Aussie rules in QEII

Australian champion Starcraft defeated Europe’s finest in a tactical renewal of the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes at Newmarket.

Australian champion Starcraft defeated Europe’s finest in a tactical renewal of the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes at Newmarket.

But the race failed to pan out for Godolphin’s big hope Dubawi, with Frankie Dettori blaming himself for the 6-4 favourite’s three-quarters of a length defeat.

The massive Starcraft had won three Group One events in Australasia before Paul Makin, head of the syndicate which owns the entire, decided on an ambitious European campaign.

And he proved himself a global performer of the highest calibre with a victory over the Irish 2000 Guineas winner in the £200,000 Barclays plc-backed showpiece.

The son of Soviet Star bounced back from injury to win the Prix du Moulin at Longchamp last month under Christophe Lemaire and the French ace kept the ride at Headquarters.

He settled Starcraft (7-2) on the heels of the Godolphin pacemaker, Blatant, and Sleeping Indian on the stands side as his main rivals Rakti and Dubawi, along with Mullins Bay, raced down the centre of the track with the field split into two groups.

Rakti was in front until around the three-furlong marker but Philip Robinson started to send out distress signals.

Meanwhile, Lemaire was just getting Starcraft into top gear and he was travelling supremely well as Blatant started to fade.

Dettori on Dubawi came back across to the rails inside the final two furlongs to throw down his challenge, but Luca Cumani’s giant chestnut was always on top and although the Godolphin colt tried hard, Starcraft was too strong and claimed a famous success.

Blatant rallied for Kerrin McEvoy to take third a length and a half away, with last year’s winner Rakti fourth, Sleeping Indian fifth and Mullins Bay last.

Cumani won the race two years ago with Falbrav and with Markofdistinction in 1990, but despite another major success in the championship contest he remained very calm afterwards.

He said: “My biggest emotion was a sense of relief and then I just felt so pleased for the horse, the staff and Paul Makin.

“I have got to thank him for sending the horse all the way from Australia. He told me all along he would be the champion miler of the world with unwavering optimism and I would say we are three-quarters of the way there now.

“I’m not the world’s greatest optimist but I did get optimistic watching him work, then I thought about all the things that could go wrong and that kept my feet on the ground.

“After that it was just a case of keeping the horse calm before the race and then letting him do the talking.”

Lemaire was having his first ride on the Rowley Mile but that did not bother Cumani.

He said: “This jockey is good. He’s one of the best in France. He rode him very well in the Moulin and he had confidence in the horse.

“He never lost his cool when the others went down the centre.”

A trip to the Breeders’ Cup may not necessarily be on the cards for Starcraft as Cumani added: “That has to be discussed. There is a lot of money to be put up, I think it’s something like 300,000.”

Lemaire was understandably delighted and he said: “That is my first Group One in England – I am so happy and so proud. He was fantastic. He is just a really tough horse.

“I knew it would be difficult to beat Dubawi but he showed today he is an exceptional horse.

“I was a little worried (when the field split) but I didn’t panic, I let the horse go his way and I asked him to go on a little bit at the three furlong marker and he responded very well.

“He fought very strongly.”

For Makin it was a dream come true.

He said: “We came to Europe to get this race. I lived here for four years and I always wanted to win this race and that performance was enormous.”

A disappointed Dettori said: “I was on the best horse and got beat – it’s as simple as that.

“I was drawn six and Sheikh Mohammed had told me to come to the stands side. I tried to come there but I got behind Mullins Bay and Rakti and I was too far across to get back to the stands rail.

“It is so frustrating, basically I was on the best horse and I got beat. I actually went about 20 yards further than Starcraft.

“I just wish I could ride the race again.”

Godolphin racing manager Simon Crisford said: “It is very unfortunate. Frankie said he got carried out to the middle and could do nothing about it.

“The last thing we had said was that even if Rakti went up the middle, we would definitely stay stands side. But he has still run a huge race and hopefully he will go for the Breeders’ Cup Mile.

“It shouldn’t detract from the winner though – he is an outstanding global campaigner.”

Rakti was disappointing, with Robinson blaming the going.

He said: “I wanted to stay away from the Godolphin pacemaker in case we ended up going too fast behind him.

“But it was the ground that beat him in the end, he just can’t act when there is some cut.”

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