Racing: Shawanda swoops into contention for Arc

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The Independent Online

At every stage the white-nose banded bay in the famous green colours could be called the winner, particularly when she rocketed clear a quarter of a mile from home. She had five lengths in hand of runner-up Playful Act at the line, a distance that could have been doubled, according to her rider, Christophe Soumillon. "She was on the bridle all the way," said the Belgian. "And so well balanced. It was just so easy, my easiest Group One winner. If I had been harder on her she could have won by 10 lengths."

From the gate Thakafaat made sure the pace was honest, accompanied in the van by Chelsea Rose and followed by Mona Lisa and Allexina. Shawanda, the 9-2 second favourite, was never worse than fifth. After she cruised past the leaders in the straight and away, Playful Act came through and detached herself from the rest to be easily second-best, two and a half lengths in front of Mona Lisa, with Right Key a whisker away in fourth and the 4-1 favourite Dash To The Top fifth.

In taking the €225,200 (£155,000) prize, Shawanda justified the decision by her connections to miss her shorter local Oaks and supplement her for the 12-furlong test, a distance over which she had already proved herself. Her scintillating victory was some compensation to Soumillon for his replacement by Kieren Fallon on the Irish Derby winner, Hurricane Run, after the colt's sale to the Coolmore set.

The Prix Vermeille and the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, for which she has been cut from 33-1 to 12-1, are next on the agenda for Shawanda. "We considered the [Prix de] Diane, but I thought this big galloping track would suit her," said Royer-Dupré. "She has plenty of class, but I was slightly worried about her travelling over, because she has not been so far way from home before. But she is a very calm filly, which helped her to relax."

The same could not be said of the Luca Cumani-trained Dash To The Top, who had to be led to the start by rider Johnny Murtagh and in the race seemed reluctant to let herself down on the fast ground. John Gosden, though, was pleased with Playful Act. "Two furlongs out we quickened right up and I thought we'd win," he said, "but the winner took three lengths out in a matter of strides. It was probably a very good performance to finish second."

Shawanda was the Aga Khan's second Irish Oaks winner, after Ebadiyla eight years ago, and the first successful French raider since Wemyss Bight in 1993. She continued an excellent season for first-crop sires by notching dual Derby and Arc winner Sinndar's inaugural Group One strike. Her dam, Shamawna, incidentally, has also produced Shamawan, last to finish in this year's Grand National.

The Aga Khan's other Irish Oaks runner, Hazariya, was pulled up on the home turn. Her participation had been borderline after she suffered a stone bruise but thankfully she was unharmed by her exertions. There was some compensation for her John Oxx stable with Caradak's easy defeat of Arakan in the Minstrel Stakes.

Aidan O'Brien has farmed the other of the card's Group Three contests, the Anglesey Stakes, in recent years and even the late withdrawal of his first string, Aussie Rules, with a bruised foot did not prevent the Ballydoyle maestro's continued dominance. Amigoni brought up the five-timer, after Johannesburg, Ontario, One Cool Cat and Oratorio, and the Danehill colt's gutsy half-length defeat of Black Charmer, with Kieren Fallon at his most persuasive, was not only a creditable effort in itself but reflected very well on the perceived superior talent among his stablemates.

Last month Amigoni had finished second to George Washington in the Railway Stakes, and Mark Johnston-trained Black Charmer had run third to Ivan Denisovich in the British equivalent, the July Stakes. The winner's effort earned him a trip to Goodwood next week for the Richmond Stakes. "We'll keep him going," said O'Brien. "He's a tough horse and racing is improving him."

In the seven-furlong maiden the well-regarded O'Brien newcomer Hitchcock missed out on the placings by inches. But even when his connections lose, they win. In first place was Heliostatic, from the Jim Bolger yard, who had chased home another of the famously named rising young Ballydoyle stars, Horatio Nelson, on his debut and who had the distinction of being the first winner sired by one of the great white stallion hopes at Coolmore, Galileo.

Richard Edmondson

Nap: Judd Street (Windsor 7.55)

NB: Vicious Warrior

(Ayr 3.45)