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Saturday 18 November 2017

Oxx looking to get back to the big time

‘Bengala has been running quite well but could do with some rain’

Declan McDonogh and Bengala after winning the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Fillies Maiden at Leopardstown in early April. Photo: Alain Barr
Declan McDonogh and Bengala after winning the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Fillies Maiden at Leopardstown in early April. Photo: Alain Barr

Trainer John Oxx hopes to have two runners in Saturday's Darley Irish Oaks at the Curragh, a race he has won on two occasions, and although the bookmakers only give him an outside chance, the trainer feels it is an open race outside of the favourite.

Leopardstown maiden winner Bengala is likely to be joined by Naughty Or Nice as Oxx looks to bridge a 19-year gap in the third Irish Classic of the season.

Yesterday brought the latest forfeit stage for the Irish Oaks with Epsom heroine Enable the star name in the 14-strong field and she is joined by her Royal Ascot winning stable companion at John Gosden's, Coronet in a race where Aidan O'Brien trains five of the potential runners.

On Monday evening at Roscommon Oxx landed the Lenebane Stakes for a sixth time in 10 years and one could be forgiven for hoping that this is the sign of a resurgence for Currabeg as he is now back on Sheikh Mohammed's roster of trainers after welcoming six juveniles to his yard to race in the Godolphin blue.

Success in the Irish Oaks on Saturday won't bring him back to the levels of 2009 when the world's press gathered on the outskirts of the Curragh to look in awe at the best racehorse in the world, but it would be another green shoot for one of the gentlemen of this sport.

Oxx said: "Strictly speaking on the ratings both fillies would have a bit to find on ratings with the Epsom Oaks winner Enable but after Enable, who looks outstanding, the rest of them are all much of a muchness and you would be hard pressed to pick out the second best filly in Ireland or England at the moment .

Chance

"And I think it is an open race apart from the favourite and everyone thinks they might have a chance of being in the first four."

He added: "Bengala has been running quite well but could do with some rain so we will be tempted to run her if we get some comfort in the ground for her and we've Naughty Or Nice who had a bit of a disaster at Royal Ascot when the saddled slipped on her and we didn't find out much.

"Naughty Or Nice's first two runs were promising and the form worked out quite well but the intention was to run in the Ribblesdale and find out where she stood but we didn't find out anything unfortunately. She's in the Irish Oaks however and we will probably let her take her chance."

Meanwhile, ahead of his return to the Curragh on Saturday, Frankie Dettori will be back in action at Newmarket tomorrow for the opening day of the July Meeting, where Aidan O'Brien will also have runners.

Dettori skips the first race on the card, the Bahrain Trophy, in which O'Brien will run Wisconsin, but the Italian will make his return in the Group Two Arqana Stakes aboard two-time winner Denaar for Richard Hannon and his retainer Al Shaqab Racing, while later on the card Dettori is onboard Wings Of Desire for Enable's trainer John Gosden in the Group Two Prince Of Wales's Arqana Racing Club Stakes.

Dettori is booked to ride Weekender for Gosden in the Juddmonte Grand Prix de Paris on Friday evening at Saint-Cloud in which Aidan O'Brien is likely to be represented by Royal Ascot runner-up Orderofthegarter and Mark Johnston decided to supplement Permian for the race yesterday.

Johnston's son, and assistant, Charlie, said yesterday that the race looked "an attractive option" with just 11 in the field and Group One honours up for stake.

"It's a half a million euros Group One, so it would be a fantastic race to win. He's won the two best Group Two for three-year-olds so the natural progression is to go back into Group One company and it looks quite an attractive option."

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