06/18/2007 11:00PM

O'Brien sweeps St. James's


Trainer Aidan O'Brien got off to an explosive start at Royal Ascot on Tuesday as he engineered a one-two-three finish - led by Excellent Art - in the St. James's Palace Stakes. But the Irishman was out of luck in the Queen Anne Stakes, saddling favorite George Washington, who ran a late-closing fourth behind Godolphin's race-winning Ramonti.

The main victim of the O'Brien trifecta in the Group 1, $495,000 St. James's Palace Stakes was the even-money favorite, Cockney Rebel.

The winner of Newmarket's 2000 Guineas as well as the Irish 2000 at the Curragh, Cockney Rebel spoiled whatever chance he might have had by drifting badly to the left through the final furlong under Olivier Peslier, coming home fifth, beaten just two lengths.

Excellent Art, a Pivotal colt who had been an unlucky fourth in the French 2000 Guineas, rallied between horses under Jamie Spencer to defeat the pacesetting Duke of Marmalade by a neck. French 2000 winner Astronomer Royal was third, 1 1/4 lengths farther behind and a head in front of Newmarket Guineas third-place finisher Dutch Art. Excellent Art, 8-1, was timed in 1:39.33 on good-to-firm ground over the one-turn, largely uphill mile.

The failure of George Washington in the breeding shed this winter resulted in O'Brien losing his leading 3-year-old miler, Holy Roman Emperor, because John Magnier, who owns both horses, decided that Holy Roman Emperor would replace George Washington at stud.

O'Brien complained to his boss but has clearly gotten back on track with his St. James's Palace trio. He has work to do yet with George Washington, however, as the two-time European champion showed his usual bad temper before and during the $495,000 Queen Anne Stakes, antics which may have cost him victory in the Group 1 mile since he was beaten a neck for the win.

He was very keen going down to the start and in the early stages, and jockey Michael Kinane could not get him to settle while Frankie Dettori led the way on Ramonti. Jeremy took the lead at the quarter pole, but spoiled his chances by drifting to the right despite drawing 1 1/2 lengths clear at one point.

Dettori never gave up on the 5-1 Ramonti, who came on again to win by a short head over Jeremy, who just lasted for second by the same margin over French invader Turtle Bowl. The 10-11 George Washington put in a very late challenge, but Turtle Bowl held him off to take third by a head.

A French-bred son of the obscure Marju stallion Martino Alonso, Ramonti was an offseason purchase by Godolphin. Previously trained by the Botti brothers in Italy to win last fall's Group 1 Premio Vittorio di Capua and Group 2 Premio Ribot, Ramonti sped the straight mile in a course-record 1:37.21.

O'Brien kicked off the Royal meeting with a victory in the Group 2 Coventry Stakes, a $158,000 juvenile dash, as the 11-4 favorite Henrythenavigator defeated Swiss Franc by three-quarters of a length, getting the six furlongs in 1:12.46. A Kingmambo colt out of the Sadler's Wells mare Sequoyah, who won the Groupo1 Moyglare Stud Stakes, Henrythenavigator looks like one who will improve as the distances get longer.

An Australian invader won the five-furlong Group 2 King's Stand Stakes for the second year in a row - Miss Andretti, who scored a record-setting 1 3/4-length victory over Dandy Man. The winner of Group 1 sprints in her last three outings Down Under, Miss Andretti covered the straight and undulating five furlongs in a blistering, track-record 57.44 seconds. She went off at 3-1.

Aussies also were third and fourth in the $396,000 King's Stand, with Magnus winning and last year's winner, Takeover Target, running third.

Trainer Lee Freedman will attempt to score a Royal Ascot sprint double by bringing Miss Andretti back on Saturday in the six-furlong Group 1 Golden Jubilee Stakes.