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Stay Alert primed for Pretty Polly redemption

Stay Alert primed for Pretty Polly redemption
Stay Alert primed for Pretty Polly redemption

Hughie Morrison is keen to confine the events of last year’s Cairn Community Games Pretty Polly Stakes to the history books as Stay Alert prepares for a second tilt at the Curragh Group One on Saturday.

The Fastnet Rock filly was a 25-1 shot 12 months ago off the back of finishing fifth in York’s Middleton Stakes, but outran her odds and then some to finish second.

Stay Alert was beaten two lengths by George Boughey’s Via Sistina, but that told only half the story, with the winner hanging right and impeding the runner-up and a number of other horses to such an extent that connections felt it was worth lodging an appeal, which was ultimately unsuccessful.

Morrison’s charge failed to trouble the judge in three further outings in 2023, but having kicked off the new campaign with an impressive victory in Newmarket’s Dahlia Stakes, beating subsequent Royal Ascot heroine Running Lion, she heads back across the Irish Sea as a major player.

When asked whether he felt he had a score to settle in the Pretty Polly, Morrison said: “I don’t think one ever wants to do that in sport or think that way. Time heals and we move on.

“She’s done herself well and has done very well since she ran. My concern always is whether I’ve done enough with her, but travel can refine them down a bit and we’re just hopeful that she’ll run her race, perform to the levels she did at Newmarket and we’ll see how good she is.”

Hughie Morrison at Newmarket following Stay Alert's latest victory
Hughie Morrison at Newmarket following Stay Alert’s latest victory (John Walton/PA)

Stay Alert is part of a formidable British challenge which also includes Ralph Beckett’s runaway Middleton Stakes winner Bluestocking and John and Thady Gosden’s dual Group One winner Emily Upjohn.

Morrison added: “I think both times she’s gone over to Ireland, I feel I may have left a gallop short. It’s been quite dry in the last two weeks, so I haven’t overworked her.

“If Emily Upjohn turns up as she was as a three-year-old or when winning the Coronation Cup last year we’ll have to be very good to beat her, and Bluestocking on the formbook looks exceptional as well.

“Stay Alert doesn’t always retain her form throughout the season, but she seems happy in herself and Running Lion’s victory last week gave us a bit of hope.”

Emily Upjohn and Frankie Dettori winning last year's Coronation Cup at Epsom
Emily Upjohn and Frankie Dettori winning last year’s Coronation Cup at Epsom (Mike Egerton/PA)

Emily Upjohn has run twice so far this year, finishing fifth in the Dubai Sheema Classic at Meydan in March before being beaten into fourth when defending her Coronation Cup crown at Epsom.

John Gosden believes she is ready to return to her best in Ireland, saying: “I think in fairness to her, we trained her in the winter to go to Dubai and it doesn’t agree with a lot of fillies, so then I let her down afterwards through April and she really did herself well.

“I was having a little trouble getting her back in the zone again and she very much needed her race in the Coronation. She was carrying plenty of weight and condition, but she worked well on the July Course the other day so we’ll head there (Curragh) for what looks like a very competitive edition of the Pretty Polly.”

Bluestocking could hardly have been more impressive at York last month and Beckett is looking forward to seeing her return to the highest level.

He said: “It’s all systems go all, all things being equal. She’s in good shape, I’ve been very pleased with her since York.

“We were keen to stick with running against our own sex and this is what the race was written for, these fillies turning up to take each other on and we’re looking forward to doing exactly that.

“It appears she’s not (ground dependent) anymore, as she’s got older it appears not. There are plenty of fast ground elements in her pedigree and she’s a good moving filly.”

Sir Mark Prescott’s new recruit Tasmania and Charlie Johnston’s outsider Francophone also travel from Britain, with Joseph O’Brien’s pair of Lumiere Rock and Maxux and his father Aidan’s Content making up the home team.

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