The Irish Oaks, run over 1m4f at The Curragh, hasn’t been dominated by Aidan O’Brien in the same way as the Irish Derby, but the master of Ballydoyle has still saddled four winners in the last ten years (5.50pm Saturday).
This year, the twice-raced Dansili filly Words (best at 7/2) looks the pick of his quartet, but there are reasons in this Irish Oaks preview for believing that even she may not prevent the first prize from heading elsewhere in County Tipperary.
Curvy (9/4), trained by David Wachman (pictured) just over six miles north of O’Brien’s base in Goolds Cross, has won all four starts this season, including the Group 2 Ribblesdale Stakes at Royal Ascot last month on her first attempt at 1m4f.
On that occasion, Curvy ran on well to beat the Irish 1,000 Guineas winner Pleascach by a length with Gretchen (20/1) a further 5l away in fifth. The daughter of Galileo has officially improved by 34lb so far this season and has been supplemented for this race at a cost of £40,000 to connections, who clearly believe she is equal to the task.
Words took the step up to middle distances in her stride when cosily beating Carla Bianca by three-quarters of length in the Group 3 Munster Oaks at Cork last month, despite running green in the closing stages. Officially she has 5lb to find with Curvy and 6lb to find with stable companion Qualify (8/1), but is clearly open to any amount of improvement and may emerge as the main threat to Curvy.
That said, Qualify is already a Classic winner, having stayed on well to overhaul 1,000 Guineas winner Legatissimo in the final stride in the Oaks at Epsom. She started at 50/1 on that occasion, but there appeared no fluke about the performance and, although she made no real impression in the Irish Derby over this course and distance three weeks ago, it would be dangerous to write her off.
The other supplemented runner, Covert Love (8/1), trained in Newmarket by Hugo Palmer has also shown progressive form this season, albeit at a lower level than Curvy. She is unbeaten this season too, having won a maiden, a handicap and a Listed race, all at or around 1m2f. However, she’s officially rated 3lb inferior to Curvy and, unlike David Wachman’s charge, has her stamina to prove over a testing 1m4f.
Jack Naylor (8/1), the filly with a male name, ran a good race when sixth in the Epsom Oaks, especially as she did encounter slight interference. Strictly she is held by the winner Qualify, but the general form of the race is beginning to look quite good and it would be no surprise to see her get into the shake up.
The Epsom seventh, Together Forever (12/1), had an even more troubled trip at the tricky Surrey track. How many times have we been reminded it is folly to ignore apparent second or third strings from the O’Brien yard? Together Forever could find significant improvement, though she would need to.
Speedy Boarding (16/1) comes from the excellent James Fanshawe yard. She makes just her fourth racecourse start and her first over 1m4f, having won the last twice over 1m2f. This extra trip should suit judged by the way she stayed on well when winning a Listed race at Newbury last time. While this Classic entry may appear ambitious, Fanshawe is never one to over-face his charges and he has a good Group race winning record with the mere 16 previous runners he has saddled in Ireland.
Our Irish Oaks Preview’s Betting Tips
Words has potential but, in terms of form in the book and consistency, Curvy looks the one to be on this time. Our Irish Oaks preview’s betting tips advice is to bet on CURVY to win at current best odds of 9/4 with Coral Bookmaker.