06/17/2005 12:00AM

Maids Causeway takes Coronation Stakes


Maids Causeway outgamed Karen's Caper in a thrilling duel to take first honors in 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 went to 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 16th-pole under Jimmy Fortune, but Michael Hills got Maids Causeway back up on the line by the narrowest of margins. 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 track record.

Trained by Michael's father Barry Hills, the 9-2 Maids Casueway 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, the winner was reversing the form with Newmarket Guineas winner Virginia Waters, who could only manage sixth on Friday following what must have been a tiring fiurth-place effort behind Eswarah in the 1 1/2-mile English Oaks on June 3.

Owned by American Martin S. Schwartz, whose Angara recently finished fifth in the Manhattan Handicap, Maids Causeway was one of England's leading juvenile fillies by dint of her victories last fall in the Group 2 Rockfel Stakes and the Group 3 Sweet Solera Stakes. Her Coronation crowning bears a strong resemblance to the kind of efforts produced by her sire, who at one point in his illustrious career landed five straight Group 1 races by combined margins of just two lengths.

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 1 1/2-mile Group 1 Hong Kong Vase winner Vallee Enchantee, Maids Causeway could reappear at that distance 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 herself is 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 the $237,000 Group 2 King Edward VII Stakes as his 9-2 Plea Bargain defeated Brahminy Kite by three quraters of a length, traveling the 1 1/2-miles in 2:29.44. Dante Stakes runner-up and Epsom Deby eighth The Geezer was third, another three quarters behind.

In the $109,000 Group 3 Albany Stakes for juvenile fillies, trainer Jeremy Noseda pulled off a fancy one-two step 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.