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African Skies gives boost to Cuis Ghaire with Group 3 win.

AT THE end of a week in which Cuis Ghaire's unbeaten run came to an end, the Stan James 1,000 Guineas favourite's credibility gained reinforcement when one of her victims, African Skies, chose Pattern company to lose her maiden status yesterday.

African Skies had finished a running-on fourth behind Jim Bolger's filly in the Albany Stakes and 36 days later she returned to Ascot to claim the Group 3 Princess Margaret Independent Newspaper Stakes under Neil Callan.

Despite defeat by Rip Van Winkel, Cuis Ghaire remained at the head of the betting for next year's opening fillies' Classic, but African Skies earned a 33-1 quote from the sponsors after she beat Rosabee and Excellerator by a length and a neck, and looks the type to shine over further than yesterday's 6f.

Trainer Kevin Ryan said: "Since Royal Ascot she has done marvellously physically. I wished I had weighed her then, because she looks a bigger, heavier filly now.

"She is quite a nice filly to look forward to and, though she's in the Cheveley Park Stakes, she quite possibly might need seven furlongs to a mile by then."

African Skies was bred by Pam Cockerill and Stephen Hillen and went through the sales ring as a foal, but Hillen was so taken by her that he bought her back as a yearling and offered her to his partners, including Cockerill.

There was celebration among the places, too, which were filled by the Vicky Haigh-trained Rosabee and Excellerator, running for first-season trainer George Baker.

Haigh said: "I can't believe it.

I'm expecting a call from the Arabs now! With more give in the ground I think she would have won."

Back in the spring Kieren Fallon was championing the 2,000 Guineas claims of Perfect Stride on his now defunct website, comparing him favourably with Classic winner Footstepsinthesands.

In the race itself Perfect Stride finished a well-beaten 12th, but on his first start since, the Sir Michael Stoute-trained colt showed Fallon's initial optimism may not have been entirely misplaced when trouncing his rivals for the 1m heritage handicap.

Future plans will depend on the handicapper's reaction to a three-length victory from Yaddree that jockey Ryan Moore said was "never really in any doubt".

Stoute said: "He got very overheated in the preliminaries at Newmarket and when the gates opened he ran too free. He was cast in his box before the Craven and had to miss the race, so went into the Guineas too fresh. We have unwound him since and gradually brought him back."

When Talking Hands scrambled home to win atWolverhampton previously, his trainer Sylvester Kirk said he had "never been as disappointed at having a winner before".

Yet he had altogether different emotions yesterday when the same horse sneaked home from The Legal Blonde to claim a win in the 7f Listed juvenile contest.

Under Jamie Spencer, the Mujahid gelding was switched to come between early leader Wildcat Wizard and The Legal Blonde, who made a spirited effort despite still being a maiden, inside the final furlong and score by a neck.

"He is a tough horse and would like more cut in the ground," said Kirk. "Jamie said switching him took a bit of momentum out of him, but he stuck at it. He only cost 16,000gns, but his target is the pounds 250,000 Tattersalls race at Newmarket in September. He would have a big chance in that off a light weight, if he gets in."

The talented Katie Walsh has a polished riding style similar to that of her brother Ruby, and she also mirrored his expert timing when delivering the well-backed Golden Desert, trained by Terry Mills, to smother the opposition in the women riders' handicap over 7f.

"I never thought I'd ride a winner at Ascot," saidWalsh, the youngest of the family, who was watched by her father Ted.

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Quote of the day

"I have just been so lucky to bump into one like her so early in my career" - elated trainer George Baker after Excellerator took third in the Princess Margaret Stakes
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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:The Racing Post (London, England)
Date:Jul 27, 2008
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