Darley Yorkshire Oaks: Sulky Sariska not at the races
On ladies' day at any modern race meeting, ladettes and their excesses are generally confined to the bars and grandstands.
Here yesterday, though, the woman behaving worst was out on the track. Sariska, hot favourite for the day's centrepiece, the Darley Yorkshire Oaks, caused a wholly unwelcome sensation by standing stock-still as the starting gates opened for the Group One contest, refusing point-blank to race.
Her mulish mood deprived the faithful of one of the showdowns of the season; last year's Oaks winner had been due to clash with her old rival Midday and this year's Epsom heroine Snow Fairy. Midday duly won the battle of the generations with a comprehensive three-length beating of Snow Fairy. But it was a victory with hollow overtones without Sariska in the mix.
Jamie Spencer, the naughty one's rider, looked shattered as he brought his mount back to the unsaddling area. His terse initial view was that “Nobody died and the filly's fine.”
Midday had been behind Sariska on the three previous occasions they had met — in the Oaks and Irish version last year, and a lesser race here in the spring — but is currently in the form of her life and her trainer, Henry Cecil, had been keen to see their fourth meeting.
In the race, it briefly crossed the mind of Tom Queally, in Midday's saddle, that the expected challenge was not materialising, but the jockey was never going to become complacent and kept his partner right up to her work until the line was safely crossed.
“I wasn't aware that Sariska had stayed in the stalls,” he said, “and although I couldn't see her around me, you never know with Jamie; he could have been sitting right behind me pulling double.
“My filly was always travelling powerfully and even though it felt like she was doing only a half-speed, she had the others at it soon into the straight. I maybe went to the front a bit early; she's better with a lead for longer and I was sort of waiting for Sariska to come at me.”
Midday's success was compensation for the last-stride defeat of her stablemate Twice Over, who carries the same Khaled Abdullah colours, in Tuesday's Juddmonte International.