Chicquita wins Irish Oaks at the Curragh
Alain de Royer-Dupre’s filly made life difficult for Johnny Murtagh before victory
Darwin ridden by Joseph O’Brien wins the Invesco Pension Consultants Minstral Stakes during Darley Irish Oaks Day at the Curragh. Photograph: Adrian Melia/PA Wire
Chicquita 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 as she dramatically veered to her left 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 out the finish 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.
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.
“She is a great filly and I wanted to try another Group One rather than to go into an easier race. 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. The Curragh is a marvellous track, one of the best in Europe and if you have a good horses to come here, you are sure to show something.
“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.”
The red-hot form of the O’Brien stable continued with a most impressive success for 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.
Joseph O’Brien got the 8-11 favourite organised two and a half furlongs out as he reeled in leader Leitir Mor and began to hit full stride shortly afterwards. 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.
“We’re delighted with that,” Aidan O’Brien said. “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. When he asked him to quicken, Joseph said he quickened and the race was over and when he went to the front he was very idle. He obviously gives Joseph a very good feel.
“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. We were very lucky to get him and he’s something to look forward to. He has plenty of options and he could go to Deauville.”