Wayward Chicquita sparks Arc dreams

Chicquita will be aimed at the Prix Vermeille and possibly the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe after surviving a dramatic drift to her left to land the Darley Irish Oaks at the Curragh on Saturday night.

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, winning the race for the second time, said: “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. She’s a great filly, she is the best filly I have in my yard.

“She will probably go now for the Prix Vermeille and then maybe the Arc.”

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.

Aidan O’Brien’s Australia got off the mark at the second attempt with victory in the Darley European Breeders Fund Maiden, while Wilshire Boulevard outpointed better-fancied stablemate Oklahoma City to give the trainer a one-two in the Jebel Ali Racecourse & Stables Anglesey Stakes.

However, 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: “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 has plenty of options and he could go to Deauville.”

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