06/18/2001 11:00PM

Black Minnaloushe takes St. James's

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ASCOT, England - Black Minnaloushe proved his doubters wrong at Royal Ascot on Tuesday with a gutsy performance to take the Group 1 St. James's Palace Stakes.

Winner of the Irish 2000 Guineas, Black Minnaloushe was sent off at 8-1 by a crowd of 46,924 at the Royal Meeting's opening day. The price was surprising in that Black Minnaloushe was saddled by Europe's premier trainer, Aidan O'Brien.

Breaking widest of all in a field of 11 that included the French 2000 Guineas winner Noverre and the undefeated but untested favorite Dandoun, Black Minnaloushe was immediately angled in to the rail by Johnny Murtagh to save ground.

Meanwhile, his stablemate, Darwin, cut out a pace that only the fittest could survive. Another O'Brien runner, Minardi, was the first to take advantage, pouncing on the lead at the quarter pole, but he was soon passed by Godolphin Racing's Noverre, who was ridden by Frankie Dettori.

Noverre seemed home free, as Black Minnaloushe was suddenly blocked down on the rail.

It was at that point that Murtagh pulled a rabbit out of his top hat. He yanked Black Minnaloushe off the fence and the horse responded with a final burst of speed to take the lead two strides from the line, beating Noverre by a neck with recent Prix Jean Prat winner Olden Times a head back in third and French Guineas runner-up Vahorimix fourth. The time for the one-turn, mostly uphill mile was 1:41.37.

O'Brien said the Eclipse Stakes would be next for Black Minnaloushe. The Breeders' Cup Classic could also be on the agenda as Murtagh believes Black Minnaloushe, a 3-year-old Storm Cat colt, could handle dirt.

Medicean takes Queen Anne

In the Group 2 Queen Anne Stakes, Medicean served notice that he will be the one to beat in the big Group 1 weight-for-age miles coming up this summer and fall.

Trained by Michael Stoute, Medicean burst to the front at the three-sixteenths pole on his way to a solid one-length score over Swallow Flight, with Arkadian Hero, in his best race since narrowly missing in the Atto Mile at Woodbine, a neck farther back in third.

The time for the straight mile was 1:40.46.

Medicean will run next in the Sussex Stakes at Goodwood on Aug. 1.

Ladies first in King's Stand Stakes

Ladies Day came two days early at Ascot this year as females dominated the five-furlong Group 2 King's Stand Stakes.

The victory of the 8-1 Cassandra Go was all the more remarkable as she is in foal to Green Desert. She prevailed by 1 1/4 lengths over Misty Eyed and will seek Group 1 brackets in her last race, the July Cup at Newmarket on July 12.

The King's Stand proved to be a disappointment for Superstar Leo. The European juvenile filly champion finished 14th of 22, beaten 6 1/4 lengths.

*O'Brien's 2-year-old Landseer took the six-furlong Group 3 Coventry Stakes at 20-1 by a neck from Firebreak.

San Sebastian heads Gold Cup

The Ascot Gold Cup may be an anachronism in this age of commercial breeding, but that does not lessen the excitement generated by the world's most important 2 1/2 mile flat race.

A crowd of 70,000 will be in attendance on Thursday for a race that was immortalized in "My Fair Lady." The American Triple Crown winner Omaha was narrowly beaten in the 1936 running by Quashed, and while American interest in the Gold Cup has waned in recent decades, bettors may want to consider the chances of San Sebastian in Thursday's marathon.

Trained by John Dunlop, the 7-year-old gelding was second to Kayf Tara in last year's Gold Cup. He followed that up with a win in the 2 1/2-mile French equivalent, the Group 1 Prix du Cadran.

Last time out, San Sebastian was a close second to Solo Mio in the two-mile Sagaro Stakes. With Solo Mio skipping Ascot, San Sebastian should be able to handle his main rival, Marienbard, whom Godolphin hopes will bring back memories of their two-time Gold Cup winner Kayf Tara.