09/07/2005 12:00AM

Sweet Stream takes Park Hill Stakes


Team Valor's Sweet Stream is on course for the Melbourne Cup after her sharp score in the $185,000 Group 2 Park Hill Stakes at Doncaster on Wednesday.

Under a perfectly judged ride from Thierry Gillet, the 5-year-old Italian-bred mare, trained in France by Englishman John Hammond, stormed to the lead at the 16th pole after awaiting a gap which for a few moments seemed unlikely to appear. When it came, the patient Gillet pounced and Sweet Stream responded in kind to defeat Kastoria by 1 1/4 lengths with Songerie two lengths further back in third. The winning time for the 1 3/4 miles, 132 yards on good to firm ground was 3:03.89, just 1.69 seconds off the track mark at a distance that has been run at Doncaster for at least 250 years. Both Sweet Stream and Kastoria went off as the 7-2 co-favorites along with Godolphin's fourth-place finisher and recent Group 1 Yorkshire Oaks winner Punctilious.

Aimed at the two-mile Nov. 1 Melbourne Cup since having won the 1 1/4-mile Group 3 Prix Gontaut-Biron at Deauville in her seasonal debut on August 15, Sweet Stream was using the Park Hill to see if she could stay further than the 1 1/2 miles over which she had won last September's Group 1 Prix Vermeille.

"She goes into quarantine for Australia on Oct. 2, but we would like to run her once more before the race on Nov. 1," said Barry Irwin of Team Valor, which has now won 14 stakes races this year worldwide. "We must also find a new rider for her in Australia as Thierry Gillet cannot make 118, the weight she has been assigned for the Melbourne Cup."

By comparison, Makybe Diva, the winner of the last two Melbourne Cups has been weighted at 128 lbs. as has last year's runner-up Vinnie Roe and Goodwood Cup winner Distinction. Makybe Diva is the current Melbourne Cup favorite at 5-1 with Vinnie Roe and Distinction at 14-1 and Sweet Stream at 25-1.