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Racing: Carla's failure stuns Cecil

It was the sort of finish which every Classic deserves as Dance Design inched past Shamadara in the desperate final strides of the Irish Oaks at the Curragh yesterday, but as the judge called for a photograph to determine the winner, many gazes turned to the filly who was out of the picture entirely. Lady Carla, who won the Oaks at Epsom last month by nine lengths, started the 1-2 favourite yesterday, but was a lifeless, beaten horse with more than a furlong still to run.

Lady Carla's defeat, the first of her four-race career, deposited a fistful of spice into a dispute which had been bubbling since Saturday morning between Henry Cecil, the filly's trainer, and John McCririck, Channel 4's garish betting pundit. During the station's preview slot, The Morning Line, McCririck claimed that his "spies" in Newmarket had told him that the Oaks winner had been examined by a vet in connection with a wind problem, and that the Irish Oaks would be her last race.

In the face of fierce denials by Cecil, and the threat of legal action on behalf of Wafic Said, Lady Carla's owner, McCririck retracted his comments, but any possibility that the spat might be forgotten disappeared with a little over a furlong to run yesterday. Lady Carla had led throughout, but as they turned for home Shamadara and Dance Design, whose run was timed to typical perfection by Michael Kinane, were clearly going far better. Shamadara quickened ahead at the distance, but Kinane had the situation in hand and produced Dance Design 150 yards out to win by a short-head.

For Dermot Weld, Dance Design's trainer, the win completed a rare double in the Irish middle-distance Classics, initiated by his success with Zagreb in the Irish Derby two weeks ago. It was also the first time for 12 years that the prize had remained at home. "She will have a nice break before the autumn," Weld said. "She will probably run in the Prix Vermeille, and could stay in training next year."

Despite Lady Carla's unexpected defeat, Cecil insisted that her preparation had been ideal. "You don't run them in a race of this kind unless you are 100 per cent happy," he said. "She was very well beforehand but didn't pick up and kept changing her legs."

Pat Eddery, the favourite's jockey, said that "I realised I was in trouble at the three-furlong pole when I could not get away from the others. When I put my foot to the floor she didn't quicken and for some reason was not the same filly as when she won so well at Epsom."

How those who staked thick rolls of notes at 1-2 must wish that Lady Carla could match the consistency of Cigar. The best horse in the world won his 16th consecutive race at Arlington on Saturday night to equal the modern American record held by Citation, and will probably attempt to go one better in the Pacific Classic at Del Mar in California on 10 August.

"Cigar had to work a little today but once he gets eyeball-to-eyeball he pretty much takes over," Jerry Bailey, his jockey, said. "I'm not an emotional guy, but it makes me want to cry when I ride this horse."