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Godolphin set winning ambience on Derby Day.

Melbourne: Godolphin's Ambience stormed into favouritism for next week's A$1 million (Dh2.61 million) Oaks when delivering a dominant performance to land the Group 2 Mumm Wakeful Stakes at a vibrant Flemington Racecourse on Derby Day on Saturday.

James McDonald rode a confident race aboard the John O'Shea-trained daughter of Street Cry, who displayed an astonishing turn of foot at the top of the straight to put the race to bed within strides and come home an easy 3 EeA' length winner of the 2,000m contest.

Beluga Blue, ridden by Hugh Bowman, finished second best while Muzyka was half a length away in third.

O'Shea said he would consult with the Godolphin team before committing to Thursday's race, which is run on the third day of the Melbourne Cup (G1) Carnival. "I would lean towards running her next week and at this stage, I wouldn't see too many reasons not to," he said at Flemington.

"She relaxes well in her races and has a lovely turn of foot for a staying filly.

"Today, she had a lovely run on the rail, she went to sleep and even though there were a few hair-raising moments on the turn once she came off their backs I was confident that she'd run a strong 2000m."

Open to three-year-old fillies only, the Oaks is the fillies' equivalent of the Victoria Derby (G1). A total of 35 winners of the Wakeful have gone on to win the Oaks including the New Zealand-bred Kirramosa who completed the double in 2013.

McDonald, who is enjoying a fulfilling first season as stable jockey to Godolphin in Australia, finished second aboard Etymology in the Group 1 A$1.5 million Victoria Derby, Australia's oldest Classic.

A rapidly improving stayer, Etymology failed to match the closing pace of Caulfield scorer Tarzino, who was a comfortable winner of the 2,500 metre contest.

Meanwhile, Elhaame missed out on a spot in Tuesday's A$6 million Melbourne Cup when he finished fourth behind the Gai Waterhouse-trained Excess Knowledge in the Group 3 Lexus Stakes, a race that awarded the winner an automatic entry into Australia's most famous race.

"No excuses really, he just failed to cope," said Henry Pumptre, Godolphin's racing manager in Australia, on Elhaame.

The connections of Excess Knowledge, however, had to endure a telecast Stewards enquiry following a protest lodged by runner-up Zanteca's connections, who contended that their horse had been obstructed in the last 200 metres. Flemington Stewards dismissed the objection and let the placings remain unchanged.

McDonald earlier came close to completing back-to-back wins before a crowd of close to 100,000 race fans when San Diego narrowly failed to collar favourite Disposition in the Group 3 Guvera Stakes over 1,400 metres.

Also on the day, Cox Plate-winning handler Chris Waller recorded a third consecutive win in the Group 1 Coolmore Stud Stakes when he saddled Japonisme to score an upset victory over Godolphin's Exosphere, the big favourite.

Victoria's Derby Day boasted an impressive card of nine black type races and was suitable backed up by a multitude of fashionistas dressed to the nines in black and white.

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Publication:Gulf News (United Arab Emirates)
Date:Nov 1, 2015
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