An impressive total of eight meetings spread out across the UK and Ireland provide punters with a stack of choices this afternoon and evening, not least here in the Curragh where from my current perch not a cricket ball’s throw from the six furlong pole of the County Kildare track, we’re looking forward to a bumper eight race card kicking off at 3.00pm, with the four of them live and direct with us on RTE2.
The big race fills the twilight spot at 5.45pm, and though perhaps the biggest news heading into it was the re-routing of English Oaks winner Taghrooda from here to next weekend’s King George at Ascot, her owner Hamdan Al Maktoum has a pretty handy substitute up his sleeve in the shape of the Tarfasha, who chased Taghroda home at Epsom.
Trained by Dermot Weld right on the Curragh’s doorstep, Tarfasha is guaranteed to stay, and boasts obvious credentials with her Epsom nemesis safely tucked away in her stable back in Newmarket.
Weld also has Curragh Group 3 winner and Irish Guineas third Vote Often as a handy extra string to his bow, though perhaps a sterner test to Tarfasha will come ironically from Newmarket, with Luca Cumani keen to have another bite of the Oaks cherry after Volume ran a cracker at Epsom, finishing third with just a nose separating her from Tarfasha.
Prior to Epsom, she’s been an impressive winner of Newbury Swettenham Stud Fillies’ Trial, and has to be rated a serious threat.
In a deep race the contenders don’t stop there – Aidan O’Brien won yet another Irish Derby only three weeks ago with Australia, and supplies five of today’s declared field of 11.
His daughter Ana O’Brien takes the mount on outsider Brilliance, but if you’re looking for the dangers then three of his have his be taken very seriously….
Of the guaranteed stayers, proven over a mile and a half in the field (we already know about Tarfasha and Volume) he provides Ascot’s Ribblesdale winner Bracelet, who is obviously a better horse over a mile and a half after finishing only 14th in the 2,000 Guineas at Newmarket.
In the hands of Joseph O’Brien Bracelet saw off the re-opposing Richard Hannon-trained Lustrous at Royal Ascot, and anyone backing them has solid Group 2 form and proven stamina on their side.
O’Brien also has the top rated runner, with 116 the figure next to the name of impressive Irish Guineas winner Marvellous.
Excellent over a mile, she was less than excellent when fading over four furlongs further at Epsom in the Oaks, when sent off 4/1 favourite.
The one we haven’t talked about is Tapestry, the Montjeu filly who flopped miserably when sent off 4/1 market leader for the 2,000 Guineas at Newmarket, but who could improve dramatically now upped beyond a mile for the first time.
As ever, Joseph O’Brien will have had his pick from the Ballydoyle contingent, but he ovelooks top-rated Marvellous who didn’t necessarily see out her race at Epsom, while he deserts Bracelet on whom he took the Ribblesdale last month.
There has to be a good reason for that, and yet Tapestry remains an attractive each way price at 11/2 with BetVictor, Coral, Paddy Power or William Hill.
Her course form at the Curragh has to be a big part of it: figures of 1, 1, 2 are highly impressive, with the second coming in the Group 1 Moyglare Stud Stakes behind Rizeena, who has since proved herself an even better filly by winning the Coronation Stakes at Royal Ascot (with Tapestry in sixth).
Up in trip, back on her favourite track, and with Joseph O’Brien making her his pick despite more obvious contenders elsewhere, the case is clear to follow Tapestry each way in a wide open looking Irish Oaks.
Also live on RTE2, the Group 3 Minstrel Stakes (4.40pm) can go the way of another budding Curragh specialist in the shape of Mick Halford’s Eastern Rules.
Up against last year’s not always convincing winner Darwin, Eastern Rules is a former course and distance winner who won twice in Dubai during the winter.
Course form figures of 4, 1, 1 are further encouragement from a horse who ran a superb race to prep him for this, going down fighting half a length in Leopardstown’s Ballycorus Stakes exactly a month ago.
On his favoured quick ground he has a huge shout at 5/1 each way with any of Coral, Ladbrokes or William Hill.
The meat in the RTE2 sandwich I’ve just described is the Group 3 Anglesey Stakes at 5.10pm, a race in which Royal Ascot’s Chesham Stakes second and third Toscanini and Dick Whittington lock horns again.
Only a head separated them in Berkshire last month, and the bookies can barely split them here either, with some firms marginally favouring Toscanini, and some firms having them locked together as joint favourites.
Either way, the pair found one too good at Ascot where Richard Pankhurst showed them both a clean pair of hooves, and it could be more of the same here….
Look to the bottom of the card and you’ll clap eyes on the only filly in the field – Ken Condon’s 102-rated Newsletter.
She’s higher rated then either of her big rivals, and yet gets weight from them in the form of a three pounds filles’ allowance.
A winner here over five furlongs on debut, she ran a screamer at 33/1 to be third behind Anthem Alexander in the Queen Mary at Royal Ascot, and if she can see out the extra furlong then she has to be the pick at 3′s with any of Boylesports, Ladbrokes or Skybet.
Saturday’s best bets at the Curragh: