Highway just heavenly at Ascot
Irish raider proves irresistible in Group Two Ribblesdale
Last Updated: 21/06/12 3:35pm
Princess Highway: Sprinted clear of her Ribblesdale rivals
Princess Highway ran out an impressive winner of the Ribblesdale Stakes at Royal Ascot.
Dermot Weld's daughter of Street Cry had impressed in winning both starts this season, latterly when landing the Group Three Blue Wind Stakes, but took her form to a new level in the 12 furlong Group Two.
Vow led the field at a steady pace in the early stages, appearing to cause scrimmaging in behind, until Darryll Holland took the bull by the horns and kicked on aboard Investec Oaks second Shirocco Star.
It appeared as though he may have stolen the race with that move as he quickened again off the home turn, taking several lengths out of the field.
The Fugue, sent off favourite on the back of an unlucky run at Epsom, and Princess Highway were sent in pursuit but it soon became apparent that Pat Smullen was travelling far better aboard the Irish raider.
The three year old made her rivals appear pedestrian as she lengthened clear to record a mightily impressive six length success with The Fugue edging out Shirocco Star by a short-head for the minor honours.
Weld and Smullen had combined to take this race with the winner's dam in 2002 and Princess Highway was a fifteenth winner at the Royal Meeting for the veteran handler.
A clue to Princess Highway's chance was lurking in the form book, as she had Epsom heroine Was back in third when winning at Naas last time out.
Weld said: "It's nice to come back and win the same race we won a number of years ago with her dam.
"She's been a backward filly but progressed well during the spring and she beat the winner of the Epsom Oaks (Was) convincingly last time out.
"I thought this was an excellent renewal of the Ribblesdale, so we really had to improve to win today, and she's gone and done it.
"Ascot has always been very lucky for me and she is a late developing filly.
"I thought Epsom might come a bit too soon for her and we gave her a little bit more time to come here today and go on for the Irish Oaks.
"My only concern was that the ground had maybe gone a bit slow for her, but they went a very true pace and Pat very wisely took his time on her and rode a brilliant race as always."
Smullen said: "She's a beautiful mare to ride. She's uncomplicated, travels and quickens.
"Our only fear was that the ground had gone too soft for her, but she handled it extremely well and it's actually not too bad. I think she'd prefer better ground.
"She beat the Oaks winner quite well at Naas, so the form was there.
"I fancied her strongly today. I think she's an extremely good filly. She stays a mile and a half and she quickens, so she has it all."
The Fugue's trainer, John Gosden, said: "The winner is very smart and we were beaten fair and square, but I'm disappointed it rained because my filly is much better on good to firm ground.
"We'll freshen her up for the Yorkshire Oaks."
Hughie Morrison said of Shirocco Star: "We all had hard races in the Oaks, but she kept going and it was a brave performance.
"She's obviously one of the best fillies and the Irish Oaks in four weeks' time would be the plan."