PJ McDonald confident mile and a half will suit classy Laurens in Darley Yorkshire Oaks


Laurens targets a third successive Group 1 win at York after victories at Longchamp (pictured) and Chantilly.

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JOCKEY PJ McDonald is confident French Oaks winner Laurens will be unfazed by the step up to a mile and a half in the Darley Yorkshire Oaks at York on Thursday.

The Karl Burke-trained filly targets her third successive Group 1 victory in the feature race on the second day of the Ebor Festival after winning the Prix Saint-Alary at Longchamp in May and the Prix de Diane (French Oaks) at Chantilly in June.

The French Oaks was the ultra-consistent Laurens’ third Group 1 success in a career spanning seven starts; which have returned five wins and two seconds and includes finishing runner-up in the QIPCO 1000 Guineas.

McDonald has ridden the daughter of Siyouni in each of her seven career starts and was impressed with how she worked when he reunited with her on the gallops two weeks ago.

“I’ve been half-wishing my life away ever since because she felt as good as she’s ever been,” the 36-year-old McDonald said. “The Yorkshire Oaks cannot come quick enough for her.

“You could go through your whole career and not find a horse like her. She’s a once-in-a-lifetime filly. It’s been a privilege to be involved with her, but the exciting and scary thing is that she’s still improving, still getting stronger.

Laurens’ quintet of victories have been recorded at distances of  up to 10 and a half furlongs (French Oaks) and the jockey is confident that the filly, already a winner of £1,127,905 in prize money, will revel in the 12 furlongs of the Yorkshire Oaks (a British Champions Series race) where she faces a maximum of seven rivals.

“I’m itching to ride her over a mile and a half because if she improves again for stepping up in trip then she could be an absolute monster,” McDonald continued. “We always thought she would have no problem staying and I have no doubts in my mind, whatsoever, after the way she won the French Oaks.”

“Most of them [the opposition] have all run over the distance, whereas my filly is still unexposed over that trip. None of us have a crystal ball and she might not get home, but I would be shocked if that was the case. The dam’s side of her pedigree is all stamina.”

“She only seems to do what she has to do, and at home it’s the same,” he said. “You drop her in and she goes past horses as if they are not there and then, once she’s gets passed, she’s like ‘I’m here now, I’ve done it’. It’s just her style. She loves running and wants to please you.

“If you keep squeezing, she keeps lengthening and I’ve never got to the bottom of her. The only day I was glad to see the line coming was in the Fillies’ Mile because we were very wary about stepping her up in trip as a two-year-old as she was such a big filly. We knew the last furlong was going to be tough for her because, physically, she wasn’t quite there. Mentally, she always has been.”

“She loves to get out on the front end and York will suit her down to the ground. I tried to restrain her a little bit in the French Oaks and she wasn’t having any of it. She wanted me to drop my hands and let her do her thing.

“She’s got such a big stride and that’s why we let her do her thing because if you take that stride away then you are slitting her throat. That’s how she puts horses in trouble – the majority have to take two strides to her one. She doesn’t have to lead but she can cruise along at a high speed and then lengthen off it.”

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