Racing: Fallon's day in the field of Reams

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As anyone who has just backed a winning outsider will tell you, horses have no idea of their starting price, and neither, as Reams Of Verse ably demonstrated in the Oaks here yesterday, do they take much notice of their family tree. Before the race, there were many doubts about whether the filly's stamina would stretch to 12 gruelling furlongs around Epsom Downs, but one irresistible surge well inside the final furlong carried Reams Of Verse past Gazelle Royale and into the front rank of middle-distance runners in the latest Classic generation.

That she did so was thanks mainly to the assurance under pressure of Kieren Fallon, her jockey, who was clearly going best of all as they swung through Tattenham Corner, but found his most obvious route to the front blocked by, ironically, Michael Kinane and Reams Of Verse's stablemate, Yashmak, with two furlongs to run. Fallon kept his mount balanced and running - which is not easy on the giddy camber of Epsom's home straight - before pulling wide of Gazelle Royale and finding the last, crucial effort which gave Henry Cecil his fifth Oaks winner in the last 13 years.

This, of course, was the Classic winner which Fallon had not expected to be riding, following a 10-day riding ban imposed by stewards in Italy which, fortunately, he persuaded them to defer until after Royal Ascot. All in all, things could hardly be going better for the Irishman, who has now won two of the three English Classics run so far this season, and who will attempt to make it three out of four on Symonds Inn, a 20- 1 chance, in the Derby this afternoon.

"Funnily enough, I didn't worry about finding trouble," Fallon said. "She has a very quick turn of foot and, more than anything, it helped me, otherwise I probably would have kicked sooner than I wanted. It turned out well."

Cecil's recent strike-rate in the Oaks may be better than one in three, but for Khalid Abdullah, Reams Of Verse's owner, this was a first success in the race. Abdullah, who has now won four of the five English Classics, is clearly a slightly difficult man to please, since his first comment to the trainer after yesterday's race was "now I want to win the 1,000 Guineas". As long as he keeps sending horses to Warren Place, it is, you suspect, simply a matter of time.

Cecil, for one, is taking the request seriously: "She has to rate very highly among my other Oaks winners. She didn't get a very good run but she got out of trouble and won very well in the end. The Prince has always said he would love to win the Oaks, but having won, he turned to me and said he'd never won the 1,000 Guineas so we are back where we started."

Reams Of Verse's victory capped an excellent start for the punters on one of the most important weekends of the season, and there was earlier encouragement for those who will play up their winnings on Entrepreneur this afternoon when Michael Stoute, his trainer, took the Coronation Cup with Singspiel.

Though he has spent much of his recent career racing abroad, Singspiel has done so with such conspicuous success that he is a firm favourite with British racegoers. He was applauded all the way from the two-furlong pole as he galloped away from Dushyantor to record his first Group One success on home soil, and improve his position as the leading money-earner in European racing history still further.

"Racing needs heroes and champions and he's a champion," Frankie Dettori, his jockey, said. "It's very exciting to ride a horse like that, it gives me goose-pimples every time."

Sheikh Mohammed, Sings- piel's owner, has now seen his colours led into the Epsom winner's enclosure after eight Group One races, but the Derby, the one he covets above all, continues to elude him. If the oversight annoys him, he hides it well, however, and Singspiel is clearly a particular favourite. "He has an Arabic look about his face, and he is very versatile," the Sheikh said. "He is much stronger this year, and now he will go and take on the best horses in Europe."

That will include, perhaps, Reams Of Verse, and today's Derby winner. The season is only just beginning.