Gutsy Sariska Captures Investec Oaks

Winning trainer Bell won the 2005 Vodafone Derby with Motivator.

Favored Sariska held off a stubborn Midday to capture the Investec Oaks (Eng-I) by a head at Epsom June 5. 

The daughter of Pivotal provided trainer Michael Bell and jockey Jamie Spencer with their first victories in the Oaks, although they had to survive a lengthy stewards’ inquiry before the results were made official.  Spencer was handed a five-day ban for careless riding, however, and will miss the last two days of the Royal Ascot meeting.

Perfect Truth went to the front at the start under Johnny Murtagh, and was followed closely by Wadaat, Phillipina, and Oh Goodness Me. Tom Queally had Midday racing comfortably in fifth along the inside rail, with Sariska just to her outside in sixth.

Oh Goodness Me took over the lead from Perfect Truth after three furlongs, taking the field of 10 fillies around Tattenham Corner into the home straightaway. At the same time, Sariska made a bold sweeping move on the outside and shot to the front, and looked poised to draw off to a commanding win.

It was then that things got interesting. 

As Sariska went to the front, she also began to edge slightly to the left, into the path of Phillipina, causing that filly to check sharply. She continued to drift to the left, soundly bumping Midday, which started a chain reaction of interference. Perfect Truth, who was in tight quarters along the rail, bore the brunt of the interference, as she bounced off the rail while being sharply checked. Murtagh then eased his filly through the final two furlongs and brought her home last. 

A second instance of interference then occurred as Sariska then drifted to her right, into the path of Rainbow View, before finally being straightened by Spencer in the final furlong. Meanwhile, Midday was finally in the clear and under a strong drive. The Juddmonte Farms homebred drew alongside Sariska and the pair battled to the wire, with Sariska prevailing by a head. After a lengthy inquiry, the stewards allowed the results to stand.

High Heeled came on well for third, 2 1/2-lengths behind the top pair. Final time for the 12 furlongs was 2:35.28 over a turf course rated as good.

Bell, who won the 2005 Vodafone Derby (Eng-I) with Motivator, was understandably elated after the race, telling reporters, “She's always shown us huge potential at home and ever since the day she started working I thought she was a star. She fulfilled all my expectations and we're so thrilled to have her.”

“To bag the Oaks is an amazing feeling,” Bell continued.  “It's a lonely place out in front, especially for a filly so inexperienced, but the post came in time.”

Henry Cecil, trainer of the runner-up, was gracious in defeat, stating, “She got checked a few times, but the chips were down at the finish, and she was beaten fair and square.”

Sariska is a bay filly by Pivotal out of Maycocks Bay, by Muhtarram. She was bred in England by her owner, Lady Bamford.

Ask Hangs on in Coronation Cup

Earlier in the day, Sir Michael Stoute’s Ask landed the biggest prize of his career when hanging on for a desperate nose victory over Youmzain and Look Here in the Investec Coronation Cup (Eng-I).

Purchased two years ago by Irishman Pat Fahey, the original plans were to campaign Ask as a hurdler. 

“Jumping was the plan but Sir Michael soon changed our minds,” Fahey said. “He said he ‘had plans’. I asked if he thought he would develop into a group horse and he said ‘very much so’.”

“If Sir Michael tells you (that) you have a nice horse, it’s music to the ears.”

Frozen Fire went right to the front by Johnny Murtagh, and was joined quickly by Expresso Star.  Ask, under Ryan Moore, tracked that pair from third, as favored Youmzain ran comfortably in fifth.

The order remained unchanged until the field reached the homestretch, when Ask took command with two furlongs to go. He was soon challenged by both Youmzain and Look Here, and the trio battled it out the final furlong.

It was a desperate finish, with Ask prevailing by a nose over Youmzain. Look Here was just another nose back in third. Final time for the 12 furlongs was 2:37.

Bred in England by Side Hill Stud, Ask is a 6-year-old horse by Sadler’s Wells out of Request, by Rainbow Quest. Request is a granddaughter of the tremendous Highclere, who won both the One Thousand Guineas (Eng-I) and Prix de Diane (Fr-I), and in turn produced champion and blue hen mare, Height of Fashion.