/ Racing

Chicquita splits field to land Irish Oaks at the Curragh

Updated: Saturday, 20 Jul 2013 21:24 | Comments

Johnny Murtagh was on board Chicquita to land the Oaks
Johnny Murtagh was on board Chicquita to land the Oaks

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, who 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. He got her relaxed and I told him when he asked her, to do it gently and not to surprise her.

"She's a great filly, she is the best filly I have in my yard. That's why I decided after she fell back in Saint-Cloud to go straight away to the Prix de Diane because I know she has talent.

"I'll never know why she flew into the hedge at Saint-Cloud that day, I think she wanted to come home too early.

"She will probably go now for the Prix Vermeille and then maybe the Arc. I think she is good on any ground."

Stan James cut Chicquita to 20-1 for the Arc, while Ladbrokes introduced her at 16-1.

Murtagh said: "She's a very, very high-class filly, with loads of ability. She has lots going on in her mind but if Alain de Royer-Dupre can channel that energy in the right way, she's a seriously good filly."

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, whom he also trains.

Australia got off the mark at the second attempt with victory in the Darley European Breeders Fund Maiden.

Second first time out after missing the break and losing lengths at the start, Aidan O'Brien's beautifully-bred Galileo son of Ouija Board had flown home to just get touched off.

Again a little tardy from the gates, he was moved up by Joseph O'Brien to track the front-running Billboard.

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 the effort of American import Darwin 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.

Gordon Lord Byron, a Group One winner in his own right, tried to throw down a challenge but Darwin looked better the further he went and had a comfortable length and three-quarters in hand.

O'Brien said: "We're delighted with that. He came to us with a massive reputation and you can see why. He's an unbelievable cruiser and Joseph said he felt like they were hacking.

"He's not short of pace, but you'd think he'd get a mile well anyway. When he won his maiden Todd Pletcher was jumping around the place about him and you can see why he was. He was doing the times in America as well.

"He only won a conditions race a few weeks ago and is still a baby.

"He has plenty of options and he could go to Deauville."

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