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Bell rings winning tune with fillies

Moneycantbuymelove wins Oaks trial to boost Epsom claims of stablemate Sariska

With due respect to all parties, nobody seemed under any illusions about the winner of the big race here yesterday. In fact, among the fillies trained by Michael Bell, you might say that Moneycantbuymelove ranks as Ringo, as opposed to John or Paul. Within her own, modest limits, she does a steady job, but the star talent in the yard unmistakably belongs to Sariska.

As such, the decisive success of Moneycantbuymelove in the Height Of Fashion Stakes can only augur well for the Investec Oaks prospects of her stablemate. One or two of her rivals here had nursed discreet ambitions to be at Epsom a fortnight today, but this filly put those in unflattering perspective. After all, she had arrived for the sixth start of her career still as a maiden. Yet she had too much acceleration for Fallen In Love, despite being set most to do in a sprint finish, ridden out by Jamie Spencer to win by a length and a half. Copperbeech, a smart juvenile in France last season, made a disappointing start for her new stable, dropping away into sixth of eight.

Bell was represented by his wife, Georgina, who preferred to confine the propitious qualities of this performance to the general well-being of their stable, which had made a quiet start to the season. "I'm pretty sure this filly wouldn't ever have worked with Sariska," she said. "But at least it shows the horses are in good form now. She'll go 'continental cruising' now, looking for some more black type abroad."

She added that Sariska herself has been her usual laid-back self since that impressive Oaks rehearsal at York last week, and would probably have one final examination on the gallops some time next week.

Spencer, also the rider of Sariska, sounded as though he is trying to keep a lid on his optimism for what most observers consider by no means a vintage Oaks. "Sariska's like this filly, steadily progressive," he said. "She has a great attitude, and came on nicely between her first run at Newbury and York. I was very happy with her at York, considering the ground was faster than she would want, and she has every chance of getting the extra distance, though I'm always pessimistic until they actually go and do it."

At Newbury, over just seven furlongs, Sariska had finished very strongly after missing the break. "She was very relaxed that day, but it was my own fault," Spencer confessed. "I forgot to put the blindfold on, and she lost a couple of lengths when the stalls opened. You can't play catch-up over that trip."

Spencer's ostensible Investec Derby mount, Crowded House, was in contrast bitterly disappointing in his own trial at York. "When I asked him to go forward, there was no response," he said. "Usually he's the sort of horse where you can just push the button. But he'll be back."

Crowded House was one of only six British-based colts among the 20 left in the Derby at yesterday's forfeit stage. Skybet give them a collective quote of 11-2 against one of them winning, compared with 6-1 against Aidan O'Brien saddling the first three – and there can be no doubting that the latter is much the more attractive price.

Spencer expects trainer Brian Meehan to make a decision over the participation of Crowded House during the coming week, but in the meantime both men have another Classic opportunity in the Boylesports 2,000 Guineas at the Curragh tomorrow.

Delegator, beaten only by Sea The Stars in the Newmarket original, faces just eight rivals in a race that may be grossly distorted by the very heavy ground. Spencer is confident that Delegator will handle the conditions, but acknowledges that a severe test of stamina at the trip might not play to the strengths of this very speedy colt. The sponsors make him 2-1 favourite, from Mastercraftsman on 9-4, with Rayeni, an unbeaten stablemate of Sea The Stars, 4-1.

* Sir Michael Stoute's Oaks acceptor Leocorno was an easy five-length winner of a Sandown handicap on her seasonal reappearance last night. The half-sister to the Derby runners-up Golan and Tartan Bearer was cut to 8-1 from 12-1 for the Epsom Classic by William Hill.

Chris McGrath

Nap: Rangefinder (4.40 Newmarket)

NB: Cloudesley (5.05 Newcastle)