'Alpha' set for Deauville duel 'With You'
All eyes will be on Deauville this Sunday with Jessica Harrington's superstar filly Alpha Centauri set for a mouth-watering duel against Freddy Head's With You in the Prix Jacques le Marois.
A hat-trick of blistering Group One victories this season - including Harrington's first Royal Ascot winner in the Coronation Stakes - has seen Alpha Centauri take the Flat season by storm.
Given what she has already accomplished, the daughter of Mastercraftsman should have no problem taking on her male counterparts for the first time but Alan Cooper, racing manager for owners the Niarchos family is cautious, with an expected deluge at the French track.
"The filly is in good form and all being well she'll run on Sunday. Jessie is very happy with her. Let's hope the weather stays favourable," Cooper said.
"There are showers forecast, but how much rain they'll get we'll have to wait and see. It will be her first time taking on colts, but it's too early to speculate which horses she'll be up against."
Those conditions would suit Head's filly With You, which surged clear of her nine rivals for a first Group One victory in the Prix Rothschild at Deauville ten days ago, and she leads the hopes for the home contingent.
"She is going to run in the Marois, all being well. It looks like it is going to be a big race. I am very happy with my filly, so we will see what happens. If they get some rain in Deauville that would be fine for us and I believe it might not suit the Irish filly," Head said.
English trainer Eve Johnson Houghton will saddle stable star Accidental Agent, a shock 33/1 winner of the Queen Anne Stakes at the Royal meeting, but while she is hopeful, there's no doubt about the scale of the task they face.
"Alpha Centauri looks an amazing filly. She'll be the favourite, but hopefully we'll give her a good rattle anyway. Hopefully Alpha Centauri will go a nice, decent pace and we've got something to aim at and we either get there or we don't," she said.
Closer to home, Sligo hosts a decent seven-race Flat card tonight headlined by the Connacht Oaks (7.30) where Jim Bolger's Scoil Naisiunta holds leading claims in this fillies only handicap.
None of the seven runners can be ruled out to land the €30,000 prize, but with two wins from her last three runs, there looks to be more to come from the daughter of Intense Focus.
The preceding Diageo Day 21st August At Sligo Races Handicap (7.0) is also an intriguing affair and Nibiru - pulled out at Galway last week because of coughing - should be primed to score. Stepping back significantly in grade from a decent run behind some useful sorts in a Leopardstown Group Three last October, Tony Martin's charge can defy a 284-day layoff.