Photo: Emma-Louise Kerwin (Goodtosoft.co.uk)
Elusive Kate returned to the scene of some of her greatest efforts for a wire-to-wire success in the Group 1 Falmouth Stakes on Friday at Newmarket, but it wasn't without controversy as the filly drifted all the way across the track - resulting in a lengthy stewards inquiry before the result was confirmed. The Group 1 Falmouth Stakes may have been lacking the numbers that the race had been acustomed to in recent years, but the race harboured four exciting fillies headed by the improving Sky Lantern from the Richard Hannon yard. Sent off as a long odds on shot, Sky Lantern was heavily favoured to enhance her reputation with a third consecutive Group 1 success, but William Buick and Elusive Kate had other ideas about this renewal.
Second in this race last year on her seasonal reappearance, Elusive Kate had thrusted her name into many a notebook when bravely going down by a neck in this contest that year. A victory next time out in a French Group 1 readily rewarded her followers, yet despite being heavily favoured as the main rival to Animal Kingdom in last month's Queen Anne Stakes, the supprot for Elusive Kate was seemingly lacking in this contest.
A four year old daughter of Elusive Quality, Elusive Kate has regularly saved her best for the duo of courses that Newmarket provides but, despite some standout performances owing to the circumstances around the efforts, she was yet to reign supreme at either of the courses.
In fact victory in today's Falmouth Stakes would see her first victory in England on turf - a surprising note for a dual Group 1 winning filly who has mixed it with the very best of both sexes over the last twelve months.
A tactical affair was expected in this contest and William Buick, who himself was entering the Newmarket July Festival after an outstanding performance in the saddle at a a minor Kempton polytrack meeting on Wednesday night, opted to utilise Elusive Kate's versatility through the early stages, asking his mount to take things up at the head of affairs.
As the riders entered the final stages, Sky Lantern loomed large on the outside of the Gosden trained filly, yet Buick continued to gradually slip his mount some reign. Inch by inch he slowly provided Elusive Kate with her head, asking her to increase the pace and ensuring that Sky Lantern would not have things all her own way, but just when the duo of talented fillies entered into the final furlong it was Elusive Kate whom would drift violently across the track, taking Sky Lantern with her, and ensuring that her victory would still be disputed inside the stewards room for what seemed like an eternity.
A live broadcast of the stewards inquiry was provided by British television, a welcome addition to the broadcast, which showed an eloquent Richard Hughes confidently put his case across for the demotion of Elusive Kate in favour of his mount Sky Lantern whilst Buick, seemingly confident that the result would not be overturned, seemed to lack in providing the stewards with the information required and having to be prompted to detail how he attempted to keep his mount straight.
Despite Hughes' strong case, Elusive Kate was eventually confirmed the winner. A result which will baffle the connections of Sky Lantern, but one that is just a temporary blip for Sky Lantern's progression within this division.
"She has done it all her life. When she won the Marcel Boussac as a two year old she ended up on the far rail - which is a long way at Longchamp," said winning jockey, William Buick. "As far as the race is concerned there is no question Elusive Kate was the best horse in the race"
John Gosden, often the spearhead for many a US challenge from Britain, has notable end of season considerations for his filly, Elusive Kate, with a return to France en route. "The Prix Rothschild is the obvious next race," said Gosden, referring to a race Elusive Kate won last season. "There are also races like the Matron, the Prix Jacques le Marois and we might even want to go for the Breeders Cup Mile."
A talented filly whom announced herself on the top stage at this racecourse last season, Elusive Kate is back and with an exciting season ahead of her.