It’s Irish Oaks weekend and we have a value punt in the big Group 1 race at the Curragh, though it’s backed up by plenty more opportunities across both Friday and Saturday as Newbury, Newmarket and Hamilton all host top class action.
Friday 19th July
3.40 Newbury (Rose Bowl Stakes – Listed Race) – AL AAKIF
As always it’s hard to know what to expect with these two-year-olds given that they have precious few miles on the clock at this stage, but while the likely favourite Repartee represents good connections and created a very favourable impression on debut, it could be argued he got the run of the race at York and may not come on as much as people think.
While he is clearly the main danger, he may not ultimately be as ready for this level as Al Aakif, William Haggas’ Acclamation colt who unseated his rider on the way to post before his debut and was then bumped at the start on his second racecourse appearance.
Despite this, he has recorded two very impressive wins already and clearly has a lot more to give as he matures, so in this good company a proper performance can be dragged out of him and it may prove to be another winning one.
8.10 Hamilton (Glasgow Stakes – Listed Race) – MACKAAR
Plenty of attention will go the way of Mark Johnston’s Persian Moon given that the Glaswegian trainer has won this race plenty of times in the past and is likely to have sent one he fully believes can get the job done once more.
Persian Moon is rated 101 and while that’s not too bad a level for a Listed race, it is eminently beatable and so given that his improvement appears to have stopped for now he looks vulnerable to a middle-distance improver.
Roger Varian won this race a couple of years ago with subsequent Group winner Defoe and he may do so again with this Mackaar, that potential improver in the field. Rated lower than Persian Moon but progressing well, the son of Cape Cross was tried out as a potential classic hope and retains an entry in the Irish St Leger Trial next month and while he is unlikely to be a Group 1 horse, he may be good enough to win this.
Saturday 20th July
2.40 Newmarket (Aphrodite Stakes – Listed Race) – KESIA
We’re taking a bit of a punt here, partly based on value but also based on jockey bookings and potential.
On private ratings, John Gosden’s Sparkle Roll unsurprisingly comes out best among the fillies we can evaluate fully after her third behind Star Catcher in the Ribblesdale Stakes at Royal Ascot. Her trainer has two in the race though with the other, Kesia, very much a lesser-known quantity having had just the one outing.
She did win that race very easily though and Gosden only puts these fillies in at this level when he knows they can handle it. The real guessing game is regarding the jockey situation.
Kieran O’Neill and Nicky Mackay have both deputised to great effect for Frankie Dettori and Rab Havlin, but given that Mackay has ridden Sparkle Roll before and is based permanently at this yard one presumes he could have ridden the favourite had he wanted. Instead he rides Kesia and it may well be a tell-tale sign that she is about more than just potential and in fact we could see some serious ability here today at a nice price.
5.10 Curragh (Irish Oaks – Group 1) – STAR CATCHER
Despite the O’Brien camp dominating the English classics in recent years, it is in fact English-based trainers who have done the same in this race and it could be the case once again in this year’s Irish Oaks.
Having said all that, our selection is not one born out of a preference for which territory the filly is trained in but more her obvious ability and potential for further improvement.
Star Catcher should have won at Newbury in May according to Frankie Dettori who just didn’t make enough use of her that day, something that was confirmed when she turned the tables on Queen Power in the Ribblesdale Stakes at Royal Ascot when she stretched away nicely to score for this column (advised at 10/1).
Staying is her forte, she has reached a level that for me is similar to that achieved by Pink Dogwood and Iridessa and given that she has improved in leaps and bounds and may go on again, she is the value call in this race.
The aforementioned Pink Dogwood was second in the Oaks behind yet another of John Gosden’s fillies, Anapurna, so he knows exactly where he stands in this division and it is, I feel, why Star Catcher has been supplemented. The best home chance then may fall with Pretty Polly winner Iridessa for Joseph O’Brien though she is not a guaranteed stayer.
5.35 Newmarket (Class 3 Handicap) – QUTOB
Richard Fahey sending a horse down to Newmarket and teaming it up with Hayley Turner makes for an intriguing combination, however in the case of Right Action he’s having the 37th run of his career and we know what to expect of him, his profile suggesting he’s a leading contender but not one with lots to spare in the handicap.
Glenn Coco and Daddy’s Daughter are both obvious dangers too and any money coming for them may be significant, however the one who is now (belatedly) on the right path is Charlie Hills’ Qutob.
Having been given six chances, the son of Acclamation was always consistent but had not won a race. He was gelded in early June though and returned to the track earlier this month a different animal, scoring comfortably at Chelmsford City.
That run, had he been asked more of a question, could have marked him up as a horse rated around 86/87 and with plenty more improvement to come, so running in this off 84 makes him a well handicapped individual.