Wednesday 21 March 2018

Raiders hoping for perfect Riposte in bid for Oaks glory

Richard Forristal

Richard Forristal

RIPOSTE is vying for a share of the market lead with Epsom heroine Talent ahead of what has all the makings of an intriguing Darley Irish Oaks on Saturday.

On the day that Snow Fairy – a former winner of the Curragh classic – was retired after incurring another tendon injury, support for Jane Cecil's stylish Ribblesdale victor saw her cut to as low as 3/1 joint-favourite from a high of 9/2.

With Talent's Ralph Beckett-trained stablemate Secret Gesture, runner-up at Epsom, also as low as 7/2, the sense that the raiders' stranglehold on our major fillies' races might continue this weekend hardened.

Since 2000, the Oaks winner has crossed the Irish Sea on seven occasions, while Ambivalent's coup in last month's Pretty Polly Stakes was the eighth time that showpiece has gone for export in that time.

In the nine years that the Matron Stakes has held Group One status, it has gone in the same direction six times, with the 1,000 Guineas the best defended of the three-year-old and upwards Group Ones, having been plundered five times since 2000. In the likely absence of any rainfall before Saturday, Tommy Stack's Alive Alive Oh, a proven soft ground performer, was a big drifter – out to a high of 9/2 from 7/2.

Aidan O'Brien's Venus De Milo, supplemented for the first Saturday evening running of the mile-and-a-half feature at a cost of €40,000, was trimmed into 7/1, but the other big mover was Chicquita, after it was confirmed that Johnny Murtagh would steer the French filly.

Trained by Alain de Royer-Dupre, who won the €400,000 contest with Shawanda in 2005, Chicquita was second to Treve in the French equivalent, the Prix de Diane.

O'Brien's decision to add the unbeaten Venus De Milo to his prospective team is obviously significant, but it was Cecil's decision to supplement Riposte that has stirred the market.


A ready conqueror of O'Brien's entry Just Pretending in the Royal Ascot Group Two under Tom Queally, Riposte would be an immensely popular "away" winner, as it would be a first at the highest level for Henry Cecil's widow. The training legend, who passed away a week before Ascot, won the Irish Oaks on three occasions in his prime up to 1999.

Whoever triumphs at the Curragh, connections will be delighted if their charge follows in the hoofprints of 2010 heroine Snow Fairy which had the final curtain brought down on her career yesterday. Ed Dunlop's star six-year-old was last seen completing a stunning comeback from a tendon injury to claim last year's Red Mills Irish Champion Stakes under Frankie Dettori.

Snow Fairy – which will begin her breeding career at her owner Cristina Patino's Islanmore Stud in Limerick in 2014 – had frequent tendon trouble, but still achieved international acclaim by plundering six Group One victories, while she was disqualified from another in France last year after testing positive for a banned substance.

Bought back by her owner-breeder for just €1,800 as a yearling at the sales after attracting little interest, she sustained her career-ending injury in a routine piece of work at home.

Gordon Lord Byron, a classic rags-to-riches story having been bought by co-owner Morgan Cahalan for €2,000 as a foal before scaling the Group One heights in last year's Prix de la Foret, has been confirmed by Tom Hogan an intended runner in Saturday's Minstrel Stakes before returning to France for next month's Prix Maurice de Gheest.

The Diamond Jubilee fourth will have a 10st burden in the Group Three, and Russian Soul is set to carry the same in Sunday's Rockingham. Dutch Masterpiece and Judge 'n Jury, two of 15 English entrants for the €100,000 dash, are next on 9st 9lbs.

Mick Halford has stated that his five-year-old, second to Sea Siren on Sunday, will run on a day that the Tote Jackpot pool is forecast to top €150,000.

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