Racing: Prince displays his pedigree

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The Independent Online
DESERT PRINCE produced an imperious display here yesterday to beat Dr Fong and Second Empire in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes, the final round of the European mile championship.

The race provided a fitting swansong to the partnership between the colt's owner Edward St George and his brilliant young Newmarket-based trainer David Loder, who will transfer to Sheikh Mohammed's squad in France next year. And in terms of rankings it proved beyond doubt that Desert Prince is the best three-year-old eight-furlong performer in training.

But as an all-aged title bout the pounds 320,000 contest was run in the shadow of the four-year-old Intikhab, who has been sidelined by a minor leg problem since he staked his claim to the crown on the same course in June with a devastating eight-length victory in the Queen Anne Stakes at the Royal meeting.

It is hard to forget the disdain with which Intikhab that day treated the likes of his Godolphin stablemate Cape Cross, Among Men and Almushtarak, fourth, fifth and sixth yesterday. But that was only a Group Two contest and Desert Prince is now a triple Group One winner, leaving the official handicapper with something of a dilemma.

It is one that will not be resolved, at least not directly, when the action moves in November to Churchill Downs, Kentucky, the venue for this year's Breeders' Cup series.

The $1 million Mile is Desert Prince's next target, but Intikhab, who is behind schedule in his fitness programme, will not be there to pick up the gauntlet. Instead, the Godolphin team will rely on Cape Cross, who was beaten a shade over four lengths yesterday.

Desert Prince, who won the Irish 2,000 Guineas in May and the Prix du Moulin three weeks ago, came to yesterday's showdown at the top of his game; the steady rain which arrived early in the afternoon and eased the going to good could not disguise well-being oozing from his bay hide.

The race was run to suit him perfectly, too. With a habitual front-runner, Muhtathir, in the field, Olivier Peslier was able to take a lead and settle just off the early pace. In the short straight the French champion allowed Among Men a couple of strides of glory at the head of affairs before engaging overdrive.

The only rival who was able to put up any sort of serious resistance as Desert Prince surged clear washis old foe Dr Fong, who had narrowly prevailed in the St James' Palace Stakes under an inspired ride from Kieren Fallon.

Again, there was little between the pair, but the half-length margin was decisive. Three and a half lengths behind, Second Empire won the battle with Cape Cross for the minor honours by a head. It is the third time this year that the Irish colt has had to play third fiddle to the winner.

The key to Desert Prince, who still wears the cross noseband that is the legacy of his once-headstrong tendencies, has been getting him to relax. "Ever since he came into the yard last year he has had a presence, an aura about him," Loder said. "But I became convinced through the year that he wanted a lead in his races, particularly when he was beaten from the front at Royal Ascot.

"When we brought him back after his summer break we had three races in mind: the Moulin, this one today and the Breeders' Cup Mile. And although it may sound a bit uppity after he's just won two Group Ones, if you'd asked me which one I thought would be our best shot I'd have said the Mile. He is a very high-class horse and I am sure the fast pace and the track there will suit him well."

Dr Fong will not renew rivalry at Churchill Downs - the Henry Cecil trainee is being aimed instead at the Hollywood Derby in December over nine furlongs, which is probably his optimum distance

However, Loder's future team-mates at Godolphin are looking forward to another crack at Desert Prince. "A mile round two bends will be right up Cape Cross's street", said racing manager Simon Crisford, before adding: "It is a pity that Intikhab will not be ready, because the distance between him at Cape Cross in the Queen Anne Stakes - 11 lengths - is an accurate reflection of the difference between them. But he will remain in training next year."

Loder, 34, started training six years ago and will take over the Godolphin two-year-olds next season at his new base on the outskirts of Paris. "I am looking forward to that," said the trainer, "but this has been a great send-off here for me and Mr St George."

Peslier will be re-united with Desert Prince at Churchill Downs. "This horse has grown in confidence all through the year and is now very relaxed," he said "In my opinion he is the best miler in Europe, of any age." The Frenchman, who was winning his second successive Queen Elizabeth II Stakes, picked up a two-day ban, starting tomorrow week, for misuse of the whip on the third-placed Al Muallim in the following race.

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