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Ascot beckons for La Petite Coco

La Petite Coco is set to head next for the Qipco British Champions Fillies And Mares Stakes, after lowering the colours of Love at the Curragh.

Next month’s mile-and-a half Group One at Ascot beckons for the Paddy Twomey-trained three-year-old, who wore down Aidan O’Brien’s dual 2020 Classic winner in the closing stages to take Sunday’s Group Two Blandford Stakes by a short head.

Should La Petite Coco put up another big performance then the Breeders’ Cup Maker’s Mark Filly And Mare Turf at Del Mar in early November would then be given strong consideration.

Barry Irwin, founder and chief executive of owners Team Valor, said: “Ascot is the plan. Paddy set the schedule up a couple of months ago, and right now we don’t see any reason to waiver from it.

“The only question mark coming up is if she performs well there whether we go for the Breeders’ Cup. Most of my partners are from the United States, and to go for the Breeders’ Cup would be meaningful.

“The ground yesterday was good. The jockey Billy Lee said she doesn’t want it any harder than that. She prefers cut in the ground.

“I’m from California – and during that time of year at Del Mar, rain is not very likely, so we are going to take it one step at a time and see what she does next. We will think about it and we are going to keep her in training next year.”

Irwin revealed Team Valor’s Invite, meanwhile, is unlikely to take up her Fillies’ And Mares’ entry at Ascot.

The three-year-old, trained by Andrew Balding, bounced back to take the Listed Stand Cup at Chester on her first since disappointing in the Italian Oaks three months ago.

“She’s a horse that wants it very wet,” said Irwin.

“On Saturday the track was good – certain parts may have been soft. She doesn’t want it any faster than that, and when it’s wet and muddy she moves up into a different category.

“We entered her several times, and it didn’t happen. Finally on Saturday we decided we needed to run her.

“She ran great. I wouldn’t put anything past her on a wet track.

“This year she’s a very headstrong filly, (and) Andrew has done a very good job settling her. I don’t think we can run her in the British Champions’ race just off this race. I don’t think it’s enough.

“I’ll talk to Andrew and I think we’ll lower our sights from that and find a Group race we can win. Once it starts raining you will see she is something special too.

“She stays in training and she’s the kind of horse that will do well in the spring and the fall and we’ll probably put away in the summer.”

La Petite Coco foils Love in Blandford Stakes

La Petite Coco lunged late to deny dual Classic heroine Love a return to winning ways in the Moyglare “Jewels” Blandford Stakes.

The Aidan O’Brien-trained Love looked a potential superstar in the making after winning the 1000 Guineas, the Oaks and Yorkshire Oaks as a three-year-old last season.

But while she came out on top on her seasonal reappearance in the Prince of Wales’s Stakes at Royal Ascot in June, the daughter of Galileo had since failed to run up to expectations in the either the King George or the Juddmonte International, finishing third on both occasions.

Having her first start outside of Group One company in over two years, Love was the 6-5 favourite and everything looked to be going according to plan for Ryan Moore after she went a couple of lengths clear of the field early in the home straight.

However, Paddy Twomey’s progressive filly La Petite Coco (16-5) – stepping up in class after an impressive success in the Group Three Give Thanks Stakes at Cork – gave chase and finished with a flourish under Billy Lee to get up and win by a short head.

Twomey said: “We hoped coming here that she might do something like that. The worry was the quicker ground and dropping in trip.

“I had a plan mapped out for her in my head and this was it. I wasn’t expecting Love (to run), but when she turned up I said ‘we’re not changing course, we’re going forward’.

“Barry Irwin (of owners Team Valor) gave me a bit of a lecture about taking on Love, but I told him I thought she was good and I thought she was good enough to take her on.

“The plan has been to go to Ascot (on Champions Day) for the fillies’ and mares’ race and I think a mile and a half is really her thing, not a mile and a quarter.”

Michael Hussey and Big Gossey (left) winning at the Curragh
Michael Hussey and Big Gossey (left) winning at the Curragh (Brian Lawless/PA)

Big Gossey was a surprise winner of the Irish Stallion Farms EBF “Bold Lad” Sprint Handicap.

Charles O’Brien’s 33-1 shot raced close to the pace throughout under Michael Hussey – and after taking over the lead inside the final furlongs, he dug deep for pressure to repel the challenge of Arnhem by three-quarters of a length.

“That was sweet,” said Hussey.

“He travelled throughout and picked up well. I was in front a bit too early on him, but he gamed it out.

“He has plenty of speed and did everything right.”

King X J claimed a lucrative victory
King X J claimed a lucrative victory (Brian Lawless/PA)

King X J justified significant market support with victory in the Tattersalls Ireland Super Auction Sale Stakes.

Michael O’Callaghan’s juvenile was only seventh on his racecourse introduction at the Curragh three weeks ago, but was a well-backed 11-4 chance for this 300,000 euro contest.

British raider Cashew was in front for much of the race, but King X J powered home under Leigh Roche to win going away.

Roche said: “The only concern coming up here was the trip. He’s a seven-furlong/mile horse, but he has a bit of class – I’d say he’s going to be very good.

“He improved plenty from his first run and the nicer ground today helped him.”

La Petite Coco shows class at Cork

La Petite Coco took the rise in class in her stride to record an impressive victory in the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Give Thanks Stakes at Cork.

Paddy Twomey’s three-year-old was following in the illustrious hoofprints of subsequent Breeders’ Cup heroine Tarnawa, who had won this Group Three in each of the last two years.

La Petite Coco will need to extend her improvement significantly, of course, to approach the level set by Dermot Weld’s dual Group One and Grade One winner.

Nonetheless, the 2-1 favourite was most convincing under Billy Lee – taking over from the front-running High Heels in the straight and surging clear to win by five and a half lengths from closest market rival Thunder Kiss.

The daughter of Ruler Of The World has therefore put higher-profile, and possibly global, future assignments in her diary – having stepped up so decisively from her second career success at Killarney last month.

Twomey said: “We’ve had her since April, and she has not put a foot wrong.

“I was very keen to go to Killarney the last day for experience when the chance was there.

“The owners wanted to go straight into Group company, but I talked them out of it – and I’m glad now we did.

“She is progressing physically and is enjoying training and has plenty of talent.”
The Tipperary trainer has his sights on possible trips to Europe, even across the Atlantic – or just over the Irish Sea for Qipco British Champions Day.

He added: “She has plenty of entries, and I said after Killarney that the EP Taylor is a possible – but I have her in the Champion Fillies and Mares race at Ascot in October, and the Prix Vermeillle is in France for her also.

“She is versatile ground-wise. While she has to step up past Group Three, I think (this trip of) a mile and a half is no problem to her – although she has the pace for 10 furlongs.

“I was hoping she’d do something like that.”

Earlier on the card, Snapraeterea produced a smart staying performance from the front to return to winning ways in the Listed Platinum Stakes.

Joseph O’Brien’s three-year-old scored decisively, back down slightly in class to this grade after four creditable efforts at up to 10 furlongs in Group Three company.

The 13-2 shot had won over the same seven-furlong trip in Listed class at Naas in May, and repeated the dose here.

Declan McDonogh had Snapraeterea prominent throughout and strode clear in the final two furlongs to win by four lengths from 33-1 outsider Surrounding.
O’Brien’s assistant Brendan Powell was full of praise for the winner.

“He is one of the toughest, most honest horses you’d ever get,” he said.

“I think the mile and a furlong and a half the last day was too far for him. Declan said he loved this straight seven, and burned them all off one by one.

“John (Farrell) bred and owns all the family, has kept them all – and the horse and owner deserve every success.”