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Yorkshire Oaks preview: "Alpinista scares the hell out of me"

Wed 17 Aug 2022

La Petite Coco looks to extend her four-race winning run when she forms part of a strong Irish challenge in a red-hot running of the Darley Yorkshire Oaks at York on Thursday.

Paddy Twomey’s talented filly steadily progressed through the ranks in her three-year-old season, culminating in a defeat of Love in the Group Two Blandford Stakes at the Curragh last September.

She then took her form to the next level in her reappearance at the Kildare track, picking up her first Group One prize in the Pretty Polly Stakes.

That entitles her to line-up on the Knavesmire amongst some of the best fillies and mares around, with connections hoping her trip to Yorkshire can help steer them towards a tilt at the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe or British Champions Day later in the season.

Trainer Paddy Twomey discusses La Petite Coco's chances in the Darley Yorkshire Oaks

“She’s a filly who kind of wants cut in the ground to be at her best, even though she beat Love on a course rated good,” said Barry Irwin, founder and CEO of owner Team Valor International.

“We sent her to York hoping we’d get some rain and we’re still hoping we may get some rain, but our trainer’s partner, Claire Carroll, she took the filly out on to the course and said the ground cover is lush enough that she feels it’s OK to run the horse there. We’re all set to go, we just hope we get a little more rain because she does better with a bit of cut in the ground.

“The only race she has not won since we sent her to Paddy is the Naas Oaks Trial and she didn’t have a great trip that day. She ran well, she finished second, but if it wasn’t for that she would have won every start for Paddy.

“The main reason we are going to York is to test her against better horses and we need to get another run into her to determine if we are going to go for the Arc or switch for the British Champions race. We need to test her and this race will do that.”

La Petite Coco will need to pass a stern examination to book her ticket to Paris and Irwin has plenty of respect for the opposition.

He continued: “I was at Saint-Cloud when Alpinista won and you couldn’t get more impressive than that, that was breath-taking, she scares the hell out of me.

“We’ve run (another horse) against the French filly (Raclette) before and she’s got something to prove in this company, but of the three-year-olds it is Tuesday that is the one that scares me the most.”

Will Tuesday bounce back at York? Find out what Aidan O'Brien has to say

Fellow Irish raiders Tuesday and Magical Lagoon bring Classic winning form to the table, having landed the English and Irish Oaks respectively.

Tuesday struggled to land a blow when pitched in against the colts in the Irish Derby, but her big-race pilot Ryan Moore is willing to draw a line through that performance.

He told Betfair: “Alpinista is the one to beat in here but there a lot of good horses and my filly has definite chances if returning to her best.

“The Irish Derby was a bit of a write-off to be honest, but her Oaks win gives her solid form claims, and she gets 9lb from the older horses. On the Epsom run, she has a pretty big chance, but you have to fully respect Alpinista.”

It appears clear that market leader Alpinista is the horse with a target on her back and Sir Mark Prescott’s daughter of Frankel will be hoping to go one better than her second in this race in 2020 to extend a six-race winning sequence.

Alpinista's owner Kirsten Rausing tells us more about her star mare

“The original plan was to go to the Coronation Cup and King George, but we couldn’t go for the Coronation because the filly hadn’t come in her coat,” said Prescott.

“That put her back in everything. She’s now in the Yorkshire Oaks whereas she would have been going for the Prix Vermeille. The cycle just got slightly put out from what we’d originally planned.

“It did look a very strong race in France last time out, but the ground was quicker than the other English horses wanted and I think it was more suitable to me, so I hope it didn’t flatter me.

“I would think if all went well and she ran well then she would go straight to the Arc, but there is always the Vermeille if we need it.

“The Irish look formidable, though.”

Alpinista’s rider Luke Morris added: “For the last 18 months she’s been flawless, she’s been well-placed and she’s improved with time and is maturing. It would be fantastic to give her a British Group One win.

“She’s a very tough, honest filly. She’s very typical of the horses Miss (Kirsten) Rausing (owner) sends to us. She’s very sound, very tough. I’d like to think there’s not too many chinks in her armour.

“The first Group One she won in Germany was a very competitive race and she showed her talent that day, the next two Group Ones probably weren’t as strong as those but she won at Saint-Cloud and there was obviously some competition there as you had the likes of Hurricane Lane in there.

“I think the performances she’s shown now would give her every chance in the Yorkshire Oaks.”

Andre Fabre’s Raclette makes the trip over from France to add some international flavour, with her trainer identifying this race as the ideal spot to build on her Group Two success in the Prix de Malleret.

“She is a lovely filly and looked exceptional last year. She was odds-on favourite for the fillies’ race on Arc weekend, but because of the heavy ground we didn’t run her,” said Barry Mahon, racing manager for owner Juddmonte.

“She has just taken a little time to come this year. We were trying to make her into a Pouliches filly and she just hadn’t come. So Andre in fairness has done a great job, he has taken his time and she is starting to reveal (her true potential), winning her last two starts.

“Andre felt after the last day that York – the track, and hopefully the ground stays good – would suit her and it looked a good fit for her.

“It is an interesting race. Obviously, Sir Mark’s filly, Alpinista, is a very, very good filly. We know how good she is, having finished second to her with a horse called Baratti, who is a horse we like.

“She is a very good filly, very talented and very well trained by Sir Mark and she will be tough to beat. But it is a brilliant race and we hope Raclette will be in the mix as well.”

The field is rounded off by William Haggas’ Middleton Stakes winner Lilac Road and Karl Burke’s Poptronic, who is handed her toughest assignment to date.

“We’re obviously punting a little bit, but we always thought it was going to be a small field and the owners were very keen to give it a go,” said Burke.

“She goes there in great shape and will definitely improve for stepping up to the mile and a half from a mile and a quarter, but she’s got plenty to find on the book.”

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