Racing: Sly's filly sounds fanfare for the common people

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The Independent Online

The Turf often yields a rich harvest for cynics but here was a result to set their barns ablaze. Even the trainer of the runner-up, himself saddling his first runner in a British Classic, was heartfelt as he joined the joyous applause. "I've been beaten by a better horse and a nicer trainer," Sir Mark Prescott said. "It's a great result for racing. It gives everyone a bit of hope." His filly, Confidential Lady, had been beaten two and a half lengths in the Stan James 1,000 Guineas by "the monster from the Fens", Speciosa.

Pam Sly had surpassed her most audacious hopes in winning the Nell Gwyn Stakes last month, but here Speciosa extinguished any remaining doubt over their mutual eligibility at this level. The filly was soon in front, and though she again drifted over to the stands' rail, she never looked like being caught.

Though the downpour had finally abated, clouds were still hanging heavily overhead and the turf squelched underfoot. Yet suddenly every heart seemed flooded with sunshine. No Classic winner can have been received more warmly on the Rowley Mile.

Sly trains only a dozen Flat horses on her farm near Peterborough but she found a pearl among the swine in Speciosa. She bought the Danehill Dancer filly for just 30,000 guineas at the Doncaster Breeze-Ups last year and sold shares to her son, Michael, and a family friend, Tom Davies. After Speciosa won the Rockfel Stakes last autumn, an American agent offered $1.1m for the filly, and Sly advised her partners to take the money. They declined.

"And now I just don't know when I'm going to wake up," her son said. "I read fairytales to my daughter and this is pure magic. To anybody out there, you can live the dream." Sly had confined her own ambitions to a place in the first four. "I'm overawed," she said. "It's fantastic for racing. It just shows what can happen to a small little band of people like us." She had craved a low draw after watching Speciosa's alarming antics in the Nell Gwyn and certainly stall three made life easier for Michael Fenton, himself enjoying much the biggest success of his career. "I'm not religious but somebody must have been with me," Sly said. "We had such a morning, she spread a plate and there were frantic calls to the farrier."

She has no idea where to go next. She never put her in the Oaks, doubting her stamina, and quailed at the thought of Speciosa hanging across the breadth of the Curragh. "I don't know," she shrugged, before laughing with delight. "I don't know anything!"

Several fillies did not get home in the ground, which had transformed overnight, notably Flashy Wings in 11th, while Kieren Fallon also blamed conditions for the laboured performance of the favourite Rumplestiltskin (seventh).

Prescott is meanwhile likely to take Confidential Lady to Epsom. "She might not stay, but so what?" he said. "After 37 years, I have been given a bit of hope that I might win a Classic too." She is 12-1 with Coral, alongside Riyalma who overcame her inexperience with a purposeful display in the StansPoker Pretty Polly Stakes.

Sir Michael Stoute expects her to improve again. "We weren't surprised by that," the trainer said. "She's by Selkirk, but comes from one of the Aga Khan's staying families, so the extra distance at Epsom shouldn't be a problem."

Stoute's hopes for Hard Top in the Jockey Club Stakes had been dashed by the softened ground, which played right into the hands of Shirocco. Last seen winning the Breeders' Cup Turf, Shirocco will be trained for all the obvious middle distance prizes - starting with the Coronation Cup. His trainer, André Fabre, confirmed that Visindar will test his own Epsom credentials at Saint Cloud next Monday.

Chris McGrath

Nap: Rivetting (Ayr 8.40)

NB: Espresso Forte

(Towcester 2.40)

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