Alive Alive Oh to keep home fires burning in Oaks for Stack
RALPH BECKETT'S Talent, such a decisive winner of the Epsom Oaks last month, will be joined by the heavily backed Riposte as the cross-channel raiders vie for a fifth successive triumph in the Darley-sponsored Irish edition at the Curragh tonight.
The first Saturday evening running of the fillies' mile-and-a-half Classic promises to be a thoroughly intriguing affair, and there would hardly be a more popular 'away' winner than the impressive Ribblesdale Stakes heroine Riposte.
Trained by the legendary Henry Cecil's widow, Jane, Khalid Abdullah's daughter of Dansili has been the best-supported horse for the €400,000 Group One all week, having been supplemented at a cost of €40,000 on Monday.
On just her fourth start, she clearly still has the scope to continue improving, and will again be assisted by Dungarvan native Tom Queally in her bid to deliver the famed Warren Place stable its fourth win in this.
Talent, for her part, is out to become the fifth horse in 10 years to complete the Epsom-Curragh Oaks double.
Given the way that she streaked clear for Richard Hughes at Epsom, she warrants serious respect under regular rider Jim Crowley again.
With Johnny Murtagh up, French Oaks second Chicquita is also of note, as Alain de Royer-Dupre tries to emulate Shawanda's 2005 coup.
However, the home defence is solid, with Aidan O'Brien relying on Ribblesdale runner-up Just Pretending, the unbeaten Venus De Milo and the slightly more exposed Magical Dream, a rare big-race mount for Michael Hussey.
Interestingly, Joseph O'Brien is booked for Just Pretending, presumably eschewing the opportunity to ride the supplemented Venus De Milo.
Unraced before readily scoring over this trip at Fairyhouse on June 12, Venus De Milo then beat some smart sorts on dropping back to 10 furlongs in a Naas Listed race. She will need to step up again to figure at this level, but the fact that she was supplemented would suggest that someone at Ballydoyle believes Seamie Heffernan's partner is capable of doing so.
Leopardstown maiden winner Scintilulla is up against it as she endeavours to add further glory to Jim Bolger's incredible year, so Alive Alive Oh gets the nod to keep the spoils at home.
Third to the Irish 2,000 Guineas winner Magician on its October track bow at headquarters, Tommy Stack's filly then showed the extent of her precocity to sluice up in a Cork maiden in March en route to slamming Magical Dream by six lengths at Navan in May.
Owned by JP McManus' daughter Sue-Ann Foley, she was scratched from the Ribblesdale because of the prevailing fast ground, and then missed the Pretty Polly Stakes here as well. Given that she has never run on ground quicker than yielding, connections are anxious about the likely quick conditions once again.
Still, they also are believed to be eager to see Alive Alive Oh run again, although they might be waiting a while yet if the watered Curragh sod isn't deemed sufficiently safe.
In the event that it is, their deeply exciting prospect has the class to deliver Fran Berry his first Classic victory. In her absence, Venus De Milo is a similarly progressive sort that could take advantage.
The remainder of the card is no less compelling. Just before the big race, Gordon Lord Byron will shoulder 10st under Wayne Lordan in the Invesco Pension Consultants Minstrel Stakes.
With the ground as it is, though, Tom Hogan's stable star is passed over in favour of Darwin, a staggering $1.3m Coolmore purchase that did everything right on its Irish debut over a mile at Naas last month.
The son of Big Brown drops to seven furlongs for this Group Three, but the suspicion is that he can make the most of the various weight allowances to prove himself a pretty serious three-year-old under Joseph O'Brien.
Ballydoyle juveniles Australia and Oklahoma City could also deliver for the champion jockey, with the later appealing as the most reliable option in the Anglesey Stakes.
In the Boylesports.com Handicap, Ken Condon and Billy Lee ought to have a big say courtesy of the consistent Strait Of Zanzibar, with Rebel Force warranting the nap vote in the Goffs Maiden. Third in a quality maiden here behind Salhooda over a mile in the autumn, Kevin Prendergast's three-year-old faces 15 opponents on her belated reappearance now.
Still, as the product of a Dalakhani-Rebelline union, she is bred to be extremely smart, and the step up to 10 furlongs ought to suit ideally. If Chris Hayes' mount strips fit, then, she would be strongly fancied to begin confirming her obvious potential.