers, who took the historic handicap in 1995 with Cap Juluca. "One every 10 years will do me fine," said Myers.

At Longchamp, there was a Group One strike for the British raiders as Court Masterpiece, trained by Ed Dunlop, took the Prix de la Foret. Gerald Mosse produced the five-year-old to beat Caradak and Mirabilis in the last stride.