O’Brien issues Was going concern
Saturday 21 July 2012
Connections of Investec Oaks heroine Was are hoping she handles the testing going when she attempts a Classic double in the Darley Irish Oaks at the Curragh today.
The Aidan O'Brien-trained filly was due to run in the Pretty Polly Stakes after her Epsom victory, but she was withdrawn because of the rain-softened going, and conditions are once again a concern.
"The ground might not be ideal, but it's the Oaks so we'll take our chance and see what happens. She is a lightly raced filly and hopefully she'll run a good race," said jockey Joseph O'Brien.
Was finished third behind Princess Highway on her seasonal bow when they met in the Blue Wind Stakes at Naas in May and the latter's jockey, Pat Smullen, is hoping his mount can confirm the form.
He said: "Granted Was had probably improved since Naas, but her (Princess Highway's) form is the strongest at the moment, in my opinion."
Princess Highway will have to overcome a late setback if she is to secure her first Group One prize in the Classic.
Dermot Weld's filly could not have been more impressive in last month's Ribblesdale Stakes at Royal Ascot and had been the general ante-post favourite for this weekend's fillies' event.
However, news of a minor problem came to light earlier this week and with further doubts about the ground, she has been usurped at the head of the market by the John Gosden-trained Lancashire Oaks winner Great Heavens.
Weld said: "She's very well, but we had a little hold-up earlier in the week. She's over that, but she will find that testing ground against her."
Princess Highway's jockey Pat Smullen voiced similar concerns about the prospect of bottomless ground.
"She's done everything right leading up to the race. She was very impressive in Ascot," he said.
"She appears to be in the same sort of form she was then. The big concern for me is the ground. In the form book it says it was soft at Ascot, but it was nothing compared to what she will encounter on Sunday.
"She is going to encounter heavy winter ground here on Sunday and that is an unknown to her. She is very well, but I just hope she handles conditions."
Hughie Morrison's Shirocco Star was narrowly beaten by Was at Epsom and was third behind Princess Highway at Ascot.
The East Ilsley handler said: "She seems fine and it's quite rightly a very competitive race.
"We've been beaten by a couple of them before, so we know it's going to be difficult, but she's been second in one Oaks and we wanted to have a go at another.
"We don't know how she'll handle conditions. She might hate it and if she does, we'll have learned our lesson."