The Group 1 Darley Irish Oaks is the undoubtedly the best race of the weekend on either side of the Irish Sea. In fact, six of the last eight winners have been trained in either the U.K or France with Snow Fairy, Blue Bunting and most recently Enable all plundering this prestigious contest. Aidan O’Brien has proved the only resistance to the foreign challenge recently with Braclet and Seventh Heavens winning for the home brigade.
It would appear that Aidan holds a very strong hand this year with pre-race favourite and recent Ribblesdale winner Magic Wand. The key to this filly is fast ground as she showed at Ascot after flopping slightly at Epsom on soft ground. She has a very progressive profile and it will take a very good filly to beat her.
Thankfully there are plenty of good fillies in the line-up, stablemate Forever Together doesn’t seem to know how to run a bad race. The impeccably bred daughter of Galileo broke her maiden in the Epsom Oaks and followed this up with a fine effort in the Pretty Polly behind Urban Fox. She may be slightly better on an easier surface but she still rates as a live contender to do the Oaks double, after Enable completed the feat last season.
The only member of the raiding party this year is Sea Of Class, William Haggas has long held this filly in high regard. The thrice raced daughter of Sea The Stars has already bagged two listed victories this season and with James Doyle continuing his partnership, Sea Of Class could just be anything.
Selection: Magic Wand
The Group 2 Minstrel Stakes looks sure to excite the racegoers at the Curragh before the main event. It’s a race that’s been won by some quality animals down through the years, the admirable Gordon Lord Bryon won back to back contest in 2015 & 2016. Spirit Of Valor was successful twelve months ago and Aidan O’Brien’s main representative this year will be St Patrick’s Day.
The American bred colt is a full brother to the Triple crown winning American Pharoah and he ran an encouraging race on his European debut at the Curragh. Aidan has enlisted the services of Ryan Moore and with that run, under his belt, St Patrick’s Day holds leading claims.
David O’Meara sends over two stable favourites in the form of the consistent So Beloved and Larchmont Lad in a bid to bring the prize back to his Yorkshire base. The pair clashed 3 weeks ago at Newmarket where So Beloved had a length to spare over his younger stablemate. I don’t see any reason for a reversal this time around.
Selection: St Patrick’s Day
At Newbury, the Group 3 Hackwood Stakes and the Weatherbys Super Sprint for two-year-olds are the two races that catch the eye. The Hackwood has a really strong look to it with Equilateral heading the market, Charlie Hills’ colt ran well when finishing sixth in the Commonwealth Cup at Royal Ascot on the back of an eight-length victory in a novice event at Doncaster.
As many of you will know I have reservations about how strong the Commonwealth Cup form is so a career best is needed if Equilateral is to win this.
Roger Charlton’s strong has been in tremendous form recently and he is represented by Projection who has been very consistent this season including a career-best fifth in the Diamond Jubilee on his final start. The only reservation has to be that he hasn’t won a race since his two-year-old career, with that, said though he must go close.
Bacchus took his form to a whole new level when winning the Wokingham at the Royal meeting but in reality, he will probably need to improve again in he’s to win this having flopped on his only other attempt at Group company.
Others to note are Invincible Army, the consistent Yafta and Mythmaker.
Twenty-five tightly wound two-year-olds go to post for the Weatherby’s Super Sprint where lots of connections will be hoping their speedster can emerge triumphantly. Little Kim has the best form in the race following a midfield finish in the Queen Mary and then a Group 3 victory in Deauville. She does, however, have to shoulder this burden with nine stone 3 pounds on her back.
Mick Channon’s Kinks has danced every dance this year and gets in off a lovely weight but I’d be hoping something could improve past him. The filly I’ll take a chance on is Cookupastorm who was a winner over six furlongs at Newbury last week. She showed lots of pace on that occasion and with a featherweight 8-2, she may just surprise people.
It’s Summer Hurdle and Plate day at Market Rasen this Saturday where summer jumping will be at its finest. The Skelton’s will be looking to continue the rich vein of form they have enjoyed since the season began. Fair Mountain looks like the Skelton’s main hope in the Summer Hurdle, the German-bred son of Tiger Hill was previously placed in the German Derby when trained by Andrea Wohler.
He is two from three of hurdles for his new yard and must rate a major hope. However, he’s not the only horse with some back class in the race, the former Tony Martin-trained Artful Artist ran in some top handicaps down through the years. He’s now joined possibly the shrewdest trainer around in Dr Richard Newland, who has a fantastic track record of improving horses from other trainers, Grand National winner Pineau De Re being a prime example.
Others to note are All Set To Go, Hassle and Je Suis Charlie
The Summer Plate is the highlight is Market Rasen’s card where some classy sorts go head to head. Bagad Bihoue heads the market for Paul Nicholls, the son of Nickname is undoubtedly not the star of Ditcheat but he has won eleven of his eighteen starts. He beat stablemate Alcala in a decent Newton Abbot event and that rival re-opposes here where very little will once again separate them.
More Bucks was a recent transferee from Ditcheat to Peter Bowen for whom he won emphatically on stable debut. If he turns up in the same form on Saturday he’ll prove very difficult to beat. The horse I like is the improving Brian Boranha for the Peter Niven team. He’s won his last two starts in impressive fashion and with Aidan Coleman in the saddle, he must go close.
Others to note are the classy Calett Mad, Geordie Des Champs and Shantou Village.
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