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Talent looking for English-Irish Oaks double

Updated: Saturday, 20 Jul 2013 18:24 | Comments

Talent won the Oaks as a relatively unconsidered 20-1 outsider
Talent won the Oaks as a relatively unconsidered 20-1 outsider

Trainer Ralph Beckett is confident Epsom heroine Talent is in the best possible shape as she aims to complete the English-Irish Oaks double at the Curragh this evening (6.15pm)

Despite victory in Newmarket's Pretty Polly Stakes on her seasonal reappearance, the daughter of New Approach was a 20-1 outsider for the Investec Oaks at the end of May, with stable companion Secret Gesture Beckett's major hope of winning the Epsom Classic for the second time following the triumph of Look Here in 2008.

But while Secret Gesture ran an excellent race to fill the runner-up spot, she was unable to repel the charge of Talent, who flew down the outside of the field in the straight to strike by almost four lengths under Richard Hughes.

Much of the post-race discussion was dominated by how Hughes had ridden Talent in a piece of work just days earlier and had been most unimpressed, but Beckett is thrilled with his filly's condition ahead of the Darley-sponsored Irish equivalent.

Stable jockey Jim Crowley is back on board as the three-year-old aims to become the first dual Oaks winner since Snow Fairy three years ago.

Beckett said: "I'm very happy with where we are with the filly and we're looking forward to running.

"When Richard came to ride her work before Epsom he was riding on a strip of ground he'd never ridden on before and they were working with a filly who was at the top of her game.

"Richard obviously read something into it and there was a lot made of it after the Oaks as it was obviously a good story.

"I'm very happy with the filly, she looks great and has done well since Epsom, so we have to go there hopeful."

"I'm very happy with the filly, she looks great and has done well since Epsom" - Ralph Beckett

Beckett acknowledges Talent faces no easy task, and particularly respects Alain de Royer-Dupre's French raider Chicquita.

"I think the market perhaps slightly underestimates the French filly. Her form looks very good and although she's never been this far, she looks a likely stayer," said the Kimpton handler.

"Then there is Tommy Stack's filly (Alive Alive Oh) and Aidan O'Brien's fillies (Just Pretending, Magical Dream and Venus De Milo) so there are plenty in there with a chance."

Talent appeared particularly effective by being produced late off a strong gallop at Epsom.

Beckett is unsure how the race will pan out tactically, but is not overly concerned.

He said: "Hopefully there will be plenty of pace, but then they may decide to go slow to catch us out.

"They went no gallop in the Pretty Polly at Newmarket, she pulled hard and still won, so they can do what they like.

"Hopefully the best filly will win on the day and we obviously hope it's us."

Talent's main market rival is Jane Cecil's Riposte, who brought the house down at Royal Ascot with a poignant victory in the Ribblesdale Stakes just days after the death of legendary trainer Henry Cecil.

Cecil told www.sirhenrycecil.com: "We were thrilled with Riposte's victory in the Ribblesdale Stakes.

Henry always had lot of belief in the filly's potential and she justified that at Ascot.

"She took that race well and her preparations ahead of the Irish Oaks have gone smoothly.

"We have been pleased with her recent work and, while this is another step up, we are hopeful that she can take it in her stride. She travelled well to Ireland and arrived safely this morning (Friday)."

Stable jockey Tom Queally is similarly confident about Riposte's chances.

He told At The Races: "She's come out of the race very well and her work's been fairly good.

"The Ribblesdale was not a bad race. She copes with the quick ground and I don't think the event will faze her too much.

"She's improving all the while and we are looking forward to it.

"Hopefully she's got a big chance."

O'Brien has saddled three previous winners of the Irish Oaks, and the most fancied of this year's trio is the unbeaten Venus De Milo, who was supplemented following a victory in an Oaks trial at Naas.

Seamie Heffernan, who had been on board for her first two starts, keeps the ride.

O'Brien said: "She's in good form. She won her maiden over a mile and a half and then a stakes race over a mile and two (furlongs). You'd imagine if it was over further she'd have won easier.

"Going back up to a mile and a half should suit her. This filly is hopefully still progressing. We think, and hope, she still is."

The master of Ballydoyle also saddles Ribblesdale runner-up Just Pretending, the mount of O'Brien's son, Joseph, and the Michael Hussey-ridden outsider Magical Dream.

"It was her (Just Pretending's) first time over a mile and a half at Ascot and she has been in good form since," said O'Brien.

"She's improved all the time through the year and quick ground will suit her very well.

"We think she (Magical Dream) is a progressive filly and she got a mile and a half well the last day."

Chicquita has had an interesting year so far.

The daughter of Montjeu fell when looking the likely winner on her seasonal reappearance at Saint-Cloud after drifting right and hitting a hedge.

She looked similarly awkward when second in the French Oaks last time, but undoubtedly has plenty of ability.

"We don't know why it happened (at Saint-Cloud). It is impossible to explain why she did that, but she looks well," said Royer-Dupre.

"She has good ability and plenty of class, which is why we have no option other than to run.

"It is interesting for her to go to the Curragh as she stays and is the right filly. She can wait and she has a long acceleration.

"It is up to the jockey what he does judged on the pace of the race.

"If there is no pace he can be closer to the leader. If there is a lot of pace we can wait in last place."

The Tommy Stack-trained Alive Alive Oh pulled out on Saturday afternoon due to fast ground. 

The seven-runner field is completed by the Jim Bolger-trained Scintillula.

Live television coverage of the Irish Oaks from the Curragh from 16:30 on Saturday 20 July on RTÉ Two and RTÉ.ie (Ireland only).

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