The pundits were right about the Epsom (Aust-I) winner coming from the barn of Gai Waterhouse, but Desert War, the longest-priced of the quartet at 13-1, provided something of an upset in successfully defending his title.
Stable runners are not bracketed in Australia, even those in the same ownership. The others, Lotteria (6-1), Mr. Celebrity (16-10 favorite) and Flaming (11-1) filling third, fourth, and seventh places in the order of finish.
Johan's Toy (25-1), representing Waterhouse's main Sydney rival John Hawkes, ran home strongly late to deprive the Randwick handler of a one-two finish, a nose in advance of Lotteria. They finished 1 1/4 lengths behind the winner.
Desert War stopped the clock at 1:34.51, more than a second outside the race record. To claim his third Epsom, Larry Cassidy sent the 5-year-old Danehill grandson to race outside the leader, Lotteria. He then gained a trail two horses off the fence and reeled in the filly in mid-stretch.
By Makybe's Diva's sire, Desert King, gelded Desert War is raced by his breeder, Eduardo Cojuangco, for whom he has earned almost $1 million (Australian funds) in winning a third of his 18 starts.
As a Randwick mile handicap, the Epsom is rarely defended successfully, Super Impose (1990-91) the only other to manage it in the past 40 years. He won the race's big fall brother, the Doncaster, in those years, a feat certain not to be repeated any time soon.
Waterhouse believes her fourth winner of the feature mile is a rejuvenated stayer with the potential of winning this year's $2 million Caulfield Cup (Aust-I, 2,400 meters) Oct. 15, a target likely to be on the agenda for Mr Celebrity. He lacked the required acceleration in the stretch but ground away, which suggests the 2,400 meters will suit.
As Waterhouse did last year, she followed a Desert war Epsom victory by also collecting the Flight Stakes (Aust-I). In 2004 it was brave Epsom third, Lotteria, her successor another daughter of Redoute's Choice in Fashions Afield (32-10).
Last year's leading Australian juvenile raced outside the leader before being dashed away in the stretch by Dan Beasley. The back runners closed alarmingly near the wire, Belong To Me filly Beauty Watch (11-1) the closest of them and adjudged to be a long neck shy at the wire.
Mnemosyne produced her trademark big finish, which had carried the Encosta de Lago filly home first for Darren Beadman in the first three of the four races that comprise the Princess Series.
But in the even more slowly run flight it could only elevate the Bob Ingham-owned filly into third place, a short head from Beauty Watch. A $200,000 bonus for collecting the series went begging and favorite punters to take the 7-4 came up empty.
Beauty Watch, very much a rising star for the Desert War team, actually gave Mnemosyne a start from the top of the lane. From Rush For Gold, by Quack, Beauty Watch has won twice from five starts.
The lack of pace saw the 1,600 meters take 1:37.19, almost four seconds outside the race record.
A $2 million purchase from Vinery head Tom Simon earlier in the year, Fashions Afield was originally harvested for $230,000 from breeder, Arrowfield Stud, at the 2004 Australian Easter Yearling Sale. All up, the 3-year-old has earned more than $1.6 million, her second group I victory netting $229,000 for Gerry Harvey and John Singleton.