By George Wells
This year’s renewal of the Irish Oaks appears to be an open contest given that it’ll be without the expected star attraction. We’ll have to wait another week to see John Gosden’s Epsom Oaks conqueror as Taghrooda looks set to have a crack at the King George at Ascot. Nevertheless, this Saturday’s 1m 4f Curragh classic can still boast some meritorious contenders.
Regardless of the result, it’ll be a day to remember for the in-form O’Brien family. Ana, daughter of trainer Aidan, will become the first female jockey to ride in the Irish Oaks. Her mount, Beyond Brilliance, is one of five entries for the Irish champion trainer who is bidding to win this race for the first time since 2008. However, the chances of a red-letter day for the teenager are slim, the Holy Roman Emperor filly looks to have it all to do with an official rating of just 95.
Bracelet, ridden by Colm O’Donoghue, is a more interesting contender for Ballydoyle; coming off the back of a hard fought Ribblesdale Stakes victory at Royal Ascot when getting the better of Lustrous. The pair aren’t without a chance, though the colts’ equivalent race at Ascot was run approximately 3 seconds faster which is enough to put me off backing either of them.
Epsom rivals Tarfasha (2nd), Volume (3rd) and Marvellous (6th) will all have another shot at Oaks glory. With just a nose between the former pair, and the track appearing not to suit the latter, there are no guarantees that they’ll pass the judge in the same order this time around. Dermot Weld’s Tarfasha looks destined to start as the favourite, currently best priced at 5/2; while Volume and Marvellous can be backed at 11/2 and 5/1 respectively. At the prices, Luca Cumani’s filly looks the most appealing of re-opposing trio with the assumption that the Irish 1,000 Guineas winner has a preference for cut in the ground.
At odds of 11/2, it could be worth taking a chance on another of O’Brien’s quintet, TAPESTRY. Her Curragh record would read 3 wins from 3, but for a photo-finish falling in favour of Rizeena in last year’s Moyglare Stud Stakes. However, Joseph O’Brien’s mount has not set the world alight in 2014; a year she began by finishing last of 17 – when sent off the 4/1 favourite – in the 1,000 Guineas. Despite a better effort subsequently, Coolmore’s filly could only manage 6th in the Coronation Stakes.
Those form figures certainly don’t jump out of the page, though the more recent effort was better than the bare form implies and the most intriguing aspect of her challenge undoubtedly hinges around the distance, as the daughter of Galileo races beyond a mile for the first time. If her stamina can hold out, I’m confident she has the class; but it’ll take a well-timed ride from her young jockey, who has every reason to be brimming with confidence.