Racing: Hawajiss keeps eyes on Prize: The headstrong Musidora winner may prove her own worst enemy in the battle for the Oaks

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The Independent Online
'IF I was sure she would relax in the Oaks,' Michael Stoute said after watching Hawajiss win the Musidora Stakes here yesterday, 'I'd say she might win.' Ifs do not come much bigger.

The Musidora is probably the premier Oaks trial, but Hawajiss returned to an atmosphere of thinly-veiled contempt. Though she is prepared by Stoute, and would be a possible mount for Walter Swinburn, odds of 25-1 for the Epsom Classic are freely available this morning.

The problem is Hawajiss's habit of tugging violently for her head in the early stages of a race, burning vital energy reserves. She got away with it yesterday, showing great determination to reel in Spot Prize, who seemed gone beyond recall at the furlong pole, and win by a neck. At Epsom there will be another two furlongs to travel, and a similar struggle with her jockey could extinguish Hawajiss's chance long before the field reaches Tattenham Corner.

'It wasn't a problem last year, and I hope we can conquer it,' Stoute said. 'She was very fresh at Chester and we thought we'd definitely get her relaxed today, but I was still very encouraged to see there was something left in the tank when the pressure was on.' Swinburn too was impressed by the filly's finishing kick. 'Every time I asked her she kept responding,' the jockey said. 'Usually when they pull like that they don't finish.'

Spot Prize will also go to Epsom, while Stoute believes his second runner yesterday, Dance To The Top, who came third, will be better suited by the Oaks trip. The best prices available for the Classic are: 7-1 Bulaxie (Ladbrokes), 8-1 Balanchine (Hills), 10-1 Wind In Her Hair (Coral), 14-1 Bonash (Hills), 20-1 others.

Ray Cochrane, Spot Prize's jockey, has made a wretched start to the season, riding just two winners so far, and his disappointment at being collared in the Musidora was compounded by the stewards. They took exception to Cochrane's whip action and, since it was his third such offence already this year, referred the rider to Jockey Club headquarters for punishment.

By contrast, Mark Johnston's winning streak shows little sign of exhaustion. Johnston, who saddles Mister Baileys, the 2,000 Guineas winner, in this afternoon's Dante Stakes, took the opening race yesterday with Millstream.

Johnston has found the ideal response to the intense interest surrounding Mister Baileys, the Derby favourite. He seems to be enjoying it immensely, and his faith in his colt has been unaffected by speculation that the son of Robellino will prove short of stamina. 'Had we not won the Guineas, everybody would have said that the Derby was a logical plan,' Johnston said, 'but now we've won the Guineas, everyone's saying it's the wrong idea.'

Some observers saw an oblique compliment to Broadway Flyer, Mister Baileys' principal rival in the Derby market, in the result of the Sledmere Conditions Stakes. Blaaziing Joe, who finished more than 30 lengths adrift of Broadway Flyer on his seasonal debut, was the 16-1 outsider of five yesterday, but quickened clear of Muwafik to win by six lengths.

The bookmakers, though, were again unmoved, and another depressing Derby hint was offered by Paul Cole, Blaaziing Joe's trainer. Cole predicted that he may have three runners at Epsom, Star Selection, Time Star and Waiting, who finished second to Cicerao at Chester last Thursday. Waiting, according to Cole, would have 'a live outsider's chance' in the Derby.

If so, this year's running will surely be the poorest in the Classic's long and illustrious history.

The champion jump jockey, Richard Dunwoody, rode two winners at Chepstow yesterday to draw level with the long-time leader in the race for this season's title, Adrian Maguire.

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