Racing: King Of Kings under siege

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The Independent Online
The tinkling noise heard yesterday across the vast expanse of land that is the Curragh was that of two reputations shattering. Yashmak, the short- priced British favourite, was turned over by Ebadiyla in the Irish Oaks and, even more astoundingly, King Of Kings, supposedly the best produce of his homeland since the potato, lost his unbeaten record in the Anglesey Stakes.

For its shock value, the latter's defeat was higher on the Richter scale. King Of Kings was running for the third time on the day of a Classic and it was assumed he would probably be taking part himself in a few more next year. Before play the colt was 5-1 for the 1998 2,000 Guineas.

Such was the confidence behind the 30-100 shot in the Group Three contest that Aidan O'Brien, King Of Kings' trainer, had decreed that the horse would be given as easy a race as possible in victory, that it would be part of his education. In the event, the only element he could have learned was how to be a good loser.

The favourite looked likely to win a furlong out when he swept forward in the company of Lady Alexander, but it was the filly who hung on by a short-head. Her jockey, Pat Shanahan, was suspended for three days for his excessive force and frequency with the whip, which was a direct contrast to King Of Kings and Christy Roche. It was hard to determine which of these two was trying least.

The vehicle looked a rather dilettante figure in the closing stages as he minced along with his head in the air. It may be that the blue blood has read the understated nameplate outside his personal premises. He certainly performed as if he gets the papers shoved under the door of his box in the morning and has begun to believe his own publicity.

King Of Kings, who is now out to 12-1 for Newmarket with William Hill, would still have won if Roche had even let out as much as a hiccup. After the swiftest of debriefings with O'Brien, the jockey scuttled to weigh in while the trainer led his fallen hero back to the stable yard. Roche told the stewards that his mount did not feel right, though the colt was found to be "post-race normal" on veterinary examination.

"After three furlongs I felt the horse was not travelling that well," Roche said. "I deliberately did not hit him, otherwise you would have no horse left for the future. I still feel he has plenty of potential."

The shorthand for this seemed to be that while King Of Kings was certainly "off", he was not to be stretched unduly to succeed. This information may have come too late for professional backers, some of whom could have taken terminal hits. Yashmak may have finished them off and it looked at one stage as if she too would not give backers much of a run for their money.

Henry Cecil's filly, as is her wont, treated the stalls as if they had been electrified and it took a team of strong and brave men to force her into temporary captivity. Caiseal Ros further delayed proceedings when she burst through the front of the traps.

The eruption from the starting point at the required moment came from Aliya, Ebadiyla's stablemate and pacemaker. Her lung-stretching exercise ended before the straight was reached however, and as they pointed for the stands Yashmak had come to the fore. Kieren Fallon struck for home, but over his right shoulder was the spectre of John Murtagh and Ebadiyla skipping along easily.

This partnership had led three out in the Epsom equivalent, but plan B was executed here, Murtagh hanging on as long as he could before uncorking his mount down the rail. The result was immediate and extravagant. Ebadiyla sprinted clear to put three lengths between her and the flagging Yashmak, who lost a shoe during the contest. Brilliance, the French filly, was third.

"Ebadiyla loves to see a bit of daylight and once I got her in the clear on the inner two furlongs down she picked up well and went about her business," said Murtagh, the dual Irish champion who was winning his first Classic.

John Oxx, whose father won this race four times in the 1960s, pinpointed the Yorkshire Oaks as his filly's next target. The daughter of Sadler's Wells is clearly on the upgrade as she reversed Oaks form with Yashmak. "We figured at Epsom that we would try to do a Benny The Dip by kicking early in the straight," Oxx said. "But she was caught and hampered, but in any case she was a much better filly today as some of my horses were only recovering from sickness at the time." Around the Curragh last night, another nausea was still affecting some serious punters.

IRISH OAKS

1. EBADIYLA (J P Murtagh) 9-2; 2. Yashmak 6-4 fav; 3. Brilliance 5-1. 11 ran. 3, hd. (J Oxx). Tote: pounds 4.20; pounds 1.60, pounds 1.10, pounds 1.90. RF: pounds 5.40. CSF: pounds 9.58.

RICHARD EDMONDSON

NAP: Hi Mujtahid

(Ayr 3.15)

NB: The Dilettanti

(Windsor 7.30)

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