French raider Shawanda ran out an impressive winner of the Darley Irish Oaks at the Curragh today.
The Alain de Royer-Dupre-trained filly was sent off the 9-2 second favourite and she swept into the lead two furlongs out before going well clear of her rivals in the hands of Christophe Soumillon.
British runner Playful Act, trained by John Gosden, was second with Aidan O’Brien’s Mona Lisa third and Right Key fourth.
John Dunlop’s Thakafaat set the early pace closely followed by Chelsea Rose and there was little to choose between the pair as the field turned for home.
Soumillon was always travelling well on Shawanda and he rushed the Aga Khan-owned filly to the head of affairs and stormed home by five lengths from Playful Act.
The Aga Khan’s other runner Hazariya, who had been supplemented earlier this week, was pulled up by jockey Michael Kinane over three furlongs out.
Connections had been in two minds whether to run her after she was found to have suffered a stone bruise yesterday.
Shawanda is 12-1 from 33-1 for the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe in October with Irish bookmakers Paddy Power and Royer-Dupre sees the autumn feature as an obvious target.
He said: “I thought before today that the bigger track would suit her and she has plenty of class.
“She is a very calm filly which helped her relax. I was worried about her travelling over here because she has never had to go far before.
“The obvious plan would be to go for the Prix Vermeille and the Arc de Triomphe.”
The Aga Khan was enjoying his second winner in the Irish Classic in the last 10 years after Ebadiyla’s success in the 1997 renewal.
He said: “I have always liked this filly. We considered running her in the Prix de Diane but decided to come here instead.
“She is from an outstanding male and female line and is progressing with every race.”
Soumillon added: “She was on the bridle all the way. She was so well-balanced round the home turn. It was just so easy – my easiest Group One winner.
“If I had been harder on her she could have won by 10 lengths.”
Gosden was satisfied with the run of Playful Act and felt she had lost little in defeat.
“Two furlongs out we quickened right up and I thought we were going to win, but in a matter of strides the winner had taken three lengths out of her.
“It was a very good performance to finish second as she beat the rest by some way.”