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O'Brien up four securing renewal


THE Darley Irish Oaks roll of honour features just two Irish trainers for the last decade. The dog on the street can name one of them, but not everyone will immediately get the second.

Aidan O'Brien has won the race three times when he completed a hat-trick between 2006 and 2008 and he has three runners in tomorrow's eight-runner renewal as he bids to land the race for a fourth time.

Tommy Stack and Jim Bolger are the only two other Irish trainers contesting the penultimate home Classic of the season and with the former a debatable participant due to the ground and the latter a long priced outsider, it would appear that O'Brien could be the main Irish hope once again.

Have you remembered that other Irish trainer yet? Hint ... he also won the Champion Hurdle and Gold Cup at Cheltenham in years gone by ... we'll come back to it.

This year's renewal will nestle into the increasingly fashionable Saturday evening slot which is being used more and more regularly to encourage crowds and interest, but there is one underlying story that could well be greeted by a very popular reception by those in attendance.

The vast majority of racegoers who will make the turnstiles click at HQ tomorrow evening will have been touched by the loss of Henry Cecil to cancer last month and therefore most, leaving financial investments aside, will be united in wishing his widow Lady Jane Cecil and the Warren Place team all the best with Riposte.

It was fitting that Cecil's Riposte, who carries the colours of the extremely loyal Prince Khalid Abdullah, was such an impressive winner of the Ribblesdale at Royal Ascot and immediately the Irish Oaks was earmarked.

It cost €40,000 to supplement Riposte for the race on Monday and ever since, the sustained support via the bookmakers, as well as the exit of Secret Gesture from the field, means that Riposte is now 5/2 joint favourite with Epsom Oaks heroine Talent. Yet again, it's an intriguing contest, as you would expect and hope for in an Irish Classic, and although us Irish love dominating, you get the feeling that a victory for Warren Place and Waterford native Tom Queally, would be one of the more popular results of tomorrow's feature.

It's unlikely that the winner of the race will be quite as popular as Vintage Tipple was 10 years ago when he gave Paddy Mullins a memorable Classic success and if you didn't get it by now, only the legendary Mullins has joined O'Brien in sending out an Irish winner of this race in the last 10 years.



O'Brien's three-pronged attack on the race tomorrow sees his son Joseph side with Just Pretending over the unbeaten Venus De Milo, to the bookies at least, that has proved a bit of a surprise.

Just Pretending was no match for Riposte at Royal Ascot and on all known form, it's hard to see how she can turn that around, whereas stable companion Venus De Milo, unraced as a two-year-old, has made up for lost time by winning her two starts to date.

She won her maiden when ridden by Seamie Heffernan at Fairyhouse with Joseph finishing in third on a shorter priced colt, and then won the Oaks Trial At Naas when O'Brien rode odds-on shot Moth. Incidentally, Bunairgead was third behind Venus De Milo at Naas and subsequently she won a listed contest at Roscommon.

It will be interesting to see if the O'Brien filly can make the transition to this sort of level at this stage of her career.

In some respects, Venus De Milo goes into tomorrow's race similarly to how Talent went into the Epsom Oaks, albeit Ralph Beckett's filly was a much bigger price on that occasion.

Having won her last two starts, Talent caused a major shock when going on to win at Epsom and beating her more fancied stable companion by three and three parts of a length.

Talent progressed beyond expectations and connections will feel if she turns up in that same type of form, that she will leave the Curragh a dual Oaks winner.

It is Riposte that gets the nod of confidence from this corner however, on the basis that she too is on the upgrade and she couldn't have been more impressive when winning the Ribblesdale and would be a popular victor under the sun on the Curragh plains, with Henry Cecil undoubtedly casting a watchful eye from above.