Fiesolana looks primed to Duke it out at Ascot
Willie McCreery has taken sufficient encouragement in Fiesolana's gallant defeat at headquarters on Saturday to prepare his stable star for a bold tilt at Royal Ascot's Duke of Cambridge Stakes.
The wily Curragh handler imported the five-year-old mare from France last term and she proceeded to triumph in five of her eight starts. A four-time Group winner, she proved a brilliantly lucrative acquisition, signing off 2013 with a Newmarket Group Two victory in October.
Fiesolana returned to France for her reappearance, but left a middling effort there behind to serve it up to Purr Along in typically resolute fashion under Billy Lee when just held in the Lanwades Stud Stakes. "She was good after the race and I was very happy," McCreery declared of her endeavours.
"The most important thing is that there's something to work with and she should come on a lot for the run. The race didn't suit in France, but she didn't run too badly and we knew she'd improve. It's onwards and upwards to Royal Ascot. The Duke of Cambridge looks perfect with no penalty."
Formerly the Windsor Forest Stakes, the mile Ascot Group Two was won by David Wachman's Duntle 12 months ago and by the Tommy Stack-trained Lolly For Dolly in 2011.
Evanna McCutcheon also still has the King's Stand and Golden Jubilee Stakes at the royal meeting in mind for Maarek, despite his defeat to Slade Power in Saturday's Greenlands Stakes.
"He has come out of the race fine," the rookie Fethard-based handler said of her classy sprinter, which is in a Group Two at Chantilly this weekend. "He won't be going to France on Sunday – that looks unlikely. He's entered in Ascot and we'll see what the ground turns up like there.
"We'll have a look wherever it comes up soft. He was just caught a little bit on the back foot when the winner kicked on last Saturday. We will see what the ground is like at Ascot and go from there. We'd want to see some cut, but we wouldn't want it like a bog. Cork and the Curragh this year have shown us he doesn't want it that heavy."
Maarek is the only remaining Irish-trained contender at the French Derby meeting after Aidan O'Brien opted to scratch each of his three remaining Prix du Jockey Club entries, including the well-backed Epsom contender Geoffrey Chaucer.
Jamie Osborne, meanwhile, has revealed that his stunning UAE Derby hero Toast Of New York will swerve Epsom following the recent rainfall.
Michael Buckley last month coughed up £8,000 to supplement Toast Of New York for the Derby, but his colt will now get the opportunity to live up to its name in the Belmont Derby Invitational on July 5, before a possible stab at Arlington's Secretariat Stakes in August.
"There is a race at Belmont over a mile-and-a quarter on turf that is worth $1.25m and we don't really want to waste a run in a race where we would be a 25/1 outsider," Osborne explained.
"The Derby can be a bit of a graveyard for some horses and I don't want to end up there with him.
"Whether or not we stay in America for the Secretariat at Arlington, we will have to see."