Alinghi Pulls Upset in Ascot Vale Stakes

Danehill produced two group III winners at Warwick Farm, where Unearthly surprisingly headed a 1-2 for the Dane's nemesis, Zabeel, in the Chelmsford Stakes (Aust-II). But the headline of Australian racing Sept. 4 was the stunning victory by Alinghi in the Ascot Vale Stakes (Aust-II) at Flemington.

Named for surely the most bizarre winner of yachting's America's Cup -- for landlocked Switzerland -- the 3-year-old filly crushed the males sent out against her to win the $500,000 (Australian funds) feature by 2 1/4 lengths. Over a waterlogged straight 1,200 meters the 120th edition was run in 1:10.56.

Gilded Time's Barely a Moment (20-1) rushed home from last to head the eight vanquished runners. Tirade (14-1), a well-bred related son of Distorted Humor , fought on bravely for his third a farther neck away.

But Alinghi simply blew her rivals away to be the most dominant female winner of an Ascot Vale for almost three decades -- since Surround parlayed that success to take the Caulfield Guineas, W.S. Cox Plate and Victoria Oaks (all Aust-I) in her next three starts.

Alinghi appeared awkwardly placed early on under Damien Oliver from her outside gate, placed around seventh and five out from the flat side rail. But the race changed in a flash, when asked, last season's Blue Diamond (Aust-I) winner cruised past to even surprise those who laid the 11-10 by the ease of her win.

Trained by Lee Freedman for a syndicate of owners, this $80,000 purchase as a Melbourne premier yearling has pocketed $1,843,625 in winning six from eight. Alinghi is by the 1996 Ascot Vale winner, Encosta de Lago, bred by Blue Gum Farm which had him on its roster until the 11-year-old was relocated to Coolmore this year, as he finished second to Danehill by general earnings.

Danehill's fresh pair of group III winners in Sydney were Fastnet Rock and Dane Shadow, the former reversing a decision over him by Red Ransom colt Charge Forward in the San Domenico Stakes (Aust-II) at Randwick last month. Although the Roman Consul Stakes success was only the second in 10 starts by Fastnet Rock, this strapping colt from the Royal Academy mare Piccadilly Circus is one of considerable promise.

Unearthly (20-1) produced a grand win for South African born trainer David Payne, 24 hours after he became an Australian citizen. Few have landed the Chelmsford at 1,600 meters straight from a spell, but last season's Flight Stakes (Aust-I) winner was able to wear down fellow Zabeel So Assertive at the wire to win by a head. Zabeel is grandsire of the third horse, Niello, a dual group I winner by Zabeel's best son Octagonal. He was a length away and is waiting for 2,000 meters.

Another contender for training feat of the day was Tony McEvoy's effort to win the Craiglee Stakes (Aust-II) with English expatriate Hugs Dancer. Purchased by David Hayes after finishing ninth in last year's Melbourne Cup, the 8-year-old son of crack sprinter Cadeau Gerereaux was expected to find the 1,600 meters of the $500,000 Flemington feature too short and the weight-for-age field too classy. But the 25-1 chance charged past reigning Victoria Derby winner Elvestoem (by Danehill) in the final 100 meters to win by a length.