Sue Montgomery: Ice Queen leads O'Brien's campaign to conquer York - Racing - Sport - The Independent

Sue Montgomery: Ice Queen leads O'Brien's campaign to conquer York

Inside Track: Prayers to the local cathedral's founder may solve the GreatSt Wilfrid Handicap. If not, Baby Strange is the suggestion

The Derby winner may be at York this week, but the Oaks heroine will not. Look Here's career on the track is on hold after she picked up an injury during her final gallop ahead of Thursday's Yorkshire Oaks, scheduled as her first outing since Epsom. The daughter of Hernando will not only miss her date on the Knavesmire, but is unlikely to line up in the St Leger, for which she had been vying for second favouritism.

"She has suffered a minor problem," said trainer Ralph Beckett, "which will stop her running next week. She is also at this stage doubtful for Doncaster."

Irish Oaks winner Moonstone is on the sidelines too, but Aidan O'Brien has plenty of strength on the bench and is responsible for five of the 14 declared yesterday for the all-aged fillies' Group One showpiece. The Ballydoyle contingent is headed by Ice Queen, beaten a whisker by her stablemate at the Curragh.

Others from the Classic generation include Ribblesdale Stakes winner Michita, from John Gosden's yard, and Lush Lashes. The appearance of the last-named, an unlucky third in the Nassau Stakes last time out, will be weather-dependent. "She won't be going anywhere if it rains," said trainer Jim Bolger yesterday.

A decision about New Approach's challenge to odds-on favourite Duke Of Marmalade in Tuesday's International will be made this morning. The Galileo colt has been absent since the Derby, but has now put muscle soreness behind him and came through a spin yesterday morning in sparkling fettle. "His work today went very well," added Bolger, "and he seems in great form."

With York coming up, and the Prix Jacques le Marois at Deauville providing Group One action tomorrow in the form of a clash between the colt Tamayuz and filly Natagora, today's domestic programme is relatively low-key. What class there is, is at Newbury, where the two talented, if quirky, stayers Geordieland (2.40) and Sixties Icon turn out for the Geoffrey Freer Stakes and upwardly mobile Paco Boy (3.15) for the Hungerford Stakes.

Geordieland is one of those horses who can produce palpitations in the breast; his attitude to undue effort means that he must ideally be delivered in front a stride before the post. A strong pace, with a target to chase, suits, but equally, he has an above average turn of foot in a finish for a distance runner, should a marathon become a sprint.

Geoffrey Freer, who virtually single-handedly dragged Newbury from the devastation wreaked by its use as an American supply depot during the war years, was Jockey Club handicapper from 1944 and would no doubt have had his views on the feature at Ripon, even though a prayer to the local cathedral's founder St Wilfrid for the solution to his eponymous sprint may be just as much in order. But without expert or holy guidance Baby Strange (4.00) is suggested.

Today marks a significant step in the career of Kirsty Milczarek, who three days ago achieved the praiseworthy feat of becoming only the fifth girl apprentice to ride out her claim. This afternoon the Newmarket-based 23-year-old takes her first ride as a fully-fledged senior and can celebrate appropriately on Ruby Tallulah (4.05), who gave her that decisive 95th career winner at Lingfield.

Though female jockeys are still in a tiny minority in the weighing room, times have changed since Linda Goodwill became the first professional of her sex in 1975. A woman's place is now very much in the home straight. Milczarek comes from a showjumping background, having trained in her youth with Harvey Smith. "It wasn't time wasted," she said. "It's a sport that teaches you balance. And with Harvey, you learned discipline and focus."

The cross-over between horse sports was also evident in Hong Kong earlier this week. Racing is, rightly, not on the Olympic schedule, but it can lay some claim to bronze, thanks to the superb efforts of Tina Cook and Miners Frolic in the three-day event. It is well-known that the rider is a Gifford – Josh's daughter and Nick's sister – but less so that her mount is a racehorse manqué.

The 10-year-old, directed towards eventing as a youngster once Cook felt his graceful movement, has a distinguished steeplechasing lineage. His sire Miner's Lamp shares his great-grand-dam with Lanzarote and with Kambalda, himself sire of Miinnehoma and Barton Bank, among others; his dam Mighty Frolic won a Horse & Hound Cup at Stratford and comes from a family who made the grade in both hunterchases and open company, that of Mighty Red, Mighty's Honour and 1951 Gold Cup third Mighty Fine. He was bred by one-time major owner Maurice E Pinto and is part-owned by Nick and Valda Embiricos.

The void that the enforced retirement of Mick Fitzgerald has created at Nicky Henderson's Seven Barrows has proved so immense that two men will be required to fill it. Barry Geraghty is to commute from Ireland on a regular basis once the jump season starts in earnest and Tony McCoy will fill in. "There is a big gap to fill," said Henderson yesterday, "but I think we've got a pretty good package with those two."

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