Racing: Aga turns heat up for Ascot assault

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The Independent Online
THE TEAM behind Sendawar, the favourite for tomorrow's St James's Palace Stakes, started the week in perfect style when winning the Prix de Diane (French Oaks) at Chantilly yesterday with Daryaba. For her jockey, Gerald Mosse, it was a fifth win in the Diane, while her trainer, Alain de Royer Dupre, and owner, the Aga Khan, were recording their third consecutive success in the Classic.

The British challengers never threatened to emulate the win of the Henry Cecil-trained, Kieren Fallon-ridden Capri in the Grand Prix de Chantilly earlier in the day. Godolphin's Calando finished eighth, John Dunlop's Nasheed was 10th and John Gosden's Apple Of Kent last of the 13 runners

The Aga and Royer Dupre have been markedly less successful in the St James's Palace Stakes, twice supplying favourites in Daylami and Ashkalani who had earned their position by winning the French 2,000 Guineas and twice returning home emptyhanded.

Also heading for a Royal Ascot treble - a rather more enviable one - is Selhurstpark Flyer who attempts a unique hat-trick in the Wokingham Handicap on Friday. The eight-year-old was the first horse in 65 years to achieve back-to-back victories in the race.

Jack Berry yesterday reported the gelding in "good heart" despite finishing down the field at Epsom last week. Selhurstpark Flyer raced alone down the far side, once the horses hit the straight, under Paul Bradley who will be in the saddle again on Friday. "I told Paul if he was in front at Tattenham Corner to stick to the rails," Berry said. "All the others came down the stands side, so we had no chance. But at least we didn't get an 8lb penalty for winning like last year."

Darryll Holland, banned from riding for 31 days, makes his comeback at Royal Ascot on Wednesday. Holland has two mounts booked for that day - Consort for Amanda Perrett in the Royal Hunt Cup, and Let It Rain for Mark Johnston in the Duke of Edinburgh Stakes (formerly Bessborough Handicap).

On Thursday, Holland teams up with Spirit Of Love for Johnston in the Gold Cup and Barry Hills's Oceans Friendly in the Ribblesdale Stakes. Holland is likely to be in the saddle on several other Johnston-trained horses at the meeting.

The jockey was found guilty of careless riding at York last month and this triggered an extended suspension. Spirit Of Love looks his best chance of a winner at the Royal meeting, but there is optimism in Pulborough, West Sussex, over the chance of Consort.

Consort has never won at Ascot, but is something of a specialist at the Berkshire track, having frequently been placed in big handicaps there. ``He loves a flat-out gallop in a big field on a straight track,'' Perrett said yesterday. Now aged six, Consort has been unplaced in his two runs so far this season, but his trainer insists he retains his ability. ``He was unlucky in the Victoria Cup at Ascot on his first run. He's been working well.'' The Perrett stable had been in the doldrums until regaining form in recent weeks. Consort, best on good ground or faster, is handicapped 2lb above his Cambridgeshire second last year.

Perrett also runs Indian Lodge, one of the favourites for tomorrow's Britannia Handicap. This colt has won both his races this year cosily. Michael Roberts, his regular jockey, again has the mount.

The Ascot track was watered yesterday. Nick Cheyne, clerk of the course, said: "The course is drying out a bit and I've given the going as good to firm. The forecast is for dry weather up to Wednesday with temperatures increasing. There is a possibility of showers late Wednesday to Thursday."

Prix de Diane

1. DARYABA (G Mosse); 2. Star Of Akka; 3. Visionnaire. 14 ran. 1, 11/2. (A de Royer-Dupre). Pari-Mutuel (includes a one-franc stake): Win 6.80; places 2.80, 2.50, 4.20. Dual Forecast: 20.00.

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