Post time for the Prix Diane (French Oaks) is 4.04 PM Paris time on Sunday. There was a thunderstorm early Saturday in the Chantilly neighborhood. A lot of rain fell. As Sunday dawns, the going will be very soft. It was announced that the grass will be cut to accelerate the process of drying. A rain-free Sunday will make the track eminently fit for racing although the going will stay on the soft side.
The Aga Khan-owned Sarafina is the 5-4 favorite with the British bookmakers. In France, all wagering is done on the Tote. Sarafina started her career as a sophomore and is two for two in her short career. In her last outing on May 23 at Longchamp, she was a convincing winner in the Group I Prix Saint-Alary. The Prix Diane will only be the third lifetime start for Sarafina, Refuse to Bend, her sire, was the English 2000 Guineas winner in 2003. Christophe Lemaire rides Sarafina who is trained by Alain du Royer-Dupre. Lemaire won the 2009 Oaks with Stacelita.
The course was watered at Ascot on Saturday. Chris Stickels, Clerk of the Course, stated, “we will start the meeting on good to firm with a touch easier ground in places.”
Goldikova, the champion French mare, takes on Paco Boy in the Queen Anne Stakes on Tuesday. Rip Van Winkle has been declared to run and he is back after a seven-month layoff.
Makfi, hero of Newmarket’s English 2000 Guineas, renews rivalry with Canford Cliffs in the St James’s Palace Stakes, the other big race on opening day. The latter, since the Newmarket race, made a visit to Ireland and returned to the United Kingdom with an impressive win in the Irish 2000 Guineas. To be ridden by Richard Hughes, the Richard Hannon-trained Canford Cliffs is favored in the wagering.
Let us switch our attention to happenings in America. There was considerable relief in trainer Steve Asmussen’s stable late Saturday. In the fourth race at Belmont Park, Unrivaled Belle, who had beaten Rachel Alexandra on Oaks day at Churchill Downs, was the odds on favorite in the Grade I Ogden Phipps, a $250,000 race for distaffers on the main (dirt) track. Life At Ten, John Velasquez up, took a bad step or two leaving, recovered, hit the front and made it all to win by two and three quarter lengths. Life At Ten, a five year-old daughter of Malibu Moon, ran the 1700 metres in 1 40.72 seconds. She returned $6.60. Unrivaled Belle loomed large in the final turn and could not match strides with the winner. A Todd Pletcher trainee, Life At Ten was winning her fifth consecutive race. Her last win came in Hawthorne’s Sixty Sails Handicap.
John Velasquez, Life At Ten’s jockey, commented. “Halfway down the backside, Kent (Desormeaux, Unrivaled Belle’s rider) wanted to go with me. So I just gave my horse her head and she responded. She got some help at the five-sixteenth pole and it was all her from there.”
Kent Desormeaux spoke. “I thought I would win at the quarter pole but the winner was too good. She kept going.”
Fifty minutes after the Ogden Phipps at Belmont, Unrivaled Belle’s New York loss did not deter fans of Rachel Alexandra from making her the 1-10 favorite in Churchill’s sixth race, the Grade II Fleur de Lis. Calvin Borel tracked Jessica Is Back and edged ahead with Rachel Alexandra turning for home. The race was put to bed in a matter of moments. Rachel Alexandra drew away to win by ten and one half lengths. The 1800-metre race was run in 1 48.78. After two losses this year, the Medaglia d’Oro progeny was returning to winning ways.
Jockey Calvin Borel made a terse statement. “She stepped it up today. We know she did the impossible last year.”
Trainer Steve Asmussen made no effort to hide his relief. “She is tremendous. I am very proud of her.”
Churchill Downs hosted another big race on Saturday, the Grade I Stephen Foster that carried a $671,700 purse. Battle Plan and Javier Castellano set the pace and had a four-length break over the chasing pack with a furlong to run. General Quarters who had chased Battle Plan had thrown in the towel. For a moment or two, it looked like Battle Plan was home free. As Battle Plan’s supporters started counting their winnings, there was someone emerging from the pack. It was Blame. Responding to Garrett Gomez’s call, Blame cut down the deficit in a mighty hurry. The post did not come soon enough for Battle Plan. Blame forged ahead to win by three parts of a length. Eleven ran and Blame was coming out of gate-11. The payoff was $9.80 on a $2.00 ticket. Blame ran the 1800-metre dirt race in 1 49.37. With seven wins in 10 career starts, Blame, by Arch out of Liable, has $1,068,214 in his account.
Winning trainer, Al Stall, Jr, stated, “he is full of ability, full of desire. He is a true professional.”
Jockey Gomez is seldom at a loss for words. “Speed was good today. I got going late. I know he will keep grinding away. He just keeps coming and coming at you.”
For fans in India, especially those who saw Adrian Nicholls in action in Mumbai, here is news that you should know. Jockey Nicholls was victorious aboard Victoire De Lyphar, a horse trained by David Nicholls, his father, in York’s Reg Griffin Memorial Trophy, a 1200-metre race on Saturday. On good going, Victoire De Lyphar covered 1200 metres in 1 11.63 seconds. There were 20 runners. A 10-1 chance, Victoire De Lyphar was in touch off fast fractions, struck the front late in the stretch and lasted over some late finishers.
Jockey Adrian Nicholls expressed delight. “Obviously, I am from up here (Yorkshire) so it means a lot. I won this before on Tax Free, so I know it takes a good horse to win it.”
The race was worth 64,760 pounds to the winner. It was the third time that David Nicholls was winning the Reg Griffin Memorial. In 1999, Pepperdine did it and Tax Free won in 2005. David Nicholls is a football fan and was watching World Cup matches and Mrs Nicholls was on hand.
In Australia, at Eagle Farm on Saturday, a number of Group races were held. The Grade I Racetree T J Smith, a 1600-metre turf race for freshmen, went to Pressday, ridden by Nash Rawiller and trained by Chris Waller.
The Queensland Derby, a 2400-metre Grade I turf race for sophomores, was won by Dariana. A 4-1 chance, Dariana was ridden by Michael Rodd. Bart Cummings was the winning trainer. It was the 260th Grade I win for trainer Cummings who is recovering from a bout of influenza.
Jockey Rawiller got another Grade I win. He rode Black Piraha, a 20-1 longshot, to victory in the Stradbroke Handicap, a 1400-metre grass race. Black Piraha is trained by Con Karakatsanis.
Kip Deville has been euthanized. The winner of the 2007 Breeders’ Cup Turf Mile was suffering from laminitis. Kip Deville came from the yard of Richard Dutrow, Jr. With 12 wins from 30 starts, Kip Deville made 3.3 million dollars.