The Darley Irish Oaks is the second Irish classic for 3-year-old fillies. Run at the Curragh Racecourse in July, the race never fails to attract a quality field and this year was no exception. Some of the top class fillies that have tasted glory at the Curragh classic include Peeping Fawn, Ouija Board, Snow Fairy, Blue Bunting, Sariska, Great Heavens, User Friendly, Alexandrova etc. Some of the fillies that have won the Epsom Oaks have also won the Irish equivalent including Ouija Board, Sariska, Snow Fairy, Ramruma, Alexandrova, User Friendly & Blue Wind.
This years Irish Oaks was run on Saturday July 20th 2013. The field included Epsom Oaks winner Talent as well as Irish Guineas runner up Just Pretending, Group 2 Ribblesdale stakes winner Riposte, Prix De Diane runner up Chiquita, and stakes winners Venus De Milo, Magical Dream and Scintillula.
The race suffered a bit of a blow when exciting 3-year-old filly Alive Alive Oh was withdrawn due to the fast ground. With Talent looking to follow in the other top fillies that have completed the Epsom/Curragh Oaks double she was the heavily backed favourite.
France had one sole entry in Chiquita still only a novice having finished 3rd on her debut, she then went to Longchamp to run 2nd behind the unbeaten Treve in the Group 1 Prix De Diane. Trained by Alain Royer Dupre. Known as one of the best trainers in France, Dupre had previously tasted Irish Oaks success when he trained the Aga Khan’s Shawanda to win the race in 2005. Although her record was impressive Chiquita wasn’t one of the heavily backed favourites. That belonged to the English trained pair Riposte and Talent.
However turning for home it was clear that Talent was not going to taste dual Oaks glory. The fight to the line was a head to head duel between Just Pretending and Riposte, however Johnny Murtagh hadn’t even asked his mount Chiquita the serious question. Once he did the response was immediate as she came bursting through the pack. Her greenness showed as she drifted fiercely toward the right of the track. Murtagh managed to keep the filly galloping and she crossed the line about 1 length in front of Venus De Milo with Just Pretending 3rd.
The Epsom Oaks form took a crushing blow when the winner Talent finished last of the 7 runners. The Irish Oaks win saw Johnny Murtagh become the first jockey to win as many Irish Oaks with a current record of 7 wins. The result was also a great asset to Coolmore with the first 4 home all by Coolmore stallions. Chiquita also created a special moment for Coolmore when she became the first Irish Oaks winner for her late sire Montjeu.
Alain Royer Dupre said post race that “She is an exciting filly and the Prix De Diane Winner Looks Top Class”. He also hinted that the Group 1 Prix Vermeille in France may be the fillies next calling. He also said that they may have a think about the Arc. If Chiquita did win the Arc she would join the roll of some illustrious fillies including Solemia, Danedream, Zarkava and the mighty broodmare Urban Sea. Chiquita looks potentially top class seeing off some more experience rivals at the highest level. It was also announced post race that Chiquita will not likely stay in training next year. So while we have the chance to witness a potential top class filly lets enjoy her.