Sariska cruises into Arc reckoning

Bell filly follows up Epsom success by claiming Irish equivalent on the bridle
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The Independent Online

Group One races are rarely taken by a winner who does not have to come off the bridle but to the limited edition collection must now be added yesterday's Irish Oaks. Sariska had to gallop and fight every inch of the way to take the Epsom original last month, but at the Curragh she might as well have been enjoying an exercise spin at home.

In fact, the handsome Michael Bell-trained filly has probably worked harder on the Newmarket gallops of a morning than she did yesterday afternoon as she cantered nonchalantly past her hard-ridden rivals to take her second Classic. The only movement from rider Jamie Spencer was to take one hand off his tight reins to wave goodbye to Fran Berry on Roses For The Lady as he cruised past and away.

It was a display of absolute superiority from the even-money favourite, who carries the colours of her breeder, Lady Bamford. "Jeez," said Spencer, who passed the post shaking his head in disbelief, "she's electric. She was galloping all over them all the way and didn't need to come out of second gear, never mind third."

On rain-soaked, testing ground, Spencer was content to drop Sariska to the back as the 25-1 shot Roses For The Lady set off in front, ostensibly setting the pace for her better-fancied stablemate Beauty O'Gwaun, the 4-1 second market choice. Halfway up the straight the trailblazer still held the call, chased by the Epsom runner-up Midday.

Both were flat to the boards, running gallantly and bravely under maximum pressure. But cruising right behind them was the spectre at the feast, the big, dark shape of Sariska, who could have taken the lead at will, at any moment of Spencer's choosing. That came half a furlong from home and, with barely a change of tempo, the daughter of Pivotal was three lengths clear.

After pulling up, Spencer rode alongside Berry and gave Roses For The Lady an affectionate pat of congratulation for a pacemaking job well, if unintentionally, done. The real recipient, Beauty O'Gwaun, finished stone last, virtually pulled up on the heavy going.

"The ground was extremely deep," Spencer said, "but my filly is big and strong and I was able to keep her nice and relaxed. With a decent pace on the race could not have gone any smoother. She went so well in her work last week that I felt today was not a question of whether she'd win, only by how far. She really is something special and, as this was only her fifth race, she's probably still improving."

Sariska's performance sets up an intriguing clash with her French equivalent Stacelita, the scintillating winner of the French Oaks, in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe. The Irish Derby winner Fame And Glory remains favourite for the Paris showpiece at around 7-2, with Stacelita 6-1 and Sariska introduced at 8-1.

"She would have to be supplemented," Bell said, "but the money's in the kitty now. The Prix de l'Opera [the Group One distaff race on Arc day] might be regarded as a negative move; she is such a good filly it would be a shame not to have a dart at the Arc."

Sariska's display invoked visual memories of Montjeu's effortless cruise in the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes nine years ago and, although the style was comparable, the substance was not; Montjeu had four Group One winners in his wake.

"We mustn't get too carried away with comparisons," Bell said. "But it was a very good performance. She's a beauty, and a joy to train, and today was what every trainer dreams, to be able to watch one of your horses cantering home in a Classic."

The next outing for Sariska will be next month's Yorkshire Oaks, a race which will be studiously avoided by her latest victims. Roses For The Lady has the Park Hill Stakes as her target; Midday, just a head second at Epsom but more than seven lengths adrift yesterday, will go to Goodwood for the Nassau Stakes.

Turf account: Sue Montgomery


Wellington Fair (7.00 Windsor)

Can improve for his debut, when he attracted some support and showed why with a decent effort against more experienced rivals, including a winner who went on to take a close fourth in a Group Two contest at Newmarket last week.

Next best

Alicante (5.30 Ayr)

It could pay to keep it in the family with Alicante, whose half-sister Aleatricis won this event last year for the same trainer, jockey and owner combination.

One to watch

William Morgan (Richard Fahey) produced an excellent effort behind a well-regarded colt at York on Saturday – he would have been closer than sixth but for traffic problems – and looks a ready-made nursery winner.

Where the money's going

Walk On Bye (Tommy Stack), who beat colts in yesterday's Anglesey Stakes, has been introduced into next year's 1,000 Guineas betting at 25-1 by the sponsors Stan James.

Chris McGrath's Nap

Maria Antonia (4.15 Newton Abbot)