Beckett finding it tricky to split Oaks duo as he hopes for more Classic heroics
Ralph Beckett is hoping history can be repeated at the Curragh on Saturday as the three-time Classic winner prepares Manuela De Vega and Antonia De Vega for the Group 1 Kerrygold Irish Oaks.
Beckett famously landed a one-two in the Oaks at Epsom in 2013 when 20-1 chance Talent defeated better-fancied stablemate Secret Gesture and could not help but draw comparisons as he heads to Ireland with two live chances of more Classic success.
"There are similarities and we'll see what happens," said the trainer. "It's a tough call and Harry Bentley has got to decide which one he rides. It's a difficult one – my record of choosing the right one in an Oaks is not good and I don't know."
Bookmakers are also finding it hard to split the pair, with both Waverley Racing-owned fillies a top-priced 10-1 in a field headed by Iridessa at 2-1.
Beckett revealed Colin Keane will pick up the ride on whichever filly Bentley overlooks.
Manuela De Vega boasts the stronger form this season, finishing second in the Cheshire Oaks before a strong fourth in the Oaks at Epsom.
However, Antonia De Vega was a Group 3 winner at two and, after a troubled spring, returned with a striking win in a Listed event at Newbury last month.
"Manuela De Vega had a small blip but I've been happy with her in the last fortnight and she worked well on Monday morning," said Beckett. "For a filly who has had only four starts, you'd be hopeful she'd be able to take another step forward.
"She ran right through the line at Epsom and I don't think there's much between them from the Oaks. Her full sister Isabel De Urbina handled everything and I'm confident she'll handle quicker ground."
Turning his attention to last month's Abingdon Stakes winner Antonia De Vega, he added: "Judged on what's been happening at home, we're hopeful that Newbury has brought her forward.
"She certainly showed a good deal more than we were expecting there and I'm looking forward to running her. Everything about her Newbury effort suggests a mile and a half is what she wants."
The trainer's three previous domestic Classic winners have all been fillies, his breakthrough coming with Look Here in the 2008 Oaks while Simple Verse famously won the St Leger in 2015 before being stripped of the race in the stewards' room and then regaining it at a subsequent appeal.
Asked if his latest contenders boast similar credentials, Beckett said: "Manuela De Vega is effectively there or thereabouts. I was pretty certain straight after Epsom that we'd go straight to Ireland – I wasn't really tempted by the Ribblesdale and that's a pretty good indication. Antonia De Vega looks like she's on her way up.
"Their price never bothers me and this game is all about opinions. If that's what bookmakers think, that's what they think. What we're seeing on the racetrack indicates that they should be in the mix in my view."
Flawless fillies: Beckett's previous domestic Classic winners
Look Here 2008 Oaks
Look Here gave the trainer a breakthrough Classic success when scoring a surprise 33-1 success under Seb Sanders. Once-raced at two, Look Here overcame inexperience on just her third career run at Epsom, bursting from the pack two furlongs out and storming to a three-and-three-quarter-length success from Aidan O'Brien's Moonstone. While she never won again, Look Here finished third in the St Leger, Coronation Cup and Pretty Polly in a consistent career.
Talent 2013 Oaks
Another winner who caught many by surprise, Talent was sent off at 20-1 under Richard Hughes, but there was little fluke about her dominant success from off the pace, registering the same winning distance as Look Here had five years previously. All the more sweet for Beckett was the fact he also saddled runner-up Secret Gesture, who was by far the better fancied of the pair at 3-1. After her success, the closest Talent came to winning again was when second in the same season's St Leger.
Simple Verse 2015 St Leger
A race that will live long in the memory with Simple Verse narrowly defeating Bondi Beach at Doncaster only to lose the race in the stewards' room following interference between the front pair. It looked a close call and one that was ultimately reversed at a subsequent appeal where Simple Verse regained the race. A tough and honest filly, Simple Verse completed a four-timer in the Group 1 British Champions Fillies & Mares Stakes at Ascot on her next start.
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