Vorda advertises 1,000 Guineas potential

Filly provides France with another good day before Sky Lantern settles score with Elusive Kate


For the second day in succession, it was a French filly who most conspicuously advertised her potential for the 1,000 Guineas back here in the spring. The two, though, could hardly have more contrasting roots. Friday's winner, Miss France, is a blue-blooded inmate of perennial champion André Fabre's palatial Chantilly establishment; yesterday's humbly bred heroine, Vorda, is one of just 40 horses under the care of Philippe Sogorb, a one-time journeyman rider in his first season as a full-time trainer in the provincial south-west of his country.

For a man at the start of a change of emphasis a star like Vorda, the narrow but comfortable winner of the Cheveley Park Stakes, could not be more welcome, even if slightly unexpected.

"When I bought her last year," said Sogorb, 39, "I thought she would be one for low-grade early two-year-old races. I never imagined then that she would become a Group One winner. Now my regret is that I stopped being a jockey in February and so I cannot ride her myself in races."

That pleasure belonged yesterday to Olivier Peslier, who only had to shake the reins at his mount, the 11-8 favourite, for her to quicken past Princess Noor inside the final furlong to take the Red Mills-sponsored £103,000 first prize by three-quarters of a length.

"It was a slow pace early," Peslier said, "but that was good, as it was like a French race. I just followed the lead and left her alone until the sprint to the line."

Vorda was Sogorb's first top-level success with his first runner in Britain. And victory in what is traditionally Britain's top juvenile filly contest brought the daughter of Orpen's record to four wins from five starts and her earnings to more than £250,000, not bad for one who cost her trainer just €9,000 (about £7,500) as a yearling. She has, however, transferred ownership three times in her short but upwardly mobile career, most recently (and presumably most profitably) to Sheikh Mohammed Al Thani of the high-rolling Qatari ruling family.

"I actually knew early on this year she would not be running in claimers," added Sogorb. "As soon as she started working she was able to do everything so easily. And after every run she improved mentally and physically. She is not the biggest filly, but she has a huge heart. And although I cannot be on her on the racetrack, I do have the delight of riding her every morning."

For next year's 1,000 Guineas, bookmakers prefer the chance of Miss France, judged 8-1 joint favourite with Irish contender Tapestry. Vorda is third choice, and any decision about her return to the Rowley Mile will be deferred until after her final target this year, the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Filly Turf in California in November, a contest taken last year by this year's French Guineas winner, Flotilla, in the same Al Thani colours.

The huge value of the Breeders' Cup programme is a powerful lure for Europeans, but the riches of the Mile will be resisted by those closest to this year's 1,000 Guineas winner, Sky Lantern. The Richard Hannon-trained grey returned to the scene of her Classic triumph to take the Sun Chariot Stakes and, after two defeats, re-establish her reputation as the best miler of her sex. But, having failed in last year's Juvenile Filly Turf, she will not return to Santa Anita.

Yesterday's success was a fourth Group One prize for Sky Lantern, and the settling of a score with Elusive Kate, who had beaten her narrowly and controversially for a fifth during the summer. Held up as usual by Richard Hughes, she hit top gear through the final furlong, passing first her old rival and then Integral to score by a comfortable length. Duntle took third as Elusive Kate faded. "She was totally asleep at the back, and even stumbled once or twice," said Hughes. But she came alive at the three-pole. She's very good."

There is now the intriguing prospect that Sky Lantern may take on the boys – including her stablemate Toronado – in next month's Queen Elizabeth II Stakes at Ascot, en route to a campaign in Hong Kong, home of her owner, Ben Keswick. "It's great to see her back," said her trainer's son and assistant, Richard, "as she's a really special filly. We hardly have to train her; she just goes out every morning and gets on with her job. All we do is take her to the races."

Prestige Saturday wins are becoming routine for Johnny Murtagh who, as Sogorb did until this year, combines training and riding. Yesterday he was the punters' friend in the saddle as he inched home Educate, the well-gambled 8-1 favourite, in the feature handicap, the Cambridgeshire.

Despite an alarming drift across the course in the closing stages the four-year-old, trained locally by Ismail Mohammed, held on by a short-head from the 12-1 chance Code Of Honor, who was followed in by Tres Coronas (25-1) and Graphic (16-1).

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