06/16/2005 11:00PM

Maids Causeway comes again

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Maids Causeway outgamed Karen's Caper in a thrilling duel to win the $440,000 Coronation Stakes on the fourth day of Royal Ascot at York on Friday.

England's definitive one-mile Group 1 contest for 3-year-old fillies, the Coronation went to Maids Causeway, a daughter of the talented young stallion Giant's Causeway, in classic come-again style. Karen's Caper had stuck her head in front at the sixteenth pole under Jimmy Fortune, but Michael Hills got Maids Causeway back up on the line by a short head. Her time for the one-turn mile on ground described as good to firm, firm in places, was 1:36.59, just .59 of a second off the York course record.

Trained by Michael's father, Barry Hills, the 9-2 Maids Causeway had been second in the 1000 Guineas in Newmarket, where Karen's Caper was a length behind her in fourth. Although she had since been fifth in the Irish 1000 Guineas, Maids Causeway turned the tables on the Newmarket Guineas winner, Virginia Waters, who could only manage to finish sixth on Friday, following what must have been a tiring fourth-place finish in the 1 1/2-mile English Oaks on June 3.

Owned by American Martin S. Schwartz, Maids Causeway was one of England's leading juvenile fillies last year by dint of her victories last fall in the Group 2 Rockfel Stakes and the Group 3 Sweet Solera Stakes.

Barry Hills thinks Maids Causeway should be able to stay 1 1/4 miles. Out of the Kingmambo mare Vallee des Reves and from the family of a 1 1/2-mile Hong Kong Vase winner, Vallee Enchantee, Maids Causeway could reappear at 1 1/4 miles in Goodwood's Nassau Stakes on July 30, but she will have to overcome a slight injury incurred in Friday's running.

Like Ouija Board in Wednesday's Prince of Wales's Stakes, Maids Causeway threw a shoe and will return home to Newmarket wearing a poultice. Ouija Board is also expected to be seen next in the Nassau.

For the trainer of Karen's Capers, John Gosden, it was a case of luckless deja vu, as he had watched his filly Twyla Tharp lose a similar duel to Thakafaat in the Group 2 Ribblesdale Stakes on Thursday.

Gosden had better luck in Friday's Group 2, $237,000 King Edward VII Stakes, as his 9-2 Plea Bargain defeated Brahminy Kite by three-quarters of a length, traveling the 1 1/2 miles in 2:29.44. The Geezer, runner-up in the Dante Stakes and eighth in the Epsom Derby, was third, another three-quarters behind.

In the Group 3, $109,000 Albany Stakes for juvenile fillies, trainer Jeremy Noseda pulled off a one-two finish with La Chunga and Vague, a pair of Kentucky-breds who were separated by 3 1/2 lengths. A daughter of More Than Ready, the 10-1 La Chunga set a new course mark for 2-year-olds, getting the six furlongs in 1:10.35.