Big Weekend: The Kerrygold Irish Oaks at The Curragh

Friday, July 19, 2019
Big Weekend Oaks

Ton up for Gordon

The Kerrygold Irish Oaks (5.10) is a mouth-watering Classic but there is a strong argument for the Group 2 Paddy Power Minstrel Stakes (4.35) being the race of the weekend at the Curragh.

The field included two Guineas winners and multiple group victors but few will argue with Gordon Lord Byron getting top billing as he makes his 100th career appearance.

Morgan Cahalan’s 11-year-old hasn’t gotten to make an international trip so far this season, having previously raced in Australia, France, UAE and England but it would be fitting if the three-time Group 1 winner could add a ninth group prize (and third win alone in this contest) and make it a 17th overall success on home turf, on the day he becomes a centurion.

The Tom Hogan-trained gelding has shown plenty of enthusiasm this year but he does face stiff opposition in the likes of last year’s Irish 2000 Guineas winner Romanised, who was an unlucky fourth on his last start at Royal Ascot for Ken Condon and Billy Lee, and the 2018 French hero Hey Gaman, who comes into this affair on the back of two stakes wins and has Killarney’s pride and joy, Frankie Dettori on board for James Tate.

Flight Risk represents the Jim Bolger-Kevin Manning axis and is a triple Group 3 winner, having bagged his second Ballycorus Stake on his penultimate start at Leopardstown, when Gordon Lord Byron was third. Mr Lupton was victorious at this venue in May for Richard Fahey, when again, Gordon Lord Byron finished third. Gary Halpin takes the ride.

John Quinn’s Safe Voyage is chasing a fourth successive win of the campaign, Aidan O’Brien is triply-represented and Damien English runs former Ballydoyle inmate North Wind, with Colin Keane an interesting appointment for steering duties.


Willie’s watch

Brothers Tom and Tony have been among the winners in the past week, but Willie is still the man to watch, boasting a very high strike rate from his select crop of runners over jumps, 25 winners from 57 runners boasting a staggering 44 per cent rate of success.

His flat return is not as spectacular, but of course 32 per cent (six from 19) is still amazing, with four runners-up included in the tally that didn’t get their heads in front.

One suspects that he would derive significant pleasure from winning at the Curragh on Kerrygold Irish Oaks day and Royal Illusion has an outstanding chance in the Kildare Village Ladies Derby. The seven-year-old is chasing a hat-trick on the level, the trainer’s son Patrick and Richie Deegan doing the honours at Leopardstown and Bellewstown.

This time around it is Jane Townend, sister of stable and champion jockey Paul who gets the leg up. An accomplished operator, the Cork woman will not be found wanting up one of the most famous straights in the world.


Collins has them humming

The Collins name is synonymous with the Curragh and it has been nice to see Tracey Collins’s string running well this season. Daughter of the legendary Con, the local handler has already had three winners this season from just 29 runners.

In the process, she is illustrating her ability to get the best out of her horses and connections would be ecstatic if she could get a winner at Headquarters on Classic weekend.

Noirvento has already been in the winner’s enclosure and while the Ticket Offers At Handicap (4.20) on Sunday represents a step up, the four-year-old has a lovely racing weight of 8-4, having followed up her Sligo win in the middle of June with a two-length third at Naas eight days later.

Freshened up and with the red hot Niall McCullagh on board, she should put in a bold bid for honours.

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