Talent on song for Oaks

Talent ridden by jockey Richard Hughes (2nd right) comes home to win the Investec Oaks at Epsom in May. Picture: PA

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.

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 Look Here triumph in 2008.

Secret Gesture ran an excellent race but 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.”

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

Beckett is unsure how Saturday’s 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.”

Talent's main market rival is Lady 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.

Stable jockey Tom Queally is confident about Riposte’s chances, telling 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.”

Aidan O'Brien has saddled three previous winners of the race, 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: “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.”

O’Brien also saddles Ribblesdale runner-up Just Pretending, the mount of his 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.”

Alive Alive Oh has endured a frustrating couple of months since her brilliant display in the Salsabil Stakes at Navan in early May.

The three-year-old was withdrawn from the Ribblesdale Stakes on account of the drying conditions and then missed the Pretty Polly Stakes after coming into season on the day of the race.

Fozzy Stack, the trainer’s son and assistant, said: “The Curragh are doing a good job watering and as long as they keep doing that and the ground is safe, she’s ready to take her chance.


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