04/24/2006 12:00AM

Irridescence shines in QEII at Sha Tin


Irridescence established herself as one of the world's leading racemares on Sunday as she led virtually throughout to win the $1.8 million Queen Elizabeth II Cup at Sha Tin, holding off the late challenges of both Best Gift and Ouija Board.

Withdrawn from the Dubai Duty Free on March 25 after getting hung up on Nad Al Sheba's paddock rails, Irridescence showed no signs of that mishap in Hong Kong with her determined performance in the Queen Elizabeth II, a 1 1/4-mile Group 1 event.

After taking a reluctant lead under jockey Weichong Marwing, she was strongly challenged by Super Kid entering the 2 1/2-furlong stretch. Those two dueled to the eighth pole, where Irridescence shrugged off the New Zealand-bred Super Kid, only to face even stronger challenges from Best Gift, under Eric Saint-Martin, and Ouija Board, ridden by Frankie Dettori.

Marwing and Irridescence got the job done, however, gutting out the last quarter-mile in 22.40 seconds for a head victory over Best Gift, with Ouija Board, who sped the last quarter in 21.80 seconds, a short head further back in third. The final time for the right-handed 10 furlongs was 2:02.00 on good to firm ground.

A Group 1 and Group 2 winner in her native South Africa and at the listed level in Dubai, Irridescence is owned by Team Valor and trained by leading South African trainer Mike de Kock. By the Kentucky-bred Nureyev stallion Caesour, Irridescence is a 4-year-old by Southern Hemisphere standards, but is 5 on the North American calendar.

Team Valor bought her before her Group 1 tallies in the South African Classic and the Woolavington 2200. Before her Dubai sojourn, she had finished 1 1/2 lengths fifth against older colts in South Africa's most prestigious race, the Durban July Handicap.

Team Valor's Steve Karlin was ecstatic.

"What a ride from Marwing," he exclaimed.

Longchamp: Fontainebleau upset

Trainer Andre Fabre's powerful stable of 3-year-olds suffered a slight setback on Sunday as the Nicolas Clement-trained Stormy River sprung a 10-1 upset in the Group 3, $98,000 Prix de Fontainebleau, Longchamp's major course-and-distance prep for the French 2000 Guineas.

Stormy River, under Thierry Thulliez, sprinted clear for an impressive four-length victory over Light of Joy. The Fabre-trained Carlotamix - the French juvenile champion, making his first start since defeating Stormy River in last October's Criterium International - faded to finish seventh of 10, 5 1/2 lengths behind Stormy River. The time for the mile on good ground was 1:38.20.

Aidan O'Brien's juvenile group-race winners Aussie Rules and Ivan Denisovich both disappointed, crossing the wire fourth and eighth.

In the French 1000 Guineas prep, the Group 3, $98,000 Prix de la Grotte, the 3-1 Daltaya posted a mild three-quarter-length upset over Quiet Royal. Trained by Royer-Dupre, Daltaya covered the mile under Christophe Soumillon in 1:38.30. The Fabre-trained On a Cloud was a nonthreatening sixth in the nine-runner field.