Racing: Dash To The Top to scale Classic peak

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The Independent Online

The likes of the five-year-old Soviet Song and four-year-old Ouija Board have been carrying the banner of their kind right nobly recently.

Time may yet show that this season's best three-year-old is indeed a filly - the blissful Divine Proportions - and this weekend the focus is firmly on racecourse heroines, as opposed to heroes.

This morning in Newmarket, the impressive Oaks winner Eswarah will have a gallop that will determine whether or not she will take on the boys in the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Diamond Stakes today week. And tomorrow at the Curragh, 13 distaffers will be vying to cap her Epsom performance in the 111th Irish Oaks.

The field for the £160,000 prize, the last piece in the middle-distance Classic jigsaw, includes two of the winter favourites for the Oaks, Playful Act and Dash To The Top. The pair finished first and third last year in the Fillies' Mile but immaturity and a chill spring kept them off the track until quite recently. But the one who split them at Ascot, Maids Causeway has, in finishing second in the 1,000 Guineas and winning the Coronation Stakes, done nothing to dispel the notion that the form was top-class.

Both Dash To The Top, trained by Luca Cumani, and Playful Act, by John Gosden, returned to action with a win. Dash To The Top's was visually the more impressive and propelled her to the head of the Irish Oaks betting; she convincingly took a 10-furlong Listed contest at Newcastle last month, despite running into a little trouble, has been sparkling at home since, and will be well suited by the step up to a mile and a half.

Although Dash To The Top must, on the face of it, improve to win, her genetic credentials stand closest inspection. She is a daughter of the stallion sensation Montjeu, who already has three Group One winners - Motivator, Hurricane Run and Scorpion - from his first crop. The rangy bay filly's grand-dam, the outstanding miler Milligram, nearly won a Classic; her great-grand-dam, One In A Million, did.

Like those top-class fillies, Dash To The Top carries the black silks with white spots of the Meon Valley Stud and coincidentally, she will tomorrow meet again a filly she frolicked with as a foal. Mona Lisa (whose aunt Colorspin won the 1986 Irish Oaks) was also bred at the Hampshire nursery, whence she was sold for 1.25 million guineas as a yearling to the Ballydoyle set. There is a recent precedent for this sort of thing; last year's Derby field contained two colts raised together at Ballymacoll Stud. North Light was retained, Snow Ridge sold privately to Sheikh Mohammed for a fortune.

Apart from Playful Act, who seemed to make rather hard work of winning the Lancashire Oaks two weeks ago, two other top-level winners are in tomorrow's lineup. Chelsea Rose took last year's Moyglare Stud Stakes and Saoire is this year's Irish 1,000 Guineas victress.

In Eswarah's absence the Oaks form is represented by third-placed Pictavia. In recent years Petrushka, who finished fourth at Epsom, Ebadiyla (sixth), Pure Grain (third), Wemyss Bight (fifth) and Knight's Baroness (third) have found compensation in Co Kildare.

Dash To The Top (4.05) can reward Cumani's patience and her owner-breeders' judgement and become the fifth successful British raider in seven years. Her sometime playmate Mona Lisa is each-way value on ground that will suit a Giant's Causeway product, with the two daughters of Sinndar, Jim Bolger-trained Pictavia and supplementary entry Shawanda, from France, for the minor places.

There are juveniles to watch this weekend on both sides of the Irish Sea. Tomorrow's Anglesey Stakes at the Curragh features a colt judged by many to be the equal of any at Ballydoyle, the imposing grey Aussie Rules. There will be more for the punter at Newbury today, where 24 two-year-olds line up for the five-furlong Weatherbys Super Sprint, the day's richest contest. Titus Alone has been a warm order since his Windsor Castle Stakes win, but may be thwarted by another speedster who will appeal to those of a superstitious bent, Triskaidekaphobia (3.25). The youngster's name means fear of the number 13.

Richard Edmondson

Nap: Fine Silver (Newbury 2.50)

NB: Ashdown Express (Newbury 4.30)

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