Racing: Achilles lays low Siege

ASCOT HAD the class in the shape of a pounds 52,000 Listed race yesterday, but there was no doubt that a York handicap was the race of the day, and not just for its pounds 70,750 first prize. The John Smith's Cup - still popularly known as the Magnet Cup - is the oldest sponsored Flat race in the calendar, with a long history of competitive racing, and yesterday's 40th renewal took place in front of a huge, sun-baked crowd.

They witnessed what came down to a tremendous head-to-head fight between the 25-1 winner Achilles and the 6-1 chance Siege. These two had the race to themselves from more than two furlongs out after a furious early pace had found out most of the 15-strong field, Mirjan having refused to go into the stalls. Siege, trained by Sir Michael Stoute, edged in front at first, but Achilles, driven on by Jason Weaver, got his head back in front as the finishing post loomed to record a famous win for his young trainer Karl Burke.

To add to the race's drama, an objection was lodged by the connections of Siege on the grounds that Weaver's whip had caught Gary Stevens' horse on the head. A stewards' inquiry was also called, leaving the few winning punters to sweat out a long wait, before it was announced that the objection had failed and that Achilles would keep the prize.

Killer Instinct, the 15-8 favourite, once also market leader for this year's 2,000 Guineas, was always struggling to go the pace, and finished a staying-on fifth, all excuses for him now spent. A Group horse in a handicap, Killer Instinct looked like an aristocrat sent to work in a coalmine, and simply was not up to the job. He thereby ended his British career in ignominy and will now race in America, having lost punters fortunes in his various races. His trainer, Henry Cecil, had a day further darkened by the death of Lord Howard de Walden, one of his most loyal patrons.

Earlier, York's legion of punters had been treated to an equally thrilling finish in the Foster's Silver Cup when Rainbow Ways, the 4-1 favourite, having been boxed in on the rail, stormed on from the furlong pole to collar Banbury - later found to have gone lame - in the shadow of the post.

Ascot's feature, the Michael Page International Silver Trophy, had some of the shine taken off it when Pythios, a winner for Cecil at Royal Ascot, was withdrawn in the morning after pulling a racing-plate off in exercise. In his absence, Showboat, the runaway Royal Hunt Cup winner vied for favouritism with another course-and-distance winner Sugarfoot, the bookmakers sending them off as joint-favourites at 9-4.

Although both horses were in contention after Haami had led the six-runner field into the straight, all three were swamped by the late arrival on the outside of Richard Hannon's promising three-year-old colt Wallace, completing a double for the jockey Richard Hughes. Wallace had finished fast into third place behind Lear Spear in the Diomed Stakes at Epsom on Derby Day.

There were fewer blind-spots for one of the biggest punter-owners in racing, Michael Tabor, who has recently seen Montjeu and Stravinsky add to his considerable wealth. Kingsclere, a Tabor two-year-old in training with Ian Balding, won his second race in succession when galloping clear of his four rivals under Kieren Fallon in the 2.30 over seven furlongs at York. Although this was only a Class B contest, Kingsclere has several Group One entries later in the season, and the fact that Fairy King, his sire, was also responsible for Oath, this year's Derby winner, may have the ante-post markets for next year's Classics paying attention sooner rather than later. "He's a lovely mover," said his trainer afterwards.

Ominously for the bookmakers, one of the easiest winners of the day was Prince Alex in the first race at Ascot, for today at a packed Haydock Park Sir Alex - Ferguson, that is - will host a charity racing day accompanied by most of his team. The anxious layers will no doubt be on full alert for winning trebles.

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