As the Games began, perhaps it was appropriate that yesterday's most eye-catching performance – even in a non-Olympic sport – was by a young rising star at a London venue. The juvenile filly Maureen made amends for her unlucky second spot at Newmarket two weeks ago with an effortless success in the Princess Margaret Stakes at Ascot to stake her claim as one of the season's best of her age and sex.
The gold-medal events that could enable the Richard Hannon-trained daughter of Holy Roman Emperor to confirm her place among the elite will come later this season, and maybe next, for she is among the early market leaders for the 1,000 Guineas. Her next target is the Lowther Stakes at next month's York festival, followed by the Group One Cheveley Park Stakes.
On her previous outing, in the Cherry Hinton Stakes, Maureen encountered all sorts of traffic problems before a narrow, fast-finishing defeat. Yesterday's task, against only five rivals and with a drop in grade, proved straightforward for the neat little bay. Always travelling strongly, she moved to tackle the leader Hoyam a quarter of a mile out before drawing two- and-a-quarter lengths clear of the staying-on Sandreamer through the final furlong.
"The ideal way to ride her is to drop her in behind and use her turn of foot," said the rider, Richard Hughes. "But I sensed the pace might have been messy in a small field so I let her stride on."
Maureen, a bargain yearling buy for first-time owner Ahmad Alkallafi, is as short at 12-1 for next year's mile filly Classic, with only the runaway Royal Ascot winner Newfangled ahead of her in the market at this stage. "I know people have said she's a bit small," said Hannon's son and assistant, Richard Jnr, "but she's good-looking, and an excellent mover."
On the Knavesmire, if not on The Mall, there was the perfect execution of a team's domestique providing a lead-out for the main man. In the York Stakes, Pekan Star set the pace for the more talented Sri Putra, both horses representing trainer Roger Varian and owner Sultan Ahmad Shah.
Martin Lane, on the hare, went steady early before winding the gallop up in the straight until he could do no more two furlongs out, at which point all nine runners were almost in line abreast across the track.
The 9-4 favourite, Afsare, was the first to commit but he hung badly right under pressure, helping neither his cause nor that of the third-placed Side Glance. Sri Putra, with a clear run out to his left, pounced late under Neil Callan to take the Group Two prize by a neck.
It was a career-best victory for the six-year-old – three times Group One-placed in previous seasons. "You could always see him winning a decent race like this if everything worked for him," said Varian. "It did today; he had the fast ground he loves and the race set up for him. If horses are coming back to him that suits his style, and although I wasn't sure it was quick enough early, Sri Putra relaxed and some of the others were a bit keen, so it worked well for us."
The trainer in form yesterday was Mark Johnston, with an across-the-card four-timer, courtesy of Scatter Dice at Ascot, Fulbright at Newmarket, Van Ellis at York and Discernable at Deauville. The last-named took a juvenile Listed contest on the first day of the prestigious summer season at the Normandy seaside track, where the John Gosden-trained Elusive Kate and local crack Golden Lilac, second and ninth in the recent Falmouth Stakes at Newmarket, will clash again this afternoon in the Group One Prix Rothschild.Reuse content