Racing: Ronda's rally sees off the Cape return

Newmarket July Meeting: French stables in the care of an Englishman and a Spaniard plunder the richest prizes
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The Independent Online
"SHE'S BACK!" was the blunt headline in the Racing Post yesterday morning, but the evidence of the Falmouth Stakes here a few hours later was that not yet, she isn't. Cape Verdi was a Classic winner last year, and a good one too, for very few horses win the 1,000 Guineas by five lengths. At the business end of yesterday's race, though, a fit and eager young filly called Ronda skipped past her at the furlong pole, and Cape Verdi could do nothing about it.

And nor, for that matter, could Balisada, the Coronation Stakes winner at Royal Ascot three weeks earlier. Like Cape Verdi, she was carrying a 6lb penalty for that Group One success to keep the race competitive, and it made all the difference. Ronda had been beautifully poised behind the pace set by Cape Verdi from an early stage. When Dominique Boeuf shook the reins she took off, bringing a Continental flavour to Newmarket which matched the sultry weather.

Ronda is trained in France by a Spaniard, Carlos Laffon-Parias, whose name was not unduly familiar to Suffolk racegoers before yesterday's race. That of his mother-in-law, however, was. Criquette Head has been winning races on the Heath for years, and Laffon-Parias was clearly paying close attention during the five years he spent as Mme Head's assistant.

"We had always been thinking of this race for her," the trainer said, "and we were confident after she won in Paris the other day. She beat some very good fillies and she was very impressive."

The only problem for Laffon-Parias is that Ronda's European career may be fairly finite. Four-year-old fillies are not the most bankable of animals, and Ronda may emigrate to the United States before her fourth birthday arrives.

"She may go to the Breeders' Cup, though she will run again in France first," Laffon-Parias said. "There is big money to be won over there."

Where Cape Verdi will go now remains to be seen. "It was a nice run," Simon Crisford, Godolphin's racing manager, said, "and hopefully there will be some improvement to come. She hadn't run since last June and we've had to bring her back slowly without squeezing her. Of course we're disappointed she didn't win, but she would have had to be at her very best." The Nassau Stakes, over 10 furlongs at Goodwood, is one possible assignment, so, too, the Prix Jacques le Marois at Deauville.

Ronda completed a double for French-based trainers, although some of the locals here probably still think of David Loder as one of their own. He left for Evry just a few months ago, to look after 130 two-year-olds for Godolphin, and came back to win the July Stakes with City On A Hill.

He did not exactly return with a song in his heart, though. "I'd have sooner gone to Compiegne," Loder said, and he looked like he meant it. Life as a Frenchman is obviously proving agreeable.

"He's a nice horse," was his assessment of City On A Hill as bookies' reps touted odds of between 12-1 and 25-1 for the Millennium 2,000 Guineas. "But I'd like to think there are some better ones. At the moment we only have one [two-year-old] race a week for each sex in France, so it's a bit difficult to gauge where we are. Once we get to August we'll be able to get a few more out and see."

A Classic may also lie ahead for Royal Line, another Godolphin winner yesterday, although Crisford was keen to point out after the Bahrain Trophy that "if we're talking St Leger, there are a lot better horses around than him".

Royal Line led for much of the 14-furlongs before putting up a fight to the line which Moon Dragon could not match. "He's surprised us a little because he hasn't been showing us anything," Crisford added. "All credit to him, it was a really brave, tough performance, but it wasn't a good race." Godolphin apparently have a few candidates for Leger trials like the Great Voltigeur Stakes at York. Like Loder, it seems, they are confident that they have something better at home.

Kieren Fallon secured a double on Boast and Zindabad but also picked up a four-day ban for excessive force with his whip aboard Zindabad.