Of the Classic generation, the hierarchy among those plying their trade over a mile has been pretty solid, with both the Newmarket Guineas winners, Dawn Approach and Sky Lantern, confirming at Royal Ascot their superiority over rivals behind them on the Rowley Mile in the spring. The middle-distance division colts, though, are in some disarray after Ruler Of The World’s Epsom form was blown out of the water in the Irish Derby.
Today at the Curragh it is the turn of the fillies in the division as the Oaks heroine Talent puts her reputation on the line against seven rivals in the Irish Oaks. Statistically, she is as likely to succeed as not; five of the last 10 Epsom winners to try have achieved the double.
Bookmakers rate her a 5-2 chance to follow the hoofprints of Snow Fairy, Sariska, Alexandrova, Ouija Board and Ramruma.
At Epsom, Talent was one of the outsiders but belied her 20-1 starting price to run right away from her field, headed by her much better-fancied Ralph Beckett stablemate Secret Gesture. The daughter of New Approach overcame an anything but straightforward passage on the tricky course before storming clear through the final furlong to emulate her great-grandmother Bireme.
None behind her in the Oaks is taking Talent on again; her rival at the top of today’s market, after steady support during the week, is another well-bred, lightly raced improver, Riposte, from the Lady Cecil stable. The Dansili filly, a half-sister to Frankel’s dam, earned her chance of a crack at the top level after a stylishly successful move from maiden to Group Two company in the Ribblesdale Stakes at Royal Ascot.
The last of the home side to take Ireland’s premier filly contest was Moonstone five years ago and this evening’s defence of the €400,000 (£345,000) purse, headed by Alive Alive Oh (Tommy Stack) and Just Pretending (one of three for Aidan O’Brien), again looks vulnerable. The sole French raider Chiquita remains a maiden, but should have won on her seasonal debut (she was well clear when she clipped a hedge at the side of the course and fell) and then chased home Treve in last month’s Prix de Diane.
Although Talent’s near four-length victory at Epsom was a surprise on the day, there is no reason to believe it was a fluke and she can live up to her hostage-to-fortune name and give rider Jim Crowley, who deserted her at Epsom, his first Classic.
On today’s seven domestic cards the richest reward comes in the £250,000 Weatherbys Super Sprint at Newbury, a contest restricted to horses bought relatively cheaply at auction. Over the years this race has proved something of a Richard Hannon benefit (seven winners in its 21 runnings) and the stable duly fields the favourite Lilbourne Lass. But better value may be found in Peniaphobia.
Chris McGrath's Nap
Kitten On The Run (1.50 Newmarket)
Heeraat (3.15 Newbury)