This years Darley Irish Oaks looks a high quality race, with the winner of the Epsom Oaks and the Ribblesdale taking part. They are joined by the Prix De Diane 2nd, an unbeaten Aidan O’Brien filly, and the very promising Alive Alive Oh. All in all it looks the best race for middle distance 3 year old fillies so far this season.
Talent comes here after winning the Epsom Oaks by almost 4l. That was a huge step up on her previous form, although she had looked to be improving before hand. The Oaks was run at an overly fast pace however, and with about 3 furlongs to run Talent was in the best position possible, near the back. The horses up front had gone to fast and paid for it late. Talent was blocked in her run from the 3 till near the 2 furlong pole, and I read on twitter that had she a clear run earlier she would have won 10l.
That sentiment is common when a horse who was denied a clear run when other horses were kicking for home, comes home strongly. It seems the conclusion most people jump to is if they got out earlier they’d have won further. While it can sometimes be the case, it certainly wasn’t here as Talent wasn’t finishing fast enough relative to her overall time, or her speed when blocked, to suggest she could have run any faster from the 3 pole than she did. Indeed if she had used more energy from the 3 to the 2 she would have finished slower than optimal and thus likely completed that section slower, rather than faster.
While she clearly had the run of the race, it was still an improved effort and she may well have won even if she was positioned upsides the 2nd throughout. It’s unlikely she would have won by much though, and highly unlikely she would have won further. On that basis she has a chance here but with that being easily her best effort its a worry that the ground will be much faster at the Curragh than it was at Epsom.
Riposte only made her debut in April, coming 2nd in a Sandown maiden. She improved on that to easily win at Newmarket and stepped up again by winning the Ribblesdale at Ascot by 2 1/4l. The 2nd that day was the dubious stayer Just Pretending, and the 3rd was only rated 97. In truth it wasn’t much of a race and while Riposte is clearly progressing well, she will need to come on a good bit again to win this. She may well do so but looks a little short at 3/1.
Alive Alive Oh is very interesting. She won her maiden very impressively at Cork in March after being backed off the boards. She was again extremely well backed when winning a listed event at Navan, and couldn’t have been more impressive in quickening clear of Magical Dream. Using the 2nd as a guide would make the form look solid, but the reality is that the 3rd horse home, just 1/2l behind Magical Dream was a filly who was a maiden having just her second start. She did win a poor maiden next time and then ran well enough in a listed race at Naas. You would have to assume the Naas run was improved form however, and even on that you couldn’t rate her any higher than 90, suggesting its unlikely she ran to any more than 85 behind Alive Alive Oh. Is a 6l beating of a 85 horse going be good enough to win this? It isn’t, but the way she quickened when asked suggests she had more in hand than the bare margin.
A worry for this race is that Alive Alive Oh has missed two engagements since, once because of fast ground, and its unlikely to be anything different tomorrow. The other is the trip. On breeding you’d say 10 furlongs was more likely to suit than 12, and the way she travels and quickens at 10 doesn’t leave you thinking she wants further either. Her sire is Duke of Marmalade so while her form thus far is on softer ground, he gives some hope that fast will be fine, as his stock do better on the whole on fast ground, than they do on softer. Her dam was best on softer than good, but two of her three offspring that have won apart from Alive Alive Oh, were better on fast ground, the other one was best on the All Weather.
Chicquita is €600,000 daughter of Montjeu and after coming 3rd on her debut last October, she jinked and tripped herself up when about to win at Saint Cloud in May. It was significant that her astute trainer chose to pitch her into group 1 company next time in the Prix De Diane. Held up in last place, she traveled well through the race but was still quite green when asked to pick up. It probably didn’t help that she was asked to get into the race on the wide outside, but despite her ungainly way of going about it, she stayed on very well to come 2nd. That form is pretty strong and she clearly has loads of scope to improve. Yes she may, like many Montjeu’s have a little kink, but it doesn’t stop them winning, and the extra furlong here is a plus. Her form is on a par with Riposte and she surely has at least as much potential as that one as well. Johnny Murtagh taking over in the saddle is another plus.
Venus De Milo is an unbeaten runner, trained by Aidan O’Brien and she improved hugely from her debut to win a listed race at Naas. The bare form is nothing special and she didn’t win with anything in hand, indeed she wasn’t going anywhere between the 2 and the 1 furlong poles, before coming home strongly. She was probably still green and the extra trip here is sure to suit. There’s no doubting she needs to improve at least a stone on the bare form though. That’s not impossible considering she came on more from her first to her second start. At the current odds though she looks about right, rather than being any value. Joseph not ridding isn’t much of a worry. Seamie has ridden her in both starts so far and I’d assume they just decided to leave him on her rather than Joseph picking Just Pretending ahead of her.
Just Pretending came 3rd in the Irish Guineas but that wasn’t much of a race and she isn’t bred to be at her best over 12 furlongs either. She didn’t do much to dispel that theory in the Ribblesdale at Ascot, travelling well through the race but after a brief effort 2 down, she flattened out inside the final furlong to finish over 2l behind Riposte. That one has more scope to improve and its hard to see Just Pretending win this.
Scintillula may improve for the step up to 12 furlongs but she’ll need to, and by quite a margin too. At a top price of 20/1 she makes no appeal. The same applies to Magical Dream who is pretty exposed as below this level now, and while she ran well on good ground in the Moyglare, all her other form is on soft ground, and her action suggests that surface will suit her best too.
This is a good race but while Talent and Riposte have a good chance, I don’t think the races they won last time are up to a whole lot, Talent also had everything go her way. The French Oaks was a strong race and Chicquita left the impression she can do a deal better than the bare form of her 2nd that day. Faster ground is a slight concern but not enough to make me think the 6/1 she is with