08/19/2010 10:35AM

Midday beats Sariska - but with an asterisk


Midday finally beat Sariska at York on Thursday when she cruised to a three-length victory in the $483,000 Yorkshire Oaks, largely because Sariska refused to race. The 85-40 favorite in the 1 1/2-mile Group 1 contest for fillies and mares, Sariska stood as still as a statue as the gates opened, a look of helpless frustration covering jockey Jamie Spencer’s face as her seven rivals sped on their way.

Barshiba took a clear lead with Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf winner Midday back in fourth and English and Irish Oaks winner Snow Fairy just behind her. Tom Queally was in no hurry aboard the 11-4 Midday as they entered the 4 1/2-furlong stretch. Taking the inner route but well away from the rail, Midday assumed command without being asked a question just inside the quarter pole and drew off with the 5-2 Snow Fairy toiling in her wake. Eleonora Duse was along for third, two lengths behind the runner-up as Midday stopped the clock in 2:30.53 on ground deemed good, good to firm in places.

Midday had failed in three previous clashes with Sariska when second in last year’s English Oaks, third in the Irish Oaks, and second in the 1 1/4-mile, 88-yard, Group 2 Middleton Stakes at York in May. Most recently second to Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe favorite Fame and Glory in the Coronation Cup, Sariska was a model of comportment during the preliminaries. She entered the gate without batting an eyelash but wanted no part of the action once the starter pressed the button.

Queally was unaware of the drama at the start and kept Midday up to her task late in the race, always expecting Sariska to come charging. A Juddmonte Farm’s homebred 4-year-old daughter of Oasis Dream, Midday had successfully defended her 1 1/4-mile Nassau Stakes title last time at Goodwood. She was winning for the first time in three attempts at 12 furlongs, but for the fourth time at the Group 1 or Grade 1 level. Trainer Henry Cecil has a number of options for Midday, among them the Prix Vermeille, the Prix de l’Opera or the Arc, and the Filly and Mare Turf. Trainer Michael Bell was disconsolate over Sariska’s antics but indicated that his Pivotal filly would run next in the 1 1/2-mile Prix Vermeille at Longchamp on Sept. 12.