Racing: Sound Bight heads Oaks books: Victory by only a nose, but Pat Eddery pours praise on a filly bound for Epsom

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The Independent Online
KHALID ABDULLAH, owner of Armiger, Tenby and Zafonic, the three-year-old colts with the tallest reputations in Europe, yesterday saw a filly expand his empire of Classic material.

Wemyss Bight, trained in France by Andre Fabre, hardened as favourite for the Oaks at Epsom on 5 June after winning the Prix Cleopatre at Saint- Cloud. She had only a nose to spare over stable-companion Bright Moon, with a further short neck back to the third horse Alice Springs.

But post-race remarks by Pat Eddery, her jockey, immediately prompted bookmakers Coral and Ladbrokes to make Wemyss Bight their clear favourite at 4-1 (from 5-1) for the Oaks. William Hill offer the filly at the same price, but make her market leader alongside Sheikh Mohammed's Marillette.

Leading from the off, Wemyss Bight (who paid 1.70 to a one franc stake) quickened clear coming into the straight but had to be strongly ridden in the closing stages to hold on. Eddery said later: 'We got bumped going out of the stalls which made her snatch up a bit and run on a bit too freely. She must be a good filly to see out the trip and if I had known her ability beforehand I would have won more confidently.'

Armiger faces just four rivals in the Group One Prix Lupin (1m 2 1/2 f) at Longchamp tomorrow. The late defection of Hunting Hawk, Bigstone and Talloires leaves Henry Cecil's unbeaten colt with an apparently simple task on suitably soft ground.

Dernier Empereur, another Derby entry, and Hernando, a winner in Listed company last time, will probably fill the minor placings. The field is completed by Ranger, winner of a sub-standard Group Three race last month, and a rank outsider, Minydoun, trained by Criquette Head.

Easy money for Abdullah, perhaps, but the lack of top-class opposition means tomorrow's contest may not help decide whether Armiger joins Tenby in the Epsom Derby or runs instead in its French equivalent.

Eddery will climb on other Abdullah talent on the same Longchamp card, notably Nidd in the Poule d'Essai des Pouliches (French 1,000 Guineas).

However, this filly must improve on previous form if she is to overcome opposition that includes Sheikh Mohammed's Baya, a Fabre-trained filly of high repute. The six other runners, with no British challenge, are: Firm Friend, Gold Splash, Kiruna, Madeleine's Dream, Ski Paradise & Tenga.

Roger Charlton's Athens Belle showed too much dash for Oaks entries Fayfa and Ribbonwood in the Vodafone Group Fillies Stakes at Newbury yesterday. But the win shed no light on the Classic front as the Lord Weinstock-owned filly is not entered at Epsom. 'She would not be suited to Epsom, and although she has won here I think she would be better on a right-handed track,' said Charlton. Royal Ascot will be the next stopping point.