There were 13 runners standing their ground at the five-day declaration stage for the Irish Oaks, but perhaps none as intriguing as French raider Chiquita. What’s more, a highly promising jockey booking for Alain de Royer-Dupre’s filly suggests she’s not just over for the craic.
Johnny Murtagh is the man that connections have brought in for the ride and they could scarcely have picked a more ideal man for the job. The Meathman has won virtually every big race going and his five wins in the Irish Oaks are the most by a single rider in the race’s history.
Despite splitting with Aidan O’Brien’s Ballydoyle operation in 2010, Murtagh has remained an in-demand jockey as retained rider for the horses of HRH the Aga Khan. He recently reminded punters of his prodigious gifts by pulling off a 33/1 shock to land the top jockey honours at Royal Ascot with four winners, despite arriving at the meeting with just four pre-booked rides.
A cursory glance may paint thrice-raced maiden Chiquita as an outsider for the race, but her last run – when second in the French Oaks – suggests she has the right to be competing in this sort of company.
Prior to that run she had done little to mark herself out as potentially high-class in two previous outings, but despite finishing four lengths down on winner Treve – who is as short as 10/1 for the Arc – the form of that Chantilly race looks to put her in the same class as all but the aforementioned unbeaten type amongst this year’s French Classic generation fillies.
Chiquita beat Silasol home by a neck in that contest – with that runner having won a Group 1 over the same trip in her penultimate race – and the latter had previously finished just over a length behind French 1000 Guineas second Esoterique over 1m1f.
She quickened from the back of proceedings to throw down her challenge and may arguably have got closer to Treve – who kicked for the line from three lengths in front of her – had she not drifted in the manner of one still naïve to racing inside the closing furlong.
Regardless, Chiquita was thundering home at the business end of that 1m2f contest and being by Derby-winner Montjeu, out of a Dansili mare – the latter sire was responsible for Group 1 winning 1m4f stars Harbinger and Rail Link – should appreciate the longer trip at the Curragh.
As one of the less exposed young ladies in the field, the experience and zen riding style of Murtagh – whose motto “the river doesn’t need pushing” seems tailor made for an inexperienced type – should be ideal for Chiquita.
Her form and her connections’ confidence in sending her to Ireland mark her out as an Irish Oaks each-way filly to keep on side of.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.