08/01/2007 12:00AM

Godolphin sweeps two Goodwood stakes


Godolphin was back in the driver's seat at Goodwood in England on Wednesday as Ramonti captured the Group 1, $610,000 Sussex Stakes shortly after the stable's exciting 2-year-old Rio de la Plata had taken the Group 2, $142,000 Vintage Stakes.

Shut out of the Group 1 winner's circle in England last year, Godolphin won at the highest level for the second time this season with the former Italian-based Ramonti, who had previously scored in Royal Ascot's Queen Anne Stakes. His Sussex victory, in which he held off the late rush of the Royal meeting's St. James's Palace Stakes winner Excellent Art by a head, vaults him to the top of the European mile division.

Sent off at 9-2, Ramonti led at the quarter pole under Frankie Dettori and held on gamely to defeat the Aidan O'Brien-trained 15-8 favorite Excellent Art. It was 1 3/4 lengths back to Jeremy. He just got up for third by a short head from UAE Derby winner Asiatic Boy, who was clearly in need of the race off a four-month absence. The time for the mile on good ground was 1:37.26.

Trained in Italy last year by the Botti brothers, for whom he won Italy's two best mile races, the Group 1 Premio Vittorio di Capua and the Group 2 Premio Ribot, Ramonti was purchased by Sheikh Mohammed's Godolphin outfit after having finished third in the Hong Kong Mile.

While trainer Saeed bin Suroor was noncommittal about future plans, Ramonti is a likely candidate for the Prix du Moulin de Longchamp or the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes.

Trainer Mike de Kock seemed satisfied with Asiatic Boy's performance off the layoff and has hopes of running his Argentine-bred in the 1 1/4-mile and 88-yard Juddmonte International against Epsom Derby winner Authorized at York on Aug. 21.

Godolphin's joy was more than doubled in the Vintage Stakes as Rio de la Plata, a Kentucky-bred son of Rahy, stormed to a two-length victory over Lizard Island, who like Excellent Art hails from the Ballydoyle yard of Godolphin's arch-rivals John Magnier and Michael Tabor. The 8-13 favorite, Rio de la Plata was previously a five-length winner of a 19-runner Newmarket maiden. He covered the seven furlongs in 1:26.05 with Dettori aboard.

* Friday at Goodwood, Western Art, a Kentucky-bred son of Hennessy, will try to win the six-furlong, Group 2 Richmond Stakes for the red-hot Peter Chapple-Hyam.

The seven-furlong, Group 3 Oak Tree Stakes has drawn 18 fillies and mares. Wake Up Maggie is the choice to defeat Costume and Redstone Dancer.