Great Heavens Soars to Victory in Irish Oaks

Great Heavens completed her rapid ascension to the top of the 3-year-old filly ranks with a dominating three-length victory in the Darley Irish Oaks (Ire-I) at the Curragh July 22.

The daughter of Galileo is a full sister to Nathaniel, the Coral-Eclipse (Eng-I) winner and King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes (Eng-I) runner-up a day earlier. Both are owned by Lady Rothschild, trained by John Gosden, and were ridden by William Buick.

A field of seven lined up for the Oaks, with Great Heavens being sent off as the favorite. The race also featured a rematch of the first two finishers in the Investec Oaks (Eng-I), Was and Shirocco Star. Also well thought of was Dermot Weld’s Princess Highway, who had won the Ribblesdale Stakes (Eng-II) at Royal Ascot in her last start.

At the start it was Twirl that went to the front. She was followed by Was, with Great Heavens tracking them in third. Shirocco Star was settled in midfield by Johnny Murtagh, and Princess Highway raced toward the rear.

Twirl continued in front but as the fillies entered the home straight, Shirocco Star made her move and charged past the frontrunners to take the lead. Buick asked Great Heavens for more but didn’t get much of a response initially as the filly appeared to be struggling over the soft going. Was moved into second, with Princess Highway charging on the outside to move into third.

Buick switched Great Heavens to the outside for a clear run. The bay filly took hold and charged toward the leaders, sweeping past them in just a few strides to take the lead.

Great Heavens crossed the finish line a decisive winner over Shirocco Star, who was 1 3/4 lengths in front of Princess Highway. Joseph O’Brien brought Was home in fourth, a half-length behind Princess Highway.

Final time for the 12 furlongs was 2:42.92 over the soft going.

Gosden was very proud of his filly, telling reporters after the race, “She showed a lot of class and a lot of courage; the ground is very holding so it’s not easy to pick up on that. I’d nearly given up hope at the two furlong marker.

“She’s classy. She had to be asked a really big question in the last furlong and she went and opened up three lengths on the field, so I think it says a lot about her.”

As to future plans, Gosden said, “She’ll be freshened up now and then she’ll be in races like the Yorkshire Oaks (Eng-I) and she could also have an entry in the Leger. There’s no reason that a filly of her class couldn’t do something like that; someone has got to take on Camelot.”

Great Heavens was bred in England by Kincorth Investments, and is out of the stakes-winning Silver Hawk mare, Magnificient Style. In addition to being a full sister to Nathaniel, she is also a half sister to stakes winners Stylelistick, Echoes In Eternity, Playful Act, Percussionist, Petara Bay and Changing Skies.

 

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