Venus eyes Yorkshire Oaks victory
Aidan O'Brien reports Venus De Milo to be in top form as she bids for glory in the Darley Yorkshire Oaks at York.
The Duke Of Marmalade filly did not run as a juvenile but made up for lost time when winning on her debut at Fairyhouse in June before following up in Listed company at Naas just two weeks later.
O'Brien then threw her in at the deep end for the Irish Oaks at the Curragh and while she lost her unbeaten record, she finished with a real rattle to take second place behind Chicquita.
Venus De Milo returned to winning ways last time out in the Give Thanks Stakes at Cork when she made all the running, after which O'Brien suggested she would be heading to next month's Prix Vermeille in France.
However, she is in such good heart those plans were revised and she takes her chance on the Knavesmire.
"The original plan was to give her a break and go to the Prix Vermeille," said O'Brien.
"But after the Curragh she thrived and really went the right way. We kept her in full work and have been happy with her since.
"She is in good form and we decided we would let her take her chance. It's a step up against the older fillies."
Another three-year-old tackling her elders is the Ralph Beckett-trained Secret Gesture, who finished second in the Oaks at Epsom and the German equivalent.
Beckett had the Oaks winner Talent entered originally but the likely fast ground has seen her rerouted to Doncaster for the St Leger.
Earlier in the season Secret Gesture was considered in a different league to Talent and connections were disappointed she was beaten in Germany, but she now has the opportunity to prove her class closer to home.
"She came out of her run in Germany better than any of us could have hoped. She had a very hard race that day," said Beckett.
"Her work has been good since, she looks great and we're very much looking forward to the race on Thursday."
Jamie Spencer rides Secret Gesture and is hoping the long straight at York will play to her strengths.
"Hopefully the race will be run to suit and she can show that she's one of the better fillies," Spencer told At The Races.
"I rode the race to beat the track (in Germany) rather than the opposition and got nailed close home, hopefully on a more conventional course I can ride a normal race on her."