Chicquita pick of the bunch despite drift
Chicquita survived a dramatic drift to her left as the French raider shed her maiden tag in the best possible fashion with victory in the Darley Irish Oaks at the Curragh.
Alain de Royer-Dupre's filly would have been an easy winner at Saint-Cloud in May but for hanging badly before colliding with a hedge and falling. She was also awkward when second in the Prix de Diane on her last start and gave Johnny Murtagh plenty to think about here in the closing stages, finishing virtually on the stands side.
Her drift started at the furlong pole but such was her turn of foot she was still able to prevail in a blanket finish from Venus De Milo, which did have the winner crossing in front of her close home. Just Pretending and Riposte had looked like battling it out before Chicquita (9/2) appeared on the scene, while Venus De Milo ran a cracking race on just her third racecourse appearance, closing all the way to the line.
Epsom Oaks heroine Talent never threatened to land a serious blow, finishing last of the seven runners. Just Pretending hung on for third with Lady Cecil's Riposte eventually fifth, albeit not beaten far. A stewards' inquiry was called after the half-length success but the placings remained unaltered.
Royer-Dupre said: "It is quite different to my last winner of this race, Shawanda, because she was unbeaten and this one, she had never won before.
"Her temperament is very interesting because she is very quiet in training, she never does anything wrong and in the afternoon sometimes she goes to the left and she wants to come back too early, she is quite tricky to ride in a race. Johnny Murtagh did well as she is not easy to ride."
Stan James cut Chicquita to 20/1 for the Arc, while Ladbrokes introduced her at 16/1.
On a special day for Murtagh, the rider also won on Pearl Of Africa for Eddie Lynam in the Sycamore Lodge Equine Hospital EB Fillies Handicap and was victorious in the Kilsaran International Handicap on Belle De Crecy, which he also trains.
Aidan O'Brien's Australia got off the mark at the second attempt with victory in the Darley European Breeders Fund Maiden under Joseph O'Brien.
Asked to quicken over two furlongs out, the 3/10 favourite looked like going easily clear but in the end was driven out to beat Dermot Weld's newcomer Carla Bianca by three-quarters of a length. The winning trainer said: "We will take our time with him. He could be anything as the penny hasn't really dropped with him yet. He has a lot of talent."
Wilshire Boulevard (7/1) outpointed better-fancied stablemate Oklahoma City to give O'Brien a one-two in the Jebel Ali Racecourse & Stables Anglesey Stakes, but the day was really lit up for the Ballydoyle team by American import Darwin's win in the Invesco Pension Consultants Minstrel Stakes.
A son of Kentucky Derby hero Big Brown, Darwin looked smart when winning a three-runner race on his Irish debut last month and confirmed that promise with victory in this Grade Three event.