The Charlie Appleby-trained Wild Illusion heads the twelve acceptors for the Group 1 Juddmonte Pretty Polly Stakes at the Curragh on Friday evening.The feature event on day two of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby Festival has gone to English-trained runners five times in the last seven years and Appleby is hoping that his multiple Group 1-winning four-year-old can continue that run on Friday.
Wild Illusion ended last season with wins in the Nassau Stakes and the Prix de l’Opera and she was only just touched off in the Breeders Cup Filly & Mare Turf. She heads to the Curragh looking to improve on her comeback when sixth in last month’s Group 1 Prix d’Ispahan.
“I was pleased with her first run of the season and her first run against the colts at Longchamp,” Appleby said on Tuesday morning.
“She was coming back to nine furlongs for that race as well and that race has really brought her forward. Preparations for The Curragh have gone well and for me, she is back to her ideal trip as a stiff ten furlongs at the Curragh will really suit her really well.”
Appleby added: “I’m pretty relaxed about the ground as she is very versatile and she has done plenty of travelling so that isn’t a worry with her. I think if she brings the best of her form that she can be right there with a chance on Friday.”
Further English interest is supplied by the highly progressive David Lanigan-trained Worth Waiting who comes here off a career-best effort which saw her land the Group 2 Dahlia Stakes at Newmarket last month.
Aidan O’Brien is responsible for seven of the entries as he chases a fifth win in the race and he has already indicated that the Epsom Oaks runner-up Pink Dogwood will head his team for this prize.
The daughter of Camelot could be joined in the line up by the Oaks third and Ribblesdale Stakes second Fleeting and the high class older mares Magic Wand and I Can Fly.
The Pretty Polly was one of the few domestic Group 1s to have eluded Joseph O’Brien during his riding career but he will saddle a lively contender for the race in the Fillies Mile heroine Iridessa. She is reported to be in good form as she looks to build on her fourth in last month’s Irish 1000 Guineas.
“Iridessa is in good shape at home,” O’Brien said. “We think the mile and a quarter will suit her well. She ran well in both the English 1000 Guineas at Newmarket and again in the Irish 1000 Guineas at The Curragh so hopefully the step up in trip can bring about a little more improvement in her. We are very much looking forward to running her.”
The multiple Group 3 winner Who’s Steph and the impressive Fairyhouse maiden winner Search For A Song complete the line-up.
Earlier in the day a potentially top-class edition of the Comer Group International Curragh Cup could be in the offing with the last two winners of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby – Latrobe and Capri – featuring amongst the 19 entries.
Aidan O’Brien is attempting to win the race for the sixth time in seven years but he faces some stern opposition. Dermot Weld’s promising stayer Falcon Eight looks a strong contender while the domestic team also features the Group 1-placed Mustajeer, Luke Comer’s German Group 2 hero Raa Atoll and the Savel Beg Stakes hero Twilight Payment.
Friday’s card will also see the first running of the Airlie Stud Stakes as a Group 2. The €130,000 contest, in which So Perfect defeated Skitter Scatter twelve months ago, has attracted 14 acceptors. These include Jessica Harrington’s supplementary entry Albigna who made a winning debut here on Guineas weekend. Her opponents include the Group 3-placed Peace Charter and the stakes-winning Ickworth.
The ground is currently described as good to yielding, yielding in places on the round track and yielding, yielding to soft on the straight track with temperatures due to rise into the high 20’s later this week.
Details of admission prices and discounted offers can be found at www.curragh.ie. Children under 18 that are accompanied by an adult go racing for free.