06/18/2002 11:00PM

Grandera defeats Banks Hill and Nayef

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ASCOT, England - Grandera won the Prince of Wales's Stakes at Royal Ascot Wednesday by five authoritative lengths, as Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf winner Banks Hill finished third against males.

Held back in the early going, Grandera, under Frankie Dettori, showed an excellent turn of foot to lead approaching the final furlong, and soon put the result beyond doubt.

Indian Creek battled on for second ahead of Banks Hill, who was the 7-2 favorite. The drying weather had brought fast turf, which Banks Hill prefers, but she was unable to quicken when she had a chance to win one furlong from the finish of the 1 1/4-mile race. Nayef, expected to be a leading challenger, finished fourth.

Winning trainer Saeed bin Suroor took the race for the third straight year, following victories by Dubai Millennium in 2000 and Fantastic Light in 2001.

Godolphin racing manager Simon Crisford praised Grandera's performance as "unbelievable" and said that the horse had surpassed expectations.

"When we bought him last year, we had the international races in Singapore and Hong Kong in mind for him, but he has been very impressive this year and we have certainly got ourselves a good deal," he said.

* In the second race on the card, the five-furlong Queen Mary Stakes for 2-year-old fillies, Romantic Liason gave Pat Eddery his 4,493rd winner, to equal Lester Piggott for the second-most career victories by a British jockey. One more winner will take him into clear second behind Sir Gordon Richards on the all-time list.

The Brian Meehan-trained Romantic Liason won by 3 1/2 lengths. She had come into the race with an unusual preparation, having won her only other start on Lingfield's all-weather track.

* Singer Rod Stewart was ejected from the Royal Enclosure Wednesday because he was not wearing the required morning coat and top hat. Instead he had chosen a pale blue summer suit and white shoes.

"I like some of his stuff," Ascot official Mo Merchant told Reuters. "But rules are rules."

Gossamer goes for Coronation

Gossamer bids to follow up her impressive triumph in the Irish 1000 Guineas in the Group 1 Coronation Stakes over a mile at Royal Ascot Friday. The Luca Cumani-trained filly boasts the best form in the field, including a win over course and distance in last season's Fillies Mile.

The problem facing her connections concerns the drying ground at the course.

Although Gossamer is scintillating on a softer surface, the rapidly drying ground - which is now good with good-to-firm spots - may not be to her advantage. But it should suit Zenda, winner of the Poule d'Essai des Pouliches in France. Zenda was not suited to the sticky ground when she finished behind Gossamer at The Curragh.

Aidan O'Brien could continue his good run with Sophisticat, a daughter of legendary American mare Serena's Song. Third behind Zenda at Longchamp, she is a tough filly who has the ability to reverse that decision.

Dolores, fourth in the 1000 Guineas at Newmarket while still a maiden, represents the best English classic form, as Gossamer was only eighth in the 1000 Guineas at Newmarket. Dolores, by sire of the moment Danehill, shouldn't be underestimated.

The classic colts are also in action in Friday's chief supporting race, the King Edward VII Stakes, a Group 2 race over 1 1/2 miles. Sir Michael Stoute, always to be feared with his 3-year-old colts, saddles the unbeaten Gallant Hero and Balakheri, third in the Dante Stakes at York last month.

Bollin Eric, second in the Dante, which is the premier British classic trial, passed on the Epsom Derby and could make his freshness count. Trained in the north of England by Tim Easterby, he will relish the longer distance and could be the one to beat.

Black Sam Bellamy, a brother to last year's Derby winner Galileo, and Roar of the Tiger, a brother to Breeders' Cup Classic second Giant's Causeway, are among O'Brien's possible runners.