Racing: Cecil hits six as Oaks falls to Ramruma

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The Independent Online
HENRY CECIL'S record in the three British Classics run this season improved to two wins and a second when Ramruma beat Noushkey and Zahrat Dubai, the favourite, to take a sixth Oaks for Warren Place here yesterday. With Cecil's Oath among the favourites for this afternoon's Derby, it could be three Classics out of four by this evening.

Cecil described Ramruma afterwards as a "very feminine" filly, but there was no shortage of aggression in the way her victory was earned. Kieren Fallon sent her to the front with about three furlongs still to run, and invited Frankie Dettori, on Zahrat Dubai, to catch him. Over a furlong out, it was clear that Dettori's filly was going nowhere, and it was Noushkey, a 33-1 outsider, who ran on to finish second, albeit a respectful three lengths behind the winner.

The result was a bitter disappointment for Zahrat Dubai's supporters, who made her a 9-4 chance to repeat her emphatic win in the Musidora Stakes at York three weeks ago. Ramruma, though, was a worthy winner, who is now unbeaten in three races as a three-year-old and will spend the rest of her career doing battle with the best in Group Ones.

"I didn't think we were going very quickly today," Fallon said, "so as I knew she would stay, I thought I would make it a test. When you're in front for that long you always think that something is going to come at you, but thank the Lord they didn't. We still don't know how good she is, and she'll keep on improving."

Fillies will provide her opposition for at least another two races, with the Irish Oaks and Yorkshire Oaks already mapped out by Cecil as obvious targets. The next step after York, though, could be up in trip, for the St Leger at Doncaster in September.

"We're open to everything, and we'll just have to do the best thing for her," Cecil said. "She stays well, she has got class and she has got a bit of speed. We will feel our way and let her tell us where to go, but the St Leger could be a very good race for her, because I think she might be even better in the autumn. She's not very robust, but I think she'll furnish as time goes on."

Noushkey, who finished behind Ramruma in the Lingfield Oaks Trial, never threatened to reverse that form, but may attempt to do so again in the Irish Oaks, depending on the ground. "That's the key to this filly as she likes to get her toe in," Michael Jarvis, her trainer, said. "We could look at the Irish Oaks, but I think she could be a filly for the autumn, especially as the ground will probably be right for her."

No fancy excuses were offered for the performance of Zahrat Dubai. "It is quite simple," Simon Crisford, Godolphin's racing manager, said. "She just did not stay. A mile and a quarter is clearly her limit."

Godolphin came away with nothing from the Oaks, but did manage a Group One victory in the Coronation Cup, with a horse who had previously been thought best over shorter trips. It may be no coincidence, though, that Central Park, the winner's stablemate and the obvious pacesetter in the field, led them through the first mile at a very lacklustre pace.

None the less, Daylami is clearly a horse to consider over both 10 and 12 furlongs this summer. "I went into this race full of confidence in him and was sure that he would get every inch of the trip," Frankie Dettori, his jockey, said. "I was sure I had Royal Anthem [the Cecil-trained favourite] covered from two furlongs out, and once I saw Kieren go for his whip I was sure I would win."

The Eclipse Stakes, which Daylami won last season, is expected to be his next assignment and he is now 7-2 for the race with the sponsor Coral.

The obvious target then will be a return to 12 furlongs in the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot. Coral, who are the only major firm betting on the race, cut Daylami to 7-1 from 12-1, while Royal Anthem, who was making his seasonal debut yesterday, is 5-1 from 4-1.

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