Alain de Royer-Dupré opts for local knowledge in booking Johnny Murtagh for Chicquita

Talent will bid to become the 14th filly to complete the Oaks double, alongside her stable companion, Secret Gesture

Johnny Murtagh: will ride the Alain de Royer-Dupré-trained  Chicquita in Saturday’s Irish Oaks.

Johnny Murtagh: will ride the Alain de Royer-Dupré-trained Chicquita in Saturday’s Irish Oaks.


Alain de Royer-Dupré is the sole French trainer to land the Darley Irish Oaks in the last 20 years and he has opted for local knowledge in this Saturday evening’s Classic at the Curragh by booking Johnny Murtagh for his big-race hope, Chicquita.

Murtagh is the most successful jockey in Irish Oaks history with five victories, the last of them on Moonstone in 20008, the last time the €400,000 prize was kept at home.

Since then there have been four successive winners trained in Britain and there appears likely to be another major cross-channel shape to the first Saturday evening Oaks, with five of the 13 entries left in the race at yesterday’s five-day forfeit stage based across the Irish Sea.

They include the Epsom heroine Talent, who will bid to become the 14th filly to complete the Oaks double, and her stable companion, Secret Gesture, runner-up at Epsom where trainer Ralph Beckett dominated.

“Talent will definitely run, but we won’t make a decision on whether Secret Gesture will run until declaration time,” Beckett said yesterday. “Both horses are fine and in good form.”

Richard Hughes partnered Talent at Epsom but will be replaced by stable jockey Jim Crowley. Crowley rode Secret Gesture at Epsom, but if she does head to Ireland, she will be ridden by owners Qatar Racing’s retained rider, Jamie Spencer.

As expected the Juddmonte team supplemented their Ribblesdale winner Riposte into the race yesterday at a cost of €40,000, a move also made by Aidan O’Brien with the unbeaten Venus De Milo.

Fourth win
The champion trainer can also pick from three others as he pursues a fourth win in the race.

“Venus De Milo is a fast improving filly and we like her a lot,” O’Brien said yesterday. “Just Pretending ran a fine race at Royal Ascot and has come out of that race in great shape. We will make a final decision on plans later in the week.”

Bookmaker reaction was to make Talent favourite to confirm Epsom form that has taken several knocks in recent weeks. Paddy Power make her their 11/4 market-leader.

There are a number of fillies that look to fill the ‘dark-horse’ role, though, none more so than Chicquita, still a maiden after three starts, but who boasts an excellent piece of form when finding only Treve too good for her in last month’s French Oaks.

The daughter of Montjeu was ridden by Antoine Hamelin at Chantilly and belied 25/1 odds by running from last in the early stages to eventually finish in front of the Alary winner, Silasol. Chicquita races in the colours of Australian owner Paul Makin, best known as the owner of the good miler Starcraft. De Royer-Dupré won the Curragh Classic with Shawanda in 2005.

“Johnny will ride the French horse on Saturday. Her last run looks very good,” said Murtagh’s agent Eddie Byrne yesterday. Murtagh’s five previous Oaks winners were Ebadiyla (1997), Winona (1998), Petrushka (2000), Peeping Fawn (2007) and Moonstone.

Ground conditions at the Curragh yesterday remained “good to firm” which don’t appear likely to dissuade the connections of Alive Alive Oh from running.

The Tommy Stack-trained filly, owned by Sue-Ann Foley, daughter of JP McManus, missed the Ribblesdale due to the going at Royal Ascot and hasn’t run since winning the Salsabil Stakes at Navan in May.

She has been installed as second favourite for Saturday.

The Oaks will be off at 6.15pm. The first race on the card is at 3.35 and the finale is at 7.20.
IRISH OAKS BETTING (Paddy Power): 11-4 Talent, 7-2 Alive Alive Oh, 4 Secret Gesture, 5 Riposte, 6 Venus De Milo, 10 Chicquita, 11 Just Pretending, 16 Tarana, 20 Magical Dream and Scintillula.