COLUMN: INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS Kieren Fallon back in winner’s enclosure after cocaine ban

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<p>KIEREN Fallon rode his first Group 1 winner since serving a 6-month cocaine ban when landing Sunday&rsquo;s &pound;275,000 Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud over 2400m in France aboard Sir Michael Stoute&rsquo;s Mountain High.</p>

<p>The controversial former champion jockey, who is still unable to ride in Britain pending an Old Bailey trial in September over police charges into alleged race-fixing, looked as good as ever as he drove Mountain High to a 2 length victory over hot favourite Mandesha.</p>
<p>His task was however made that much easier when star filly Mandesha, winner of six of her eight starts coming into the race (including a hat-trick of Group 1&rsquo;s at the end of last season), fluffed her lines badly. Princess Zahra Aga Kahn&rsquo;s filly missed the break and then took a very keen hold for much of the early stages under Christophe Soumillon.</p>
<p>Although she moved up menacingly in the home345 straight, her antics predictably took their toll, and she was unable to catch Mountain High who had skipped clear at the top of the straight.</p>
<p>For Mountain High (a half brother by Danehill to top class middle distance filly Islington) it was a case of Group 1 success at first time of asking. His previous best performance had been when running stable-mate Maraahel to a head in last year&rsquo;s Hardwicke Stakes (Group 2) at Royal Ascot.</p>
<p>This was a major confidence boost for Fallon, who is set to partner Aidan O&rsquo;Brien&rsquo;s Epsom Derby runner-up Eagle Mountain in Sunday&rsquo;s Irish Derby. * * * The pomp and ceremony of another Royal Ascot is over, and although the five-day attendance of just under 275,000 racegoers was 12% down on last year, the Ascot Executive have taken heart from the positive feed-back received regarding the &pound;10 million improvements to viewing facilities and the Silver Ring facilities following the widespread dissatisfaction last year.</p>
<p>The racing was, as always, of the highest quality, and one of the highlights of the week was undoubtedly Aussie sprint ace Miss Andretti&rsquo;s drubbing of the best British sprinters in the King Stand Stakes (Group 2) on the opening day.</p>
<p>Lee Freedman&rsquo;s six-year-old daughter of Royal Academy horse Ihtiram, had won 16 of her 24 career starts in her native Australia, including 4 Group 1&rsquo;s, and she blitzed her field to win going away by nearly 2 lengths in a time over seconds faster than fellow-Aussie Takeover Target had recorded when winning this race last year. Leading Irish sprinter Dandy Man prevented a clean sweep by the Aussies by finishing second ahead of Takeover Target and Magnus.</p>
<p>Aidan O&rsquo;Brien, who ended the week as the leading trainer with four winners and nine placed horses, had the distinction of saddling the first three home345 in the St James&rsquo; Palace Stakes (Group 1) on the opening day when Excellent Art (by Pivotal) edged out stable mates Duke of Marmalade (by Danehill) and Astronomer Royal (by Danzig).</p>
<p>It has to be said however that their task was made that much easier by the flop of dual Guineas winner Cockney Rebel, who could only finish fifth after hanging out badly in the home345 straight. It was later found that he had suffered a stress fracture of his pelvis during the race.</p>
<p>Although George Washington wasn&rsquo;t quite able to complete an O&rsquo;Brien Group 1 double on the opening day in the Queen Anne Stakes (he was beaten narrowly into fourth by Godolphin&rsquo;s Ramonti), his run was full of merit given that he had not raced since last year&rsquo;s Breeders Cup meeting, and that he&rsquo;d been to stud in the interim.</p>
<p>&ldquo;Gorgeous George&rdquo; didn&rsquo;t make things any easier for himself by fighting Mick Kinane hard all the way to post and refusing to settle for the first quarter of the race itself. He did however rally strongly late after looking beaten, giving the impression that he might be suited to a step up in trip.</p>
<p>Connections confirmed that he could well go to the Coral Eclipse Stakes (Group 1) over 2000m at Sandown next – which would set up a mouth-watering clash with runaway Derby winner Authorized.</p>
<p>The French struck Group 1 glory on day two when Andre Fabre&rsquo;s Manduro proved too strong for the Aidan O&rsquo;Brien trained Dylan Thomas in the &pound;350,000 Prince of Wales&rsquo;s Stakes over 2000m. Whilst last year&rsquo;s Irish Derby and Irish Champion Stakes winner Dylan Thomas easily turned the tables on his Tattersalls Gold Cup conqueror Notnowcato, he was no match for Manduro who showed a smart turn of foot to win going away by over a length.</p>
<p>Manduro, who finished third to Ouija Board in last year&rsquo;s race, was following up on an easy win in the Prix d&rsquo;Ispahan (Group 1) in his previous start.</p>
<p>The O&rsquo;Brien yard was back on the winning trail on Thursday when Sadler&rsquo;s Wells horse Yeats completed a memorable double in the &pound;225,000 Ascot Gold Cup (Group 1). Under a perfectly judged ride from the vastly experienced Mick Kinane, Yeats never looked in danger of defeat and held Jamie Osborne&rsquo;s Geordieland at bay by 1,5 lengths. According to connections, he is likely to be aimed at another Melbourne Cup bid in November with a third Ascot Gold Cup next year a distinct possibility. * * * The heavy showers during the latter part of the week, which left the ground on the round course soft for the &pound;250,000 Coronation Stakes (Group 1) on Friday, played a significant part in the outcome of this important race for three-year-old fillies.</p>
<p>Soft ground specialist Indian Ink (by Indian Ridge) relished the conditions as she annihilated a strong field by six lengths. German 1000 Guineas winner Mi Emma finished second ahead of French 1000 Guineas winner Darjina. A combination of the testing ground conditions and a heavy campaign probably resulted in English and Irish Guineas heroine Finsceal Beo trailing in a disappointing eighth.</p>
<p>The final Group 1 of the Royal Ascot week, the &pound;250,000 Golden Jubilee Stakes (Group 1) over 1200m was widely expected to be dominated by Tuesday&rsquo;s impressive King Stand Stakes winner Miss Andretti, who was bidding to emulate compatriot Choisir by completing the big sprint double. But the softer ground conditions appeared to find Lee Freedman&rsquo;s mare out as she trailed in a disappointing fourteenth.</p>
<p>This left the way open for Jeremy Noseda&rsquo;s lightly raced six-year-old Soldier&rsquo;s Tale (by Stravinsky) to deny the other Australian runner Takeover Target victory by a head with Richard Hannon&rsquo;s Asset 0,5 length back in third. Mention should also be made of Mike de Kock&rsquo;s three-year-old Drayton, who dwelt at the start before running on strongly to be fifth, beaten just over 3 lengths. On that performance, he must surely have a big race success in him.</p>
<p>Jimmy Fortune ended the week as the leading jockey with five winners, including a hat-trick on the Wednesday.</p>

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