Pretty Polly Stakes – Ambivalent To Defend

Pretty Polly Stakes

Sunday, Curragh, 4.20

Always one of the showpiece events of the two-day Irish Derby meeting at the Curragh, the Group 1 Pretty Polly Stakes on Sunday (4.20) has again attracted a stellar line-up, and one in which Aidan O’Brien holds a strong hand of entries.

At the top of the pile is Marvellous, who won the Irish 1,000 Guineas here last month, before a 9l sixth in the Epsom Oaks (1m4, good). Sent off favourite on the Downs that day, she failed to get home having made an honest challenge in the straight, and it is no surprise she is now dropped back in trip here. That tactic certainly worked in this race previously, as three Pretty Polly winners were also sent here having been unplaced in the Oaks, including Aidan O’Brien’s, Misty For Me, in 2011.

It’s also worth noting that the last five Irish winners of this race were officially rated 113 or higher, which gives another tick for Marvellous, who is rated 116.

The next highest rated of the Irish candidates is stablemate, Venus De Milo, who arrives in fine fettle having won a Group 3 at Cork a fortnight ago (1m4f, good to firm). Beaten 4l by The Fugue in a Group 1 last term, she has the class to be involved, though she may find this a touch sharp if the ground is no worse than good.

But, with four of the last six Pretty Polly winners having come via Britain, punters will need to be aware of those sent across the Irish Sea, including last year’s winner, Ambivalent.

Roger Varian’s 5yo has returned in good form this season, arguably showing better form this time around, including a Group 2 win at York (1m2f, good to soft), before a creditable 4l third behind Cirrus Des Aigles in a Group 1 at Epsom (1m4f, good). This step back to 1m2f will be more to her liking, and she could become the fourth 5yo winner of this since 2004.

On the subject of age, not many 6yo’s won this race (only two run since 1997), which is the task facing Roger Charlton’s, Thistle Bird, who took a Group 3 at Epsom several weeks ago (1m1f, good), where Just The Judge was over 1l back in third. Placed in two Group 1’s last season, conditions will be no problem for Thistle Bird, and a repeat of her effort when beaten just 1/4l in last season’s Nassau Stakes at Goodwood (1m2f, good) could send her close once more.

Edward Lynam enjoyed a memorable Royal Ascot and will bid for more Pattern success via his 4yo, Pearl Of Africa, although she is only a dual Listed winner who was unplaced in each of her six Group 2/3 races. Similar comments apply to Dermot Weld’s 6yo, Along Came Casey, who has been twice placed in two Group 3’s and may lack the class at this level, while Joseph Murphy’s, Euphrasia, is a Group 3/Listed winner, who did well to finish under 2l in third at 50/1 in the Group 1 Tattersalls Gold Cup last time.

Aidan O’Brien has won this race twice in the last 18 years, and his trio will be respected, but the recent trends have swung in favour of the Brits, which makes Ambivalent of more appeal to come back and defend her crown.

Here are the full trends covering the last 18 years…

All 18 winners made the top three of a Pattern event, where 15 scored. A total of 13 ran in a Classic.
All 18 ran in a Pattern race last time.
17 raced during the past two months – four were dropped in trip after being held in the Oaks.
17 made the top five last time.
17 were British or Irish-bred.
16 made the top three earlier that season.
15 were ridden from the front or prominently.
13 raced at the Curragh earlier in their career.
A previous victory over this trip wasn’t essential as nine winners lacked such criteria.
Dermot Weld trained three winners, while Jim Bolger, Kevin Prendergast & Aidan O’Brien had two apiece.