07/29/2009 12:00AM

Rip Van Winkle pulls clear in Sussex

Edward Whitaker/Racing Post
Rip Van Winkle wins Wednesday's Group 1 Sussex Stakes at Goodwood.

Escaping from the shadow of Sea the Stars, Rip Van Winkle emerged to win the $493,000 Sussex Stakes at Goodwood on Tuesday, handing Paco Boy a resounding 2 1/2-length defeat in this key Group 1 mile.

Beaten into fourth by Sea the Stars in both the 2000 Guineas and the Epsom Derby, Rip Van Winkle improved to finish just a length behind the world's highest-rated horse in the 1 1/4-mile Eclipse Stakes last time on July 4. This cut back to a mile for the Galileo-Stravinsky cross proved no problem at all. With Johnny Murtagh sitting cool as a cucumber, he tracked the pace set by his Aidan O'Brien-trained stablemate Malibu Bay, led at the three-eighths pole, and was never seriously challenged by either Paco Boy or Ghanaati, who came home a one-paced third, four lengths behind the runner-up. The time for the mile on good ground was 1:37.16.

Sent off as the 3-2 favorite despite the presence of Queen Anne Stakes winner Paco Boy, 1000 Guineas and Coronation Stakes winner Ghanaati, and Prix Jean Prat winner Lord Shanakill, who finished fifth, Rip Van Winkle probably surpassed his Ballydoyle stablemate Mastercraftsman as Europe's leading miler with this victory. It was the fourth Sussex Stakes triumph for O'Brien, the previous three having been provided by a trio of racing's more notable names in the last 10 years, Giant's Causeway, Rock of Gibraltar, and Henrythenavigator, each of whom would later finish second in either the Breeders' Cup Classic or Mile.

O'Brien said that Rip Van Winkle would remain at a mile, while his Irish 2000 Guineas winner Mastercraftsman would be upped to 1 1/4 miles, 88 yards for the Juddmonte International and a meeting with Sea the Stars at York on Aug. 18. O'Brien also reported that Irish Derby winner and Epsom Derby runner-up Fame and Glory would cut back to 1 1/4 miles for the Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardstown on Sept. 5.

Earlier, Xtension paid a compliment to Canford Cliffs as the 7-2 Clive Cox-trained son of Xaar scored a 1 1/4-length victory in the seven-furlong, Group 2 Vintage Stakes. Xtension had previously finshed six lengths second to Canford Cliffs in the Group 2 Coventry Stakes at Royal Ascot.

* On Friday at Goodwood, the third-place finisher in the Coventry, Rakaan, will be favored in the six-furlong, Group 2 Richmond Stakes in which he will be challenged by Dick Turpin, the undefeated winner of a Windsor maiden and a Salisbury allowance. The selection, however, is Showcasing, the 3 1/2-length winner of a Yarmouth maiden who had previously finished a head second to subsequent Group 2 July Stakes winner Arcano.

* The seven-furlong, Group 3 Oak Tree Stakes for fillies and mares is a wide-open affair. Won last year by Visit, it features Penny's Gift, the Richard Hannon-trained winner of the German 1000 Guineas, and Golden Stream, who won a seven-furlong listed race at Warwick after finishing second to the highly regarded Moneycantbuymelove in the one-mile listed Sandringham Handicap at Royal Ascot.