Sensation lives up to star billing

NEWMARKET JULY MEETING: A well-named filly lifts the big race but her stablemate may not breach home defences today
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The Independent Online
There are few absolute rules in the unpredictable world of the turf, but there is one above all which owners ignore at their peril. Never, it warns, give a horse a name like Greased Lightning or Utterly Brilliant, for you can be certain that the beast will immediately contract a chronic and incurable case of the slows, and the sniggers of the paddockside wits will only simply add insult to injury.

But if that is the rule, then Sensation may be the exception to prove it. After winning three out of three in her native France, Criquette Head's filly yesterday extended her streak beyond the national boundary in the Group Two Falmouth Stakes. Since she has yet to meet a serious challenge in any outing to date, her trainer should soon need two hands to count her victories and one day, perhaps, even the odd toe as well.

In yesterday's race, Mick Kinane settled Sensation close to the pace, as is her preference, and though Ta Rib, Ed Dunlop's French 1,000 Guineas winner, was given plenty to do before running on into second, the destination of the main prize was never in any doubt once the Irishman had struck for home. A Group One event is the next logical step for Sensation, and the Prix Jacques le Marois at Deauville seems an obvious choice.

"She missed last year as she was a very backward two-year-old," her trainer said, "but we were patient with her and horses always benefit from patience." That kindness has already been richly repaid - yesterday's purse took Sensation's earnings close to pounds 100,000 - but at her current rate of improvement, this may simply be the first instalment.

Sensation, who started favourite at 11-10, struck a significant blow for backers, but the card's other Pattern race left the champagne tent all but deserted.

They ran the July Stakes for the first time in 1786, and in all the years since there has never been a winner at a bigger price than Rich Ground, the 40-1 chance who gave James Bethell his first success in a Group race after two decades with a licence. It seemed that Willie Carson, on Dick Hern's Juwwi, would prevail as he finished fast on the far rail, but Rich Ground arrived even more rapidly on the outside to lead where it matters.

If the punters were taken aback, so was the trainer, who confessed that he "would have been delighted just to be in the first four." He had, after all, witnessed Rich Ground's most recent piece of work, and the grey is clearly, like so many of us, not at his best early in the morning. "We galloped him with a filly who finished 11th of 13 at Pontefract yesterday," Bethell said, "and she finished in front."

As a result of these sluggish efforts, Rich Ground has no entries in the best juvenile events later in the season, but in truth this may simply save his owners some money. Willing and able he may be, but yesterday he benefited from a perfectly judged ride by John Reid and time will probably prove that he won one of the poorest two-year-old Group races of the season.

The July Stakes was almost a collector's item in that Sheikh Mohammed did not have a runner, but elsewhere on the card the maroon and white silks were typically dominant. Sensation apart, the Sheikh took the big handicap with Freedom Flame and a maiden with Greenstead, but even with his great equine wealth he might covet Imroz, who took the fillies maiden for Khalid Abdullah and Henry Cecil in outstanding style and is now as low as 14-1, with Coral, for next year's 1,000 Guineas.