Sport Horse Racing

Friday 20 April 2018

Princess to secure Oaks glory for Weld

Richard Forristal

Richard Forristal

A pair of British raiders will endeavour to export the €232,000 Darley Irish Oaks winner's purse tomorrow for a fourth successive year.

Great Heavens, a full-sister to Nathaniel that sluiced up in the Lancashire equivalent a fortnight ago, was supplemented for the Curragh's mile-and-a-half Group One by John Gosden at a cost of €40,000.

A winner of her last three starts, she is joined by the Hughie Morrison-trained Shirocco Star, second to Was in the Epsom Oaks and third behind Princess Highway in the Ribblesdale Stakes at Royal Ascot.

Since the ante-post market opened on the final fillies' Classic of the year, Great Heavens has headed the betting, and the William Buick-ridden contender certainly boasts a suitably progressive profile.

That said, the home defence is especially robust this time, with Aidan O'Brien's Was and Dermot Weld's Princess Highway leading the charge.

Of the other three runners, two of which are stable-mates of Was, Eddie Lynam's Colliding Worlds is the least exposed.


A ready winner of a maiden at Leopardstown last week, her form was franked when Wonderful, third then, obliged at Killarney, and the decision to supplement her for this was a particularly bold one.

That said, Colliding Worlds may need the experience at this level, and it's hard to not conclude that Great Heavens, Was and Princess Highway will feature most prominently.

Was, a friendless 20/1 when successful under Seamie Heffernan at Epsom, is bidding to become the 14th filly to complete the Oaks double, this time under Joseph O'Brien.

O'Brien senior's Alexandrova managed the feat in 2006 and Was has scope for further progression on just her fourth start, but she was well held by Princess Highway at Naas in May, form that was further borne out at Ascot.

In powering six lengths clear there, Weld's filly slammed six of Was's Epsom rivals with stunning authority on slow ground.

Granted, tomorrow's conditions will be even more testing, but Princess Highway, also successful in a good maiden at Leopardstown first time up, is likely to cope as well as anything under Pat Smullen.

If she does, she might just deliver Weld and her Moyglare Stud owners a first Oaks victory since Dance Design scraped home back in 1996.

Weld and Smullen are also fancied to take the card's first pattern race, the Group Three Kilboy Stakes, with the Khalid Abdullah-owned Caponata.

David Wachman's much-improved Tannery is possibly the main danger in this, having regained the winning thread when scoring for a third time in four starts at Limerick a month ago.

The mount of Wayne Lordan relishes the mud, so this is a reasonable target following her previous triumph in Listed company at Gowran Park.

That said, Caponata looks as though she could be a bit special, obliging with the minimum of fuss in a Listed Oaks trial at Naas in June, having already cantered up on her racecourse debut in heavy going at Gowran.

If the Selkirk-filly progresses again from that, she is going to take plenty of stopping.

In the Anglesey Stakes, Cristoforo Colombo can atone for his defeat to Probably in the Railway Stakes. Third in the Coventry at Ascot previously, the Ballydoyle colt ultimately did little wrong here on Derby day, and time might show his conqueror to be pretty smart.

The day's big handicap is the €84,000 Rockingham, with 11 hopefuls set to fight it out for the prestigious sprint.

Preference in a typically competitive renewal is for Possible.

Successful on her first try at this five-furlong trip at Naas in May, Charles O'Brien's three-year-old had Statue Of Dreams back in third when runner-up to Empirico over course and distance last time.

Both Empirico and Statue Of Dreams -- a winner at Bellewstown since -- re-oppose tomorrow, but the weights have tilted slightly in favour of Fran Berry's mount.

On Tipperary's valuable summer jumping card tomorrow, Captain Cee Bee and The Real Article, first and second in the infamous edition of the Kevin McManus Grimes Hurdle 12 months ago, face-off once again.

The 2009 Galway Hurdle hero Bahrain Storm is also on duty, but the two-mile Grade Three might go the way of the progressive Rebel Fitz.

Mick Winters' seven-year-old was a smart novice last term and, while he has a bit to do on figures, he cut a real dash when hacking up in a Flat race at Clonmel towards the end of May.

The Real Article's trainer Edward O'Grady has a live chance with Judge Roy Bean in what is a poor Galway Plate trial, and he might also go close with the exciting Out Now in the conditions chase.

A fine second in the Irish Grand National, Barry Geraghty's mount is fancied to cope better with the testing ground than the Ruby Walsh-ridden False Economy.

Irish Independent

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