Sent off at 50-1 following two unplaced efforts in the English and Irish 1000 Guineas, Chantal Regalado Gonzalez's Qualify (Ire) (Fastnet Rock) sprang forth in style with a late surge to capture Friday's G1 Investec Oaks at Epsom. Only just under seven lengths back when 10th in the G1 Irish 1000 Guineas at The Curragh May 24, the bay who had won last year's G3 C L & MF Weld Park Stakes. was delivered from behind by Colm O'Donoghue as the 1000 Guineas heroine Legatissimo (Ire) (Danehill Dancer) was sent for home by Ryan Moore approaching the eighth pole. Cutting down that 5-2 favorite in the shade of the post, the bay who was bred by Aidan and Anne Marie O'Brien had the verdict by a short head at the line.
"She was always very classy and we knew stepping up to a mile and a quarter she was going to step up massively, but we didn't know about a mile and a half," commented the Ballydoyle conditioner, who was welcoming a rare surprise Classic winner who was providing him with a fifth edition. "Colm gave her a masterful ride. We didn't know how she would handle the ground today as she wants real, hard fast ground but she's by Fastnet Rock out of a Galileo mare and when the going gets tough, they usually don't disappoint you."
After a debut fourth behind her well-regarded stable companion Words (Ire) (Dansili) over seven furlongs at The Curragh in June, Qualify was pitched straight into black-type company and justified the logic with a third under forcing tactics in the G3 Silver Flash Stakes at Leopardstown the following month. Just behind Jack Naylor (GB) (Champs Elysees) and the subsequent G2 May Hill Stakes scorer Agnes Stewart (Ire) (Lawman) there, with Raydara (Ire) (Rock of Gibraltar) behind, she went on to break her maiden by 5 1/2 lengths on Dundalk's Polytrack in mid-August. A week later she was back at The Curragh and was again forwardly ridden when fifth to Raydara in the G2 Debutante Stakes. and too much use was made of her once more when sixth in the G1 Moyglare Stud Stakes halfway through the following month. Resorting to hold-up tactics a fortnight later in the G3 C L & MF Weld Park Stakes on her third successive start at the Kildare venue later that month, Qualify killed the contest with a turn of acceleration that had been largely hidden under a bushel previously and duly booked a ticket to Santa Anita. Undone by draw and traffic issues in the October 31 GI Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf, she was allowed to coast in by Ryan Moore when her chance had been taken from her in eighth there and was next seen lining up for the G1 1000 Guineas. Only 12-1 for that May 3 Newmarket Classic, she trailed in last of 13, beaten 41 lengths by Legatissimo and was 50-1 when improving on that effort in the Irish equivalent three weeks later.
Stepping up beyond a mile for the first time here, she had positive portents for staying the mile and a half from her pedigree both near and far being a daughter of a G2 Park Hill Stakes (or "Fillies' St Leger") runner-up descended from the 1984 Oaks runner-up Media Luna (GB). Settled on the heels of the Guineas winner with three behind early as Star of Seville (GB) (Duke of Marmalade) led, she stayed in the tracks of Legatissimo as that rival crept towards the fore in early stretch and was inclined to hang down the infamous camber behind her and Lady of Dubai (GB) (Dubawi) passing the quarter pole. Given all the space she needed towards the inside as the terrain caused scrimmaging nearer the rail, Qualify ate up the ground to inhale Legatissimo in the dying strides. "She's a well-balanced filly who has always shown us a lot of pace, so the key was to get her switched off," Colm O'Donoghue said. "We were unsure if she'd get the trip, but she saw it out really strong." Aidan O'Brien commented, "She won her Group Three at the Curragh very easily last year and the plan was to start at Newmarket, then go to the Curragh and then come here. It went a little bit wrong on us at Newmarket, but Joseph [O'Brien] looked after her and she ran a lovely race at the Curragh but no-one spotted her buried in that field. No-one was talking about her, but we're lucky to have high-class horses and she'd always worked like one." John Merrell, husband of the winning owner who purchased her from Louis and Kate Ronan prior to the Breeders' Cup, added, "We thought we had a chance, as she had been terribly unlucky in her last races and finished terrific in the Irish Guineas from a long way back. She'd been working great at home, so we're not that surprised. Aidan was very hopeful and my concern was whether she would stay the trip, but she did that very well."
Extract from Thoroughbred Daily News