Midday makes hay as Sariska refuses to race

Cecil filly gains impressive Yorkshire Oaks win over Snow Fairy after old rival plants herself in the stalls

On Ladies' Day at any modern race meeting, ladettes and their excesses are generally confined to the bars and grandstands. Here yesterday, though, the woman behaving worst was out on the track. Sariska, hot favourite for the day's centrepiece, the Darley Yorkshire Oaks, caused a wholly unwelcome sensation by standing stock-still as the starting gates opened for the Group One contest, refusing point-blank to race.

Her mulish mood deprived the faithful of one of the showdowns of the season; last year's Oaks winner had been due to clash with her old rival Midday and this year's Epsom heroine Snow Fairy. Midday duly won the battle of the generations with a comprehensive three-length beating of Snow Fairy. But it was a victory with hollow overtones without Sariska in the mix.

Jamie Spencer, the naughty one's rider, looked shattered as he brought his mount back to the unsaddling area. His terse initial view was that "Nobody died and the filly's fine". Any references to cigar advertisements would clearly have been de trop.

Midday had been behind Sariska on the three previous occasions they had met – in the Oaks and Irish version last year, and a lesser race here in the spring – but is currently in the form of her life and her trainer, Henry Cecil, had been keen to see their fourth meeting.

In the race, it briefly crossed the mind of Tom Queally, in Midday's saddle, that the expected challenge was not materialising, but the jockey was never going to become complacent and kept his partner right up to her work until the line was safely crossed. "I wasn't aware that Sariska had stayed in the stalls," he said, "and, although I couldn't see her around me, you never know with Jamie; he could have been sitting right behind me pulling double.

"My filly was always travelling powerfully and, even though it felt like she was doing only a half-speed, she had the others at it soon into the straight. I maybe went to the front a bit early; she's better with a lead for longer and I was sort of waiting for Sariska to come at me. But mine was just oozing class."

Midday's success was compensation for the last-stride defeat of her stablemate Twice Over, who carries the same Khaled Abdullah colours, in Tuesday's Juddmonte International. "The runner-up today is a very good filly," said Cecil, "and it was good to beat her. But it was a shame Sariska didn't race."

If there is to be another meeting between the two top-class four-year-olds, it could be in the Prix Vermeille at Longchamp next month, one of the options pencilled in on both agendas. Midday has the defence of her Breeders' Cup crown in Kentucky as her prime autumn target but, intriguingly, the Arc may also be in the equation, depending on the form and fortunes of Abdullah's other two middle-distance talents Byword and Workforce.

Michael Bell, Sariska's trainer, was as dumbfounded as any here on the Knavesmire. Lady Bamford's homebred had looked superb, had entered the stalls without turning a hair, in her customary blindfold, and had stood patiently as others were loaded.

"She has always had a bit of a quirk," he said, "but then many great fillies do. Maybe she was stood there waiting a bit long and went to sleep. Or maybe it was that the stables are right next to the start; she knows her way round here and she's very cute and clever." She would not, though, be the first of her line to show such recalcitrance. Her half-sister Gull Wing did exactly the same thing in the Park Hill Stakes at Doncaster two years ago.

It is to be hoped today's climax to the four-day meeting – the face-off between another pair of old rivals, the top-class sprinters Starspangledbanner and Equiano, in the Coolmore Nunthorpe Stakes – is not another anticlimax. The pair won the two Group One races at Royal Ascot, respectively the Golden Jubilee Stakes over six furlongs and King's Stand Stakes over five, and then were subsequently split by only a neck in the July Cup, in Starspanglebanner's favour.

Today's field of 13 runners have won 61 races between them and amassed more than £4.3m in prize-money. Three others are already winners at the highest level, including the gallant gelding Borderlescott, who has recovered from a recent injury to go for a hat-trick in the contest.

The popular veteran should, on his third to Equiano at Royal Ascot when short of his peak, be right there again. But though he would win hearts with victory, minds – in the form of the betting public – perceive Starspangledbanner or Equiano (3.25) as the most likely victors. The last-named can gain his revenge over the minimum trip and those looking for a longer shot might consider the three-year-old filly Rose Blossom, wearing headgear for the first time.

Sue Montgomery's Nap

Jameela Girl (2.05 Sandown) Looked value for the penalty she picked up at Goodwood, where she needed only to be nudged home on her nursery debut and today's stiffer five furlongs should not inconvenience her.

Next best

Erdeli (8.05 Salisbury) Scored for the first time when upped in trip at Wolverhampton last week in a boys' race, for which he escapes a penalty. Unexposed as a Flat stayer and due to race off a 12lb higher mark in future.

One to watch

Swift Gift (B J Meehan) Confirmed the promise of two midsummer runs at Ascot with his second spot at Newbury last week.

Where the money's going

Rewilding, winner of Tuesday's Great Voltigeur Stakes, has shortened to 7-4 favourite for the St Leger with Hills. Snow Fairy remains at 6-1.

Chris McGrath's Nap

Arc Light (3.15 Sandown)

Jeremy Clarkson
Ben Little, right, is a Labour supporter while Jonathan Rogers supports the Green Party
general election 2015
The 91st Hakone Ekiden Qualifier at Showa Kinen Park, Tokyo, 2014
Life and Style
Former helicopter pilot Major Tim Peake will become the first UK astronaut in space for over 20 years
food + drinkNothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Kim Wilde began gardening in the 1990s when she moved to the countryside
peopleThe singer is leading an appeal for the charity Thrive, which uses the therapy of horticulture
Alexis Sanchez celebrates scoring a second for Arsenal against Reading
Life and Style
An easy-peel potato; Dave Hax has come up with an ingenious method in food preparation
voicesDave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Japan's population is projected to fall dramatically in the next 50 years (Wikimedia)
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Project Implementation Executive

£18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Chiropractic Assistant

£16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Chiropractic Assistant is needed in a ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive - Midlands

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides coaching ...

Day In a Page

NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own