2019 Irish Oaks tips – 10/1 shot can shock the Curragh crowd and bring Classic back to Britain
Our expert takes a look through the betting for this Irish Classic and provides readers with his tips the Curragh on Saturday 20th July.
A couple of weeks after the Curragh was shocked into silence at the conclusion of the Irish Derby, a field of talented fillies will take to this famous track to battle it out in the Irish Oaks. There have been several outstanding winners of this Classic during it’s 125-year history, with the names of Dahlia, Oujia Board and Enable glistening on the trophy.
Epsom queen, Anapurna will not attempt a famous British and Irish Oaks double. However, the second, third and fourth-placed horses from Epsom will renew rivalries at the Curragh on Saturday afternoon.
Pink Dogwood (3/1 Coral) came with what looked a winning challenge from the rear of the field at Epsom, only to be repelled by the tenacious Anapurna. Aidan O’Brien then decided to drop his filly down in trip and target the Pretty Polly Stakes – instead of possible outings in the French Oaks or Royal Ascot – but that proved to be the wrong choice, as the favourite could only cross the line third.
Fleeting (6/1 Coral) came from the clouds to carry astronomical odds into the places at Epsom, showing massive improvement after a dismal effort in the British 1000 Guineas. O’Brien’s filly then had to settle for second in the Ribblesdale Stakes at Royal Ascot, despite carrying the tag of favouritism to post, but it was still a strong performance on softer ground which was unlikely to suit.
Ralph Beckett’s Manuela De Vega (10/1 Coral) stayed on gamely to cross the line a two-length fourth behind Anapurna at Epsom. Despite losing the unbeaten record she gathered as a two-year-old, results suggest Beckett’s filly is still improving and her trainer’s decision to prioritise this Classic over a tilt at the Ribblesdale could prove to be a very shrewd move.
Heading the current ante-post betting, ahead of the three fillies who ran well in the British Oaks, is Joseph O’Brien’s Iridessa (7/4 Coral). Written off by most after an underwhelming opening to her three-year-old campaign, the 2018 Fillies’ Mile winner bounced back to her best in the Pretty Polly Stakes, seeing off Magic Wand and Pink Dogwood, proving she was more than capable of seeing out trips further than a mile.
After upsetting Fleeting to win the Ribblesdale, John Gosden and owner, Anthony Oppenheimer decided Star Catcher (4/1 Coral) was worthy of a supplementary entry into Saturday’s main event. Gosden’s filly was subject of an almighty gamble as the Frankie Dettori bandwagon rolled through day three of the Royal meeting and Star Catcher rewarded her many backers handsomely, running out a worthy winner of that mile-and-a-half Group Two.
Ralph Beckett’s second entrant is Antonia De Vega (8/1 Coral), who missed out on outings at Chester, Epsom and Ascot, only making her reappearance in the Listed Abingdon Stakes at Newbury. Beckett’s filly went to post as the 4/1 second-favourite that day, but proved she was a class above her four rivals, running away with the race to secure a hugely impressive four-length triumph.
Outside of the top six in the market, there’s very little depth in this year’s Irish Oaks. Yet, after 33/1 shot Sovereign scored in the debacle that was the Irish Derby, none of the less-fancied horses can be ruled out completely.
Trethias (14/1 Coral) defeated Search For A Song (12/1 Coral) when they clashed in the Oaks Trial at Naas last month, but both will have to build on those efforts significantly if they want to get involved. Peach Tree (20/1 Coral) made a welcome return to the winners’ enclosure in the 14-furlong Stanerra Stakes last month, but tenth place finishes in both the British Oaks and the Ribblesdale prove she’s a long way off Group One standard.
Credenza (50/1 Coral), Chablis (66/1 Coral) and Goddess (66/1 Coral) could all carry the Ballydoyle silks into the Irish Oaks at the weekend. The fact that none of the three have managed to finish higher than third in any of their outings in less esteemed company this term should be telling. Operatic Export (100/1 Coral) rounds off the field, but her odds of 100/1 suggest she has little-to-no chance of making an impact.
It’s hard to think, when you look outside your window at the bright sunshine, that a storm is due to hit the Curragh over the next day or two. Whether there will be enough rain to soften the current going beyond good is unlikely, throwing the participation of mud-loving Antonia De Vega into serious doubt.
Last year, I thought Iridessa would be tailor-made for a race like the Oaks. Quotes from Joseph O’Brien’s team, however, suggested they felt a mile was still her best trip, so he would have been as shocked as anyone to see his filly score over 10 furlongs in the Pretty Polly Stakes. Iridessa has won Group Ones at two and three, so she’s clearly a very capable filly, but there are still doubts about her suitability over this trip and at her current price, she’s worth swerving.
The four remaining contenders are very tightly matched and I’m finding it extremely tough to split them. Pink Dogwood performed best in the British Oaks and will be more comfortable back up in trip. Fleeting ran a cracker at Ascot and will relish the wuicker ground. Star Catcher looked very good in the Ribblesdale and seems to be getting stronger. Manuela De Vega keeps improving and has been laid out for a tilt at this Classic since Epsom.
Looking at the recent history of the race could be a useful way to prize the remaining contenders apart. Despite this being the Irish Oaks, only two winners in the past decade has been trained in Ireland, with six British raiders claiming victory in that time. Only one of the past ten winners had made an appearance at Royal Ascot and that was Bracelet, who won the Ribblesdale before claiming Classic glory at the Curragh. Ralph Beckett may not be sit on the same stratosphere as rivals John Gosden and Aidan O’Brien. Yet, two Oaks victories proves he knows what he’s doing with talented fillies and his three-year-olds have been going really well all season. Immediately after Epsom, I felt MANUELA DE VEGA was the one to take out of the race and, at their current prices, I think she offers the best value of those who have a realistic chance of winning.
Harry Bentley was left cursing his luck after drawing the coffin stall, gate one, at Epsom and his mount tugged quite hard in the early stages as he tried to nestle into the pack. Once settled, Manuela De Vega travelled sweetly into the race alongside Pink Dogwood. As her Irish rival made steady progress around the outside of the pack, Bentley ducked inside and tried to weave a path through the traffic.
Just when it seemed his mount was about to find top gear, Bentley found himself sandwiched between the fading Maqsad and Mehdaayih. I don’t think the bumping and bargaining denied her victory, but her progress was severely hampered by that incident and she could have finished even closer to the winners than she eventually did.
Unlike her stablemate, Manuela De Vega is not ground dependant and the fast pace that Ballydoyle are likely to demploy to try and stretch Iridessa to her fullest could play into Beckett’s filly’s hands. At 10/1, Manuela De Vega is the best bet in this year’s Irish Oaks.