Chicquita to break maiden tag in Classic style by landing Darley Irish Oaks

Alain de Royer-Dupré does not indulge in impulse moves, and sending Chicquita to the Curragh’s wide-open spaces, over a distance she should theoretically relish, but on fast going she might not, has to be noted

Johnny Murtagh can keep up his fine record in the Darley Irish Oaks on the French-trained Chicquita.

Johnny Murtagh can keep up his fine record in the Darley Irish Oaks on the French-trained Chicquita.

Sat, Jul 20, 2013, 01:00



A lot of ifs-and-buts surround the French challenger Chicquita in what is a first ever Saturday evening running of the Darley Irish Oaks but the reassuring presence of her trainer, Alain de Royer-Dupré, and jockey, Johnny Murtagh, encourages hopes she can break her maiden tag in a Classic.

Certainly compared to the Epsom Oaks heroine Talent, and the other British hope Riposte, both of which have dominated the ante-post betting, Chicquita is very much an unknown quantity, even more than the apparent main home hope Alive Alive Oh, whose connections will examine ground conditions today to see if they’re unsuitably quick.

The French hope has yet to win in three starts, and has exhibited clear signs of temperament, including when losing her jockey with a race at her mercy by colliding with a hedge. She has hung left and right in her races and looked anything but an easy ride.

But quirkiness is often a trade-off for talent in the progeny of Montjeu and this €600,000 yearling purchase has obvious ability as she showed when finishing runner-up in last month’s French Oaks.

The winner, Treve, has sound claims to being the outstanding three-year-old filly in Europe, and Chicquita had a double-Group One winner in Silasol behind her in the Prix de Diane, despite hanging left in the closing stages. And the fact that she is at the Curragh at all is significant in itself.

Alain de Royer Dupré is one of the world’s great trainers, with Group One victories in nine countries worldwide, including the Irish Oaks in 2005 with Shawanda. The 68-year-old Frenchman does not indulge in impulse moves, and sending Chicquita to the Curragh’s wide-open spaces, over a distance she should theoretically relish, but on fast going she might not, has to be noted.

So does his booking of Murtagh. No doubt Antoine Hamelin is a fine jockey but Murtagh is the most successful rider in Irish Oaks history with five wins and possesses a CV that is in another league. Whether Chicquita needs strength or subtlety from the saddle today, it will be provided.

Riposte would certainly provide a sentimental victory, trained as she is by Jane Cecil, widow of the legendary Henry Cecil who died just over a month ago. Victory for the supplemented Juddmonte filly would be just a second Irish classic success for a female trainer and it would be a significant first for Co Waterford born rider, Tom Queally.

However, Chicquita, at likely odds of 7/1, looks the value wager.