Racing / Royal Ascot: Kinane finds perfection again with first Cousin: The meeting's matchless leading rider is a short price to complete a clean sweep of the Group One events in the Gold Cup

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The Independent Online
LIKE the Matthews' Cup Final, this year's Royal meeting may come to be known simply as Kinane's Ascot. The Irish champion jockey took yesterday's feature race, the Coronation Stakes, on Henry Cecil's Kissing Cousin, and his strike-rate at the meeting is now 33 per cent. In the Group One events, he has two out of two, with one to come.

He is as short as 11-10 to complete the set in this afternoon's Gold Cup, in which he rides Vintage Crop, Dermot Weld's Melbourne Cup winner. Yet even if Vintage Crop fails, Kinane has already established beyond any doubt the range and magnitude of his talent.

Tuesday's treble came from off the pace, but in the Coronation, Kinane won from the front, judging the pace to perfection and coaxing Kissing Cousin home by a fast-diminishing short-head from Eternal Reve. The two 1,000 Guineas winners in the field, Mehthaaf and Las Meninas, finished third and fifth respectively, and at her best Kissing Cousin (who was backed to 13-2 from a morning offer of 20-1) is clearly a miler of considerable talent.

Unfortunately, pinpointing when Kissing Cousin is at her best is far from straightforward. 'She's very genuine but she just has her days,' Henry Cecil, the filly's trainer, said. 'I told Sheikh Mohammed that she would either win or finish last. I haven't worked out any plans for her, but at least she's won a Group One, even if she never wins anything else.'

Cecil is clearly more competent as a trainer than he is as a tipster, since Las Meninas was his recommendation for the race in a national newspaper. John Reid, her jockey, had no excuses for the favourite's disappointing performance. 'They went very fast early on, which suited me,' he said, 'but then they carried on going very fast.'

The photograph which was required to separate Kissing Cousin and Eternal Reve was one of five yesterday, and at the meeting so far only two winners have been called without the aid of the camera. Somewhat surprisingly, one of those was Face North, who took the Royal Hunt Cup, usually one of the week's most competitive events, by the relatively comfortable margin of half a length.

Face North is the latest handicapper to benefit from the attention of Reg Akehurst, who seemed to paying over the odds when he secured the gelding out of Albert Davison's yard for 25,000gns. Face North's three wins at that time included two sellers, but Akehurst 'had a nice feeling about him, and I encouraged the owners to pay more than we thought he was worth.' The nice feeling now comes from the pounds 60,000 which Face North was won since.

Akehurst puts down his knack of improving apparent second-raters to little more than a great deal of practice. 'I must be one of the oldest guys in the game,' he said. 'People say, 'he must be using something'. Well I am: I'm using experience and know-how. I don't like to be rushed with them, I like to let them settle in and analyse them. Animals are like people up to a point, you need to find out what they like and what they don't'

Somewhere behind Face North was the big ante-post gamble of the Hunt Cup, Dahyah, though the fact that the No 19 stall was empty shortly after the start was the only solid evidence that Michael Stoute's colt took part. The trainer found greater success earlier on the card, saddling Gay Gallanta to beat Myself (in another photograph) in the Queen Mary Stakes.

The closest finish of all was in the card's opening race, the Jersey Stakes. After studying the photograph and then calling for a print, the judge eventually gave up and awarded a dead-heat between Gneiss and River Deep. If the close calls continue through the meeting's final two days, the owner of the local chemist's will be contemplating retirement.

(Photograph omitted)