Sariska just outguns Midday in tense duel

Spencer survives stewards' inquiry as Bell filly hangs on to deny Cecil ninth Oaks win
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The Independent Online

Given the topography of the track, it always comes as a surprise that only one Derby winner has ever been disqualified for interference – Craganour, favourite in 1913, was relegated for bumping a 100-1 shot, Aboyeur – but there was a reminder of the inherent hazards when Sariska had to survive a tense stewards' inquiry after the Investec Oaks here yesterday.

Sent off 9-4 favourite, Sariska just prevailed in a grim duel with Midday, whose trainer, Henry Cecil, then spent several minutes wondering whether he might yet be awarded a ninth Oaks success in the stewards' room.

Jamie Spencer had produced Sariska on the outside, rounding the home turn, only to drift down the camber. Phillipina was badly hampered, while Midday suffered a marginal loss of room if not momentum. Rainbow View was also impeded, while Perfect Truth, keeping on after being first off the bridle, was almost forced through the fence.

Midday, meanwhile, sustained her run under Tom Queally, eyeballing Sariska through the final furlong and failing only in a photo. The pair finished two and a half lengths ahead of High Heeled, who was well clear of Rainbow View.

The stewards gave Spencer a five-day suspension for careless riding, but rightly allowed the result to stand. This was very much a "safety first" ride – Spencer felt his mount was idling in front – and if anything showed his critics exactly why he always tries to conserve ground and energy.

Certainly, it was gratifying to see his talent rewarded with only his second British Classic, and he spoke warmly of Sariska's trainer, Michael Bell. "He's a very loyal and genuine man, and I'm delighted for him," Spencer said.

Bell, who won the Derby itself here four years ago with Motivator, was not proposing a programme for Sariska until examining a cut on her hind leg, which thankfully proved fairly superficial. "She has always shown us huge potential at home," he said.

"Ever since the day she started working, I thought she was a star. She's different from Motivator, we saddled him down in the yard to keep him calm, but Sariska is so laid-back that I actually wanted to get her adrenalin pumping a bit. She needs a lot more graft than he did. But I think the one good thing training him gave me was the confidence that I can train a good one."

Cecil, meanwhile, was gracious in defeat. "We did lose a length or two, because the other horses were coming back on us, but [Sariska] was holding us at the finish so I'm not offering any excuses," he said.

There was a still more dramatic race for the Investec Coronation Cup, where Ask scrambled home in a three-way photo from Youmzain and Look Here, in the process rewarding Ryan Moore for seizing the initiative into Tattenham Corner.

"When I crossed the line, I was either first or third," the champion jockey said. "I'm just delighted as he deserves a Group One. He's been knocking on the door a long time. The steady pace didn't really suit, but he was very game up the straight."

Youmzain had finished second here last year, as well, not to mention consecutive Arcs, and a candid assessment from Richard Hills now leaves his mount with a punters' wealth warning. "He got there and he waited," Hills said. "Then when I hit him, he didn't like it, so I put my stick back up."

Look Here, returning to the scene of her Oaks success, confirmed herself a top-class filly on only her fifth start, while Duncan was breathing down their necks after going best for a long way.

But there was again trouble on the inside, Johnny Murtagh earning a five-day ban of his own for badly squeezing William Buick on Buccellati. Derby jockeys – hang on to your hats.