Photo: Emma-Louise Kerwin (Goodtosoft.co.uk)
Ralph Beckett's Epsom Oaks heroine Talent heads a field of eight bidding for glory in the Irish Oaks at the Curragh this weekend. A scintillating winner of the Epsom Classic in May, Talent has not been seen on a racecourse since that event with her trainer opting to keep the three year old fresh for her attempt at completing the cross-waters Oaks double. Partnered by Richard Hughes to Epsom glory, Talent renews her partnership with stable jockey Jim Crowley - whom has a perfect 2-for-2 record about the filly - in this contest. Beckett had also planned to enter Secret Gesture but, with the filly sustaining a small knock to a hind leg in training this week, the Qatar Racing owned daughter of Galileo now figures to have a few days off work before being targetted towards the Nassau Stakes at Glorious Goodwood at the tail end of the month. Lacking in numbers, Britian certainly make up for it in quality in being responsible for a strong hand entered in this year's renewal of the Irish Oaks. Supplemented into the race at a cost of €40,000 by Juddmonte Farms, impressive Ribblesdale Stakes winner Riposte will bid to provide Lady Cecil with her first Irish winner. An emotional winner at Royal Ascot just nine days after the passing of Sir Henry Cecil, Riposte bids to further enhance Lady Cecil's exceptional 34% strike rate with three year olds and provide her with her first winner from just two Irish runners. Scratched from the Ribblesdale Stakes just hours before the contest when figuring to be the post-time favourite, Alive Alive Oh looks poised to get her chance to enhance a lofty reputation when thrown in at the highest level in this contest.
The Irish have waxed lyrical about the potential star qualities of Tommy Stack's filly since her runaway success n a Listed contest at the beginning of May, but ground conditions and the filly going into season have prevented her from running since. However, with the ground likely to show up considerably fast on Saturday afternoon, doubts are still casting a shadow as to whether the daughter of Duke of Marmalade will run once again. Will Tommy Stack's filly ever get the chance to show what she can do?
A race which bids to tie in a vast array of European Classic form, Alain de Royer-Dupre has declared Chicquita in this contest, with Johnny Murtagh booked to ride. A four-length second in the Prix de Diane to the impressive Treve last time out, Chicquita brings an intriguing form line to the contest that harbours the hopes of late-season Prix de L'Arc de Triomphe glory for her conquerer. Aidan O' Brien is responsible for three of the eight entries in this event with the most noteable being Venus de Milo, who was impressive in victory at Naas last time in just her second lifetime race.
Unraced as a two year old, Venus de Milo looks to provide Ballydoyle with their second Classic victor of the year whom was unraced as a juvenile, the first being Ruler of the World. Seamie Heffernan keeps the ride on the exceptionally exciting daughter of Duke of Marmalade who will relish the ground conditions.
Joseph O' Brien partners Just Pretending. Third in the Irish 1,000 Guineas and second behind Riposte in the Ribblesdale Stakes, Just Pretending is perfectly bred to handle the considerably fast ground expected at the Curragh this weekend, but whether she is good enough to win a strong renewal of the Irish Oaks casts doubt over her chances.
Magical Dream completes the O' Brien trio with Scintillula representing the Jim Bolger yard.