Curragh setting for next chapter in Fairy's tale
Dunlop's rags-to-riches Oaks winner ready to renew rivalry with Epsom victims in Irish equivalent
Wednesday 14 July 2010
Every shake of the kaleidoscope has brought a fresh pattern to the season's hierarchy among three-year-old filly milers, with a different horse first past the post in each of the Group One races in the division. On Sunday their middle-distance equivalents will square up in the Irish Oaks, a last chance to establish their own pecking order before they face their elders.
The field for the Curragh Classic will include the first three home in the Epsom original, with the connections of the winner, Snow Fairy, hazarding a €42,500 (about £36,700) late entry fee to prove that their girl is the best.
A year ago Snow Fairy was preparing for a run in a juvenile handicap and, though she progressed to better company before the end of her campaign, she had been given no fancy long-term entries.
But she certainly justified the first gamble by her trainer, Ed Dunlop, and owner-breeder, Cristina Patino, who paid £20,000 to add her to the Oaks line-up. She rewarded their faith tenfold with the top prize of £208,119, gained after a daring ride by Ryan Moore brought her home by a neck from Meeznah.
Snow Fairy has not only earned her entry fees but her place among the elite and at stake on Sunday is another quarter of a million or so, plus the bragging rights of becoming only the 13th filly to complete the English-Irish double in the 115 years both races have been run. Dunlop, whose brilliant charge Ouija Board was the 10th six years ago, reports his current heroine ready for the fray after sparking under the reigning champion jockey, who will be in the saddle again on Sunday, in her latest work.
"She had an easy time for 10 days after Epsom," Dunlop said yesterday, "but she is back in the swing of it now and Ryan was very pleased with her when he rode her this morning. She's not the biggest of fillies, but she has developed physically and she looks stronger. She's a very tough filly and I'm happier with her now than I was before Epsom.
"The Curragh is a very different test from Epsom, but I don't think it will disadvantage her in any way. The only negative might be if the rain comes, it might bring stamina doubts into play. But I stand by the fact that she has shown she can quicken."
Dunlop's Newmarket neighbour David Lanigan, trainer of Meeznah, is relishing the rematch, though with no complacency. The rangy daughter of Dynaformer was much the callower of the pair at Epsom – the Classic was only her fourth outing – and she is likely to be better suited by the Curragh's much gentler, wider contours than the Surrey switchback, but the forecast rain may also militate against her.
"Everything has gone to plan so far since the Oaks," Lanigan said yesterday. "But I think this one looks a tougher race. You don't get any Group Ones easily and all we can do is get her there in the best shape we can, and then it's up to the gods."
The Oaks third Remember When, a disappointing fourth in open-age company since Epsom, heads six Aidan O'Brien entries at yesterday's stage. Snow Fairy is favourite at 3-1, with Meeznah second choice in front of Godolphin's Hibaayeb, winner of the Ribblesdale Stakes. Both she and her Royal Ascot victim Eldalil, representing Hamdan Al Maktoum and Sir Michael Stoute, were also supplemented for Sunday's contest.
The next Group One kudos up for grabs on the European circuit also has the distinction of being the only such prize at an evening meeting. The Bastille Day celebrations in the French capital include the Longchamp fireworks of tonight's Grand Prix de Paris, a race with more right than any to be described as the "French Derby" since the Prix du Jockey-Club was shamefully abbreviated five years ago from 12 furlongs to 10.
The horse who may yet emerge as his country's best middle-distance three-year-old, the Elie Lellouche-trained Planteur, was taken off his feet when second at Chantilly and, with the progressive Goldwaki, leads the home defence against the sole raider, Ballydoyle's Jan Vermeer, already fourth in one Derby, at Epsom, and third in another, at the Curragh.
At home, today is make-or-break day for the flamboyant owner and professional gambler Harry Findlay, whose appeal against the severity of a six-month ban for breaching the sport's rules by laying his own horses will be heard at the British Horseracing Authority's headquarters in London.
Sue Montgomery's nap
Allannah Abu (4.20 Catterick) Well-bred filly who needs a victory to enhance her paddock value and showed last time that this is her trip and she is progressing within her own limits.
Shianda (3.00 Lingfield) Today's drop in her ratings and trip may do the trick.
One to watch
Grey Bunting (B W Hills) remains on a workable mark after chasing home an improver last time and should be seen to good effect between 10 and 12 furlongs with a little ease in the ground.
Where the money's going
Totesport have Majestic Concorde as 9-1 favourite for the Galway Plate on 28 July.
Chris McGrath's nap
Caldermud (5.00 Lingfield)
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