Unlike at Epsom, the Irish Oaks and Derby are run separately weeks apart, ensuring we’ve got another Classic-race weekend looming in mid-July as the Darley Irish Oaks takes centre-stage on a two-day card at the Curragh.
The feature contest takes place on Saturday 21st July and in our ante-post preview we’ll be taking a look at the current market and trying to uncover some value amongst the fillies potentially heading to the Co. Kildare track.
Before delving into the betting, a smattering of statistics and past performances that might help us form a picture of what we are looking for in terms of contenders for Classic success.
British Raiders Holding Sway
Enable won the Irish Oaks a year ago, adding to her success at Epsom the preceding month. She was the first filly since Snow Fairy in 2010 to complete the double. The Aidan O’Brien-trained Forever Together won at Epsom last month, shedding her maiden tag in doing so, and does hold an entry for the Curragh.
Pointedly, this is a race in which the home team have struggled to hold sway of late, with just two of the previous nine Irish Oaks winners being trained in Ireland.
Frankie Dettori celebrates winning the Darley Irish Oaks race on Enable during the Darley Irish Oaks Weekend at the Curragh! pic.twitter.com/Gw2i3sm2eX
— Sportsfile (@sportsfile) July 15, 2017
Britain has accounted for six of the remaining seven winners, with one French-trained scorer and, unsurprisingly, the pair of home scorers have both come from O’Brien’s Ballydoyle yard. His tally currently stands at five wins, one shy of Sir Michael Stoute’s benchmark tally of six, though the latter hasn’t been able to add to his haul since Petrushka scored in 2000.
The irrepressible Ryan Moore has one this race only once, steering Snow Fairy home for Ed Dunlop in 2010, thus ensuring he’s yet to score for Ballydoyle despite partnering some fancied contenders.
After his win on Enable last year, Frankie Dettori has now claimed the Irish Oaks four times since 2001, more than any other rider in that spell.
O’Brien’s Magic Leads Betting
The market leader is currently O’Brien’s Magic Wand at 5/2 with Ladbrokes and her form is tough to quibble with. She was a good winner of the Cheshire Oaks in May before seemingly failing to handle the undulations of Epsom the following month.
Any doubts over that performance were washed away as the daughter of Galileo recorded a convincing and decisive success in the Group 2 Ribblesdale Stakes at Royal Ascot since.
— Dubai Racing Channel (@DubaiRacingTV) June 21, 2018
Magic Wand has yet to race at the track, but the Curragh should play to her strengths and there’s no doubting that she will hold strong claims. On the negative side, that run at Epsom was her only try in Group 1 company so far, and having crossed to the near-side rail to make her challenge, the camber is tougher to blame. She did at least improve in defeating Oaks second Wild Illusion convincingly at Ascot and merits another try in elite company.
The Raiding Party
Heading the British challenge, on the betting at any rate, is the William Haggas-trained Sea Of Class, a thrice-raced daughter of the brilliant Sea The Stars currently trading at 7/2 with Sky Bet.
She made her debut over a mile at Newmarket in April this year and was turned over, narrowly, having gone off favourite. Since then she’s won both starts upped to 1m2f in Listed company around Newbury. Her breeding suggests the step up in distance won’t be a concern but she’ll be tackling a mile and a half for the first time.
That stat, coupled with the fact that she jumps right up in class for this mission, is enough to leave Haggas’ filly on the watch-list here at relatively cramped odds.
The Karl Burke-trained Laurens is a potentially high-class raider from Britain, having already tasted a pair of Group 1 successes in France this season. The Siyouni filly has gained those success over 1m2f and threatens to be suited going up once more in distance. She’s feasibly had enough time to get over her Prix Diane (French Oaks) win in the middle of last month and would be an unexposed player if tackling this new trip.
— Matt Chapman (@MCYeeehaaa) June 17, 2018
The aforementioned Wild Illusion certainly has something to prove after finishing second at both Epsom and Ascot last month. Having been sent off favourite in both instances Charlie Appleby’s daughter of Dubawi held her chance in both races at the business end but was well held in taking the supporting role. It is hard to envisage that she’ll reverse the placings with her Ballydoyle conquerors next time.
The best of British at this point in time then might well be Lah Ti Dar, who would bid to give trainer John Gosden successive Irish Oaks victories. By Dubawi, she’s unbeaten in two starts and will surely go off a lot shorter than the current 9/1 with Paddy Power if she takes her place here.
She romped to a maiden success at Newbury in April over 1m2f on good-to-soft ground before supplementing that success next time out at Newmarket over the same trip, only this time in Listed company on good-to-firm ground.
After that win she was the ante-post favourite for the Oaks at Epsom but a setback caused her to miss the race. She also sat out Royal Ascot, and while the reports on her are more positive, Gosden has suggested that it might be late-summer before she graces the racetrack again, with the Yorkshire Oaks looking a distinct possibility next month at York.
An O’Brien Outsider Of Note
The recent Irish Derby was the latest exhibition of big-race training par-excellence from Aidan O’Brien. While he was foiled for the win by sons Joseph and Donnacha, he did answer for the next four home.
Bye Bye Baby, Clemmie, Easter Lily and Magical are all potential ‘second-string’ representatives for his powerful operation in the Irish Oaks.
The last-named, MAGICAL is an interesting outsider. She’s got form that ties in quite closely with Wild Illusion and Laurens from her juvenile campaign and has started just once this year so far, running a pleasing race over a mile at Longchamp in April.
She has yet to race beyond that trip, but her breeding does hint that middle distances will be within her wheelhouse. She was a notable late withdrawal from Epsom last month after having been found to have a bit of filling on the inside of a joint that didn’t clear up in time, but would be noted if making her return here at an each-way price.
At the current market price of 16/1 each-way with Coral she’s just about favoured as a value interest, in the hope that her trainer has got her teed-up for this race.
Another Epsom Classic for @Ballydoyle…
— EpsomDownsRacecourse (@EpsomRacecourse) June 1, 2018
Given that Forever Together was turned over at odds-on in the Pretty Polly Stakes at the Curragh earlier this month, her price has since drifted to 7/1 with Boylesports for the Oaks double. That setback, where she finished second of six behind Urban Fox, came over a shorter trip at 1m2f, but it also leaves the filly with a question to answer as to whether or not she can repeat the stellar performance she produced on the Downs.
ADVICE: Magical, each-way at 16/1 with Coral
Written by Enda McElhinney
Enda McElhinney is an Irish-based racing writer with an increasing portfolio of work on British and Irish racing. His daily routine is race-by-race form analysis, both on the Flat and over jumps. While the racing world must keep on turning, he is quite sure that no horse will ever pull at his heartstrings quite as much as the 2008 Cheltenham Gold Cup hero Denman.