06/20/2006 11:00PM

Coronation will indeed crown the filly queen


ASCOT, England - No fewer than five 1000 Guineas winners will line up for Royal Ascot's $462,000 Coronation Stakes on Friday, making the Group 1, one-mile contest Europe's championship event for 3-year-old fillies.

Speciosa will be the darling of the Ascot punters. The speed-burning winner of the 1000 Guineas at Newmarket is best suited to a mile, but her unheralded trainer, Pamela Sly, cannot be happy with her outside draw in a field of 15, one that will compromise her chances of making an easy lead on on Ascot's one-turn right-handed mile. A Danehill Dancer filly, Speciosa led to the quarter pole last time before fading late to fourth in the 1 1/2-mile English Oaks. With the cutback in distance, the outside post, and her tendency to drift to the right, the Coronation is loaded with pitfalls for Speciosa and rider Micky Fenton.

The Dermot Weld-trained Nightime is coming off a marvelous six-length victory in the Irish 1000 Guineas, and while she can be expected to improve still further with only three races under her belt, she has never encountered firm ground before, and that is exactly what she will find on Friday. With Pat Smullen aboard, the Nightime will give a good account of herself, but she may already require a distance something longer than a mile.

Lolita invades from Germany where she won the German 1000 Guineas. The Andreas Lowe-trained filly has picked up the services of Olivier Peslier but she is basically a Group 2 performer stepping up to the big Group 1 stage of Royal Ascot.

Jeremy Noseda, whose Araafa won the St. James's Palace Stakes, or colts' equivalent of the Coronation, on Tuesday, will saddle the intriguing Vague. Winner of the UAE 1000 Guineas on dirt at Nad Al Sheba, Vague is returning to turf after her UAE heroics three months ago, but she did win her maiden on turf going six furlongs and Noseda say that "she is a tough filly who has been working well since returning from a setback after Dubai." Big-race ace Michael Kinane has the call.

The fifth 1000 Guineas winner qualifies on that score only through a technicality. Price Tag was the rather handy winner of the Poule d'Essai des Poulains, or French 1000, but she was disqualified and placed third for what appeared to be a mild infraction. She finished 1-1/2 lengths in front of Tie Black that day at Longchamp with subsequent Group 2 Prix de Sandringham winner Impressionnante third. Her canny trainer, Pacal Bary, will give a leg up to Thierry Thulliez, and if she improves the least bit on her French 1000 effort, she will crown herself queen of the filly milers.