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News from Europe

Alexandrova gives Kieren Fallon his fourth English Oaks
By Tom Krish

LONDON -- Alexandrova gave jockey Kieren Fallon his fourth English Oaks victory at Epson Downs on Friday, June 2, 2006. It was the third win in the Oaks for Ireland-based trainer, Aidan O'Brien.

Always a firm favorite at 11-4, then 5-2 and 9-4 at post time, Alexandrova lay 9th in the 10-filly field. Speciosa, the surprise winner of the 1.000 Guineas, showed the way. Short Skirt, who had beaten Alexandrova in the Musidora Stakes at York in the slop, delayed the start and had to be blindfolded and led in.

Alexandrova, held up by Fallon, was in 9th position as they negotiated Tattenham Corner for the run to the box. Speciosa was being tackled and as she was being collared, Fallon set Alexandrova alight and switched to the extreme outside. The response was electrifying. As the Saddler's Wells filly put her stride into action, the entire Epsom Downs throng rose with a roar. Alexandrova found herself in front with a furlong left. Fallon kept the filly to her task to win by six lengths. The time was 2 37.71 on what we in America call a 'firm' track. It was a 12-furlong trip.

Rising Cross, an outsider, took the runner-up berth. Short Skirt salvaged third. The rest of the field was outpaced in the homestretch.

I asked Aidan O'Brien in the post-race conference if the Breeders Cup was in Alexandrova's schedule. Fallon answered, "Breeders Cup, you have horses coming from all over. This filly is capable. She must be allowed to take a shot. It is a long way off."

Kieren Fallon, while responding to my question in Paris after he had won the Arc last October, had said that ground-saving trips are the key to winning big events. I asked him if his strategy in the Oaks was by design or if that is the way the race developed. With a chuckle, he replied, "You are right. I was farther back than I would have liked. This filly has a tremendous turn of foot. Going to the outside was an easy decision."

Shirocco, the Breeders Cup Turf winner at Belmont Park in October 2005, won the Coronation Cup also over 12 furlongs. Christophe Soumillon, rode the Andre Farbe trainee. Ouija Board, the 2004 Oaks winner and the 2004 Breeders Cup Distaff heroine at Lone Star Park, challenged strongly in the stretch but found Shirocco going one better.

The sun was shining, for the most part, on Friday, Oaks Day and several well-fancied horses won in the seven-event card.

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