Pearl in another polished display

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The Independent Online
Ridgewood Pearl slipped straight out of the hammock on to the podium summit to suggest she might be the best miler in Europe at Longchamp yesterday. John Oxx's filly, who had been on the daiquiris since leading home Smolensk in the Coronation Stakes at Royal Ascot 11 weeks ago, destroyed a well- qualified field in the Prix de Moulin.

Irish racing has been through such a long-rope search for a new well of excellence that many have thought that proper thoroughbreds would never emerge again from the Emerald Isle. It now seems that others may be green about Ridgewood Pearl.

The filly has now captured three Group One events in succession and for the disbelievers there is likely to be further evidence of her prowess in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes at Ascot. Royalty applauds royalty at that venue.

Before yesterday's appointment in Paris Oxx had been worried. This is not an emotion alien to Irish trainers as Dermot Weld, the land's greatest authority, would not back his sleekest inmate against a tortoise. The Currabeg trainer reported that his filly might need the race, neglecting to mention that she might need more swift company during the action proper. Oxx's pessimism had not seeped out to the turfistes however and his representative was sent off at a pocket-emptying 13-10 on the Pari-mutuel.

The cigars in the big mouths of the big men did not tremble for very long. Ridgewood Pearl took the running up a furlong out and then held Elie Lellouche's Shaanxi by three quarters of a length.

Missed Flight, from the gloriously understated yard of Chris Wall in Newmarket finished third, while Sayyedati, from the stable of the gloriously pleasant Clive Brittain, was fourth. Darnay was last.

The winner was partnered by John Murtagh, who spent the winter stirring up the sands to become one of the leading jockeys in Dubai. He steered his mount through convenient passages which befits a man who has found a rewarding passage for himself in the United Arab Emirates.

Oxx himself, who also has the patronage of a man rather wealthier than the tube stop chap with a puppy and a cardboard entreaty, the Aga Khan, said: "It was her biggest test. It was nice to see that she could beat the colts and the older horses.''

Before Saturday, Lake Coniston was meant to be a colt who could take on the world, but the Haydock Sprint Cup saw a tame performance behind Cherokee Rose. The 1-3 favourite could fare no better than fourth.

At yesterday morning's inspection, Geoff Lewis, the colt's trainer, would have been happy to find signs of something seriously debilitating. However, he could not find even dandruff. "It is all very disappointing and baffling, but there are a lot of people worse off," the Epsom trainer told us philosophically.

"He has come back from the race and looks great in his box this morning. We will blood test him on Tuesday or Wednesday to see whether that throws anything up, but he does seem fine at the moment.''

Lewis added: ''It's easy to be wise after the event but I've never subscribed to the theory that he's a soft-ground horse."

The Prix de l'Abbaye on Arc day is now being ruled out for Lake Coniston but the Breeders' Cup Sprint, much to the joy of the press corps seeking a peg on which to hang their journey, remains a possibility.

PRIX DU MOULIN (1m, Longchamp; winner pounds 107,784.): 1. RIDGEWOOD PEARL (J Murtagh); 2. Shaanxi (D Boeuf); 3. Missed Flight (G Duffield). 8 ran. 3/4, 3/4. (Trained in Ireland by John Oxx for Anne Coughlan). Pari-Mutuel (1 franc stake): win 2.30; places 1.30, 2.40, 1.90. Dual Forecast 17.30.

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