06/01/2007 11:00PM

Light Shift wins English Oaks


Light Shift gave Henry Cecil an emotional return to the classic winner's circle at Epsom on Friday when she held on to win the $742,000 English Oaks. It was Cecil's eighth Oaks victory and his 24th British classic overall, but his first since Love Divine landed the Oaks in 2000. Since then, the trainer has been plagued by personal and professional problems.

The irony of Light Shift's victory is that she was considered her trainer's second string. It was the 9-4 favorite and recent Musidora Stakes winner Passage of Time who was expected to set the Cecil celebrations alight, but she weakened to finish eighth, beaten 21 lengths in a roughly run race.

The 6-1 Light Shift, a Kentucky-bred daughter of Kingmambo, was bumped midway through the 1 1/2-mile test, but she and rider Ted Durcan shrugged it off to lead approaching the quarter pole. When she was challenged by the Aidan O'Brien-trained Peeping Fawn, she found more to cross the line a half-length winner. It was another four lengths back to a second O'Brien runner, All My Loving, the filly who had been three-quarters of length second to Light Shift in the listed Cheshire Oaks on May 9.

The winning time was 2:40.38 on a course labeled good to soft, soft in places.

Between 1985 and 2000, Cecil's Oaks winners included fillies like Oh So Sharp, Diminuendo, and Snow Bride, all of whom were ridden by Steve Cauthen, as well as Lady Carla, Reams of Verse, and Ramruma. His four Epsom Derby winners include Slip Anchor and Reference Point, also ridden by Cauthen, while among his six 1000 Guineas winners are Oh So Sharp and Bosra Sham.

But since 2000 Cecil has suffered through a messy divorce, has seen many of his big owners like Sheikh Mohammed abandon him, was found to be intoxicated when a car he was driving struck an elderly couple in downtown Newmarket, and lost his twin brother to cancer. But Khalid Abdullah, the owner of Passage of Time, and the Niarchos Family, who own Light Shift, stayed loyal to him.

Earlier, Scorpion returned to the form that had brought him victories in the Grand Prix de Paris and the St. Leger Stakes two years ago as he defeated his Aidan O'Brien-trained stablemate Septimus by 1 1/4 lengths in the Group 1, $495,000 Coronation Cup, clocking the 1 1/2 miles in 2:40.82. Ridden by Michael Kinane, the 8-1 Scorpion is a 5-year-old son of Montjeu who had lost four in a row since his St. Leger score in September 2005. Among those finishing far behind were last year's Epsom Derby winner, Sir Percy, in sixth, and last year's St. Leger winner, Sixties Icon, who flopped as the favorite.