Ralph Beckett's Lope De Vega love affair yields two Classic contenders
The trainer will saddle Antonia De Vega and Manuela De Vega at the Curragh
All the talk at the Goffs Orby Yearling Sale of 2017 surrounded Godolphin's purchase of stock by Coolmore sires, most notably the Galileo filly out of L'Amour De Ma Vie, who cost €1.2 million.
But all the while another carefully laid plan was being put into action, as Ralph Beckett was on the hunt for talented fillies by rising star sire Lope De Vega.
The prices the trainer spent may not have grabbed the headlines at the time, but the talents he unearthed could be about to, with two of his Orby Sale acquisitions possessing live chances in Saturday's Kerrygold Irish Oaks.
Antonia De Vega fetched €130,000, while Manuela De Vega, the mount of stable jockey Harry Bentley, cost €100,000, prices that are far from expensive given the fillies' latent ability.
Win, lose or draw on Saturday, both fillies have already justified that investment, as the former won the Group 3 Prestige Stakes at two before she recorded a striking reappearance win in a Newbury Listed event, while the latter scored in the Listed Silver Tankard Stakes at two and was last seen finishing a fine fourth in the Oaks, despite enjoying a less-than-ideal run.
The trainer could not reveal the full extent of his buying brief nor the identity of those behind Waverley Racing, with the owners said to value their anonymity. However, their runners, all of whom are by Lope De Vega, have ensured Waverley Racing's distinctive silks have been hard to ignore on the racecourse, with five of their six runners having won.
As well as Antonia De Vega and Manuela De Vega, there is Dancing Vega, who looked a filly of huge promise when winning her sole start at two by a wide margin, before disappointing in the Fred Darling earlier this year; Feliciana De Vega, a Listed winner on the Deauville all-weather last December who is now two from two; and Teodora De Vega, winner of her latest start in an Epsom handicap.
When Beckett was confronted with the notion that more than luck alone had to be behind the rate of success he and Waverley Racing had enjoyed together, he simply said: "Somebody was looking after us at the yearling sales, that's for sure."
Lope De Vega has nine Group 1 winners on his stud record, including Belardo, Newspaperofrecord and Phoenix Of Spain. The son of Shamardal is yet to supply an elite winner at beyond 1m2f, though Beckett's record with the sire's progeny suggests he may well hold the key to eking out hidden depths of stamina.
"We've been good at slowing them down!" he quipped. "She Is No Lady was fourth in the Gold Cup and Isabel De Urbina got a mile and a half well. When She Is No Lady won a stakes race [Listed Prix Scaramouche over 1m6f] none of his progeny had won beyond a mile and a half at that stage, so I got a certain amount of ribbing for that."
"I enjoy the sales and look forward to trying to find nice stock each year," said Beckett. "Sometimes we get it right and sometimes we get it wrong, but with these two we definitely got it right."
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