06/18/2008 12:00AM

Duke of Marmalade much the best


Duke of Marmalade proved that he is absolutely first class at Royal Ascot on Wednesday, when he powered clear to win the Group 1, $735,000 Prince of Wales's Stakes by four lengths.

Given a perfect ride by Johnny Murtagh, the 4-year-old Duke of Marmalade rallied between horses to lead approaching the eighth pole and won going away as the even-money favorite. Phoenix Tower battled on to get up for second by a short head from Pipedreamer. Ask was fifth following a rough trip, with French shipper Loup Breton seventh and Sixties Icon 12th. Godolphin Racing's entry Literato was scratched.

The time for the 1 1/4-mile race was 2:05.35 on ground labeled good to firm.

While the quality of the competition that Duke of Marmalade has beaten - not only in the Prince of Wales but also in the Prix Ganay and the Tattersalls Gold Cup this spring - may be called into question, the manner in which he dispatched his rivals on Wednesday marks him as a good one, certainly in the class of recent race winners Ouija Board and Rakti, perhaps as good as 2001 winner Fantastic Light. Having suffered from leg ailments between his 2- and 3-year-old campaigns, he placed three times in Group 1 races last year but has blossomed this season, this being his third Group 1 triumph in three different countries since April 27.

Duke of Marmalade could be tried at 1 1/2 miles for the first time in Ascot's King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes on July 26, although trainer Aidan O'Brien would not commit to that assignment, perhaps because he also has Coronation Cup winner Soldier of Fortune pointed to that race.

O'Brien and Murtagh have now combined for three Group 1 triumphs in the first two days of the Royal Meeting with Yeats scheduled to run in Thursday's Ascot Gold Cup.

* Earlier on the card, Sabana Perdida captured the $275,000 Windsor Forest Stakes, a Group 2 mile for older fillies and mares, at odds of 4-1.

In giving French trainer Alain de Royer-Dupre his first Royal Ascot victory, the 5-year-old Sabana Perdida improved upon her third-place finish in the same race a year ago. Always traveling smoothly, she collared the drifting 9-4 favorite Heaven Sent 50 yards from the line to record a three-quarter-length victory, getting the straight mile under Christophe Lemaire in 1:39.73.

Fresh from a Group 3 score at Lingfield, Sabana Perdida will go next in the one-mile, Group 1 Prix d'Astarte at Deauville on Aug. 3 in what is shaping up as a meeting with Natagora, winner of the 1000 Guineas and third in the French Derby.

* The lightly raced Aqlaam scored by two lengths in the seven-furlong, Group 3 Jersey Stakes. The 3-year-old Aqlaam had broken a knee when third in his maiden debut at Ascot last year and made his comeback by winning a seven-furlong maiden race at Newbury on May 17. Trained by William Haggas for Sheikh Hamdan al-Maktoum, he never gave Godolphin's runner-up Il Warrd a chance, rewarding his backers at 6-1 while covering the distance in 1:26.98.

* Langs Lash scored a 25-1 upset in the five-furlong, Group 2 Queen Mary Stakes for 2-year-old fillies. Ridden by Alan Munro and trained by Mick Quinlan, she had second choice Heart Shaped well beaten in 14th with the 7-2 favorite Danehill Destiny 17th and last, 21 lengths behind.