Pretty Polly Stakes Preview – Who Should You Side with in Sunday Curragh Contest?

This is our 2021 Pretty Polly Stakes preview for the fillies and mares’ Group 1 at The Curragh. This headlines the card on the Sunday of the Irish Derby Festival over 1m 2f (15:40). See who makes the expert shortlist for this top middle-distance race for the females!

Pretty Polly Stakes ratings topper – Cayenne Pepper

Jessica Harrington saddles three in the race, including the official handicapper’s best filly CAYENNE PEPPER. Her last win was a course and distance success in the Group 2 Blandford Stakes on Irish Champions Weekend.

Cayenne Pepper, a four-year-old daughter of Australia, only found the mighty Magical too good in the Pretty Polly Stakes last year. That form would be enough for her to go one better, if it weren’t for the fact that the weights are no longer in her favour.

Now that Cayenne Pepper is among the older fillies, she has to give 12lb age allowance to the younger females. When you adjust official ratings, she needs to be 5lb, 6lb and 7lb better than the three-year-olds. Cayenne Pepper is 4/1 with Bet365 to concede the weight here.

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Stable to follow – Aidan O’Brien

Master trainer Aidan O’Brien has won the Pretty Polly Stakes five times, including three of the last six renewals. He relies on just SANTA BARBARA, one of the top talking horses in the Emerald Isle this season. A three-year-old daughter of Camelot, she has been highly tried.

Santa Barbara has just won a maiden, but such was the confidence O’Brien had in her work on the Ballydoyle gallops that she found herself in Classic company. She ran a fine fourth in the 1000 Guineas at Newmarket when lacking the necessary experience to handle the Rowley Mile.

As Santa Barbara then weakened into fifth in the Epsom Oaks, it may be an intermediate trip between her two British assignments she wants. That is exactly what she gets in the Pretty Polly Stakes here. It may be worth forgiving Santa Barbara her two beaten favourite efforts and she’s 5/2 with William Hill to make it third time lucky.

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Filly in form – Epona Plays

They say always back a filly in form, but the only one in the line-up with back-to-back victories is EPONA PLAYS. Trained by Willie McCreery, this four-year-old daughter of Australia has gone through the grades this spring. Epona Plays took the Group 3 Park Express Stakes on reappearance.

She then followed-up in more impressive style in the Lanwades Stud Stakes at this venue on the upgrade. On that basis, Epona Plays is well worth a crack at the highest level especially stepping up in trip after seeing out her race so strongly last time out.

The only question mark against her is whether she can handle a sounder surface. Most of the best form posted by Epona Plays is on soft ground, but she did deliver on good going in a Group 3 at Gowran Park over an extended nine furlongs last autumn. She is 11/2 with William Hill for her hat-trick.

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Hunting better ground – Shale

Young trainer Donnacha O’Brien turns SHALE out quickly after running at Royal Ascot just nine days before the Pretty Polly Stakes. The softer surface this three-year-old Galileo filly encountered in her most recent assignment wasn’t ideal.

Shale has put her best foot forward on sounder going, and may well get it here. The pick of her juvenile form is on good ground, including a success at the highest level over 7f at this venue on Irish Champions Weekend.

The first show 20/1 about Shale quickly went while writing this Pretty Polly Stakes preview, so she’s now 14/1 with Unibet and worth considering each-way. The combination of better going and extra distance could result in improvement. Shale may end up giving a much better account of herself.

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Unlucky loser – Thundering Nights

The last of the course winners, THUNDERING NIGHTS, has suffered two narrow defeats this season. Her trainer Joseph O’Brien won the race in 2019 with Iridessa, so the hope is she can make it third time lucky. A comfortable win in the Group 3 Snow Fairy Stakes over an extended nine furlongs here was her last success.

The daughter of Night Of Thunder has five lengths to find with Cayenne Pepper on Irish Champions Weekend form. That does mean odds of 4/1 with Betfair look a little on the short side here. She may be one to lay at that price, especially after failing to win either of her two starts this term.

Held half-a-length by Broome in the Group 3 Alleged Stakes over course and distance, Thundering Nights then went down by a nose last time out. That was on a transatlantic mission in New York at Belmont Park. As a four-year-old, she gives weight away to the younger fillies, so this demands more.

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2021 Pretty Polly Stakes Shortlist

  • ***** Santa Barbara
  • **** Cayenne Pepper
  • E/W – Shale
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