BILL ESDAILE PREVIEWS THE RIBBLESDALE STAKES AND NORFOLK STAKES
THE Ribblesdale Stakes (3.05pm) is traditionally where fillies beaten in the Investec Oaks try to build on their reputations. This year it’s the turn of The Lark to attempt to better her cracking Epsom run.
Michael Bell’s filly found all kinds of trouble that day and is bound to have plenty of supporters this afternoon, as finishing third to Talent is without doubt the best form on offer. She’ll be looking to follow in the hoofprints of Michita who was the last filly to bounce back from Epsom defeat in 2008.
The Lark relished the step up to a mile and a half in the Oaks and certainly looks a progressive filly. Everything seemed to happen too quickly for her at Newbury over 10 furlongs on her previous start, and this trip and a strong pace will help her again. Yet, with only 12 declared for this afternoon’s race, a strong pace is not assured, and being a daughter of Pivotal she would welcome some rain too.
My other concern is that The Fugue was a warm order for this contest 12 months ago, on the back of an arguably even more troubled passage in the Oaks, and she still found one too good here. Irish raider Princess Highway arrived at Ascot a fresh horse on the back of a good win in the Blue Wind Stakes at Naas and duly bolted up by six lengths.
There is a definite sense of déjà vu about this year’s renewal as another relatively unexposed Irish filly comes here on the back of winning that very same Naas contest. Tommy Stack’s ALIVE ALIVE OH was backed last time as if defeat was out of the question – she went off at 11/10 having opened at 15/8 – and didn’t let her supporters down as she had six lengths to spare at the line.
She couldn’t have been more impressive that night and arrives at Ascot fresh as connections decided to bypass Epsom and come here instead. That was only the third start of her career and to say that she has a bright future ahead is an understatement.
Those looking to oppose her will point to the fact that she has only ever encountered a soft surface and also has never run beyond 10 furlongs before. However, her father, Duke Of Marmalade, won on a firm surface and my selection certainly didn’t look like she was stopping at Naas.
If there are rain showers the ground may not ride that quick anyway and she looks a really decent betting proposition at 11/4 with Coral.
As for potential dangers, it is always inadvisable to ignore lightly-raced fillies from the John Gosden yard and his Winsili was an impressive winner over 10 furlongs at Newbury, with The Lark in behind, on her seasonal reappearance. She’ll improve again, but is no bigger than 5/1 and certainly isn’t value.
Aidan O’Brien’s Just Pretending is getting better with every run, but looks a doubtful stayer and a bigger threat may come from the Sir Michael Stoute pair Elik and Waila. However, the entire field have it all to do to beat Alive Alive Oh and The Lark, with definite preference for the Irish filly.
ALIVE ALIVE OH 3.05pm Ascot