• Christopher Loader

Irish Oaks 2019 Preview

Tomorrow’s feature race is the Group 1 Irish Oaks at the Curragh which is the last classic of the season before fillies and colts can run against each other in the St Ledger. The Irish Oaks has been won by some high quality fillies in the past especially in the last two renewals with Enable and Sea Of Class. In this blog I will look at this year’s renewal, looking at some of the key trends of the race to try and identify the winner. In last week’s race preview for the July Cup we found the winner with Ten Sovereigns and got on the early price of 10-1 before the massive gamble, hopefully we can do the same next week.

2009-2018 Irish Oaks Roll of Honour

Looking at the roll of honour for the race between 2009-2018 the first thing that struck me was the lack of Irish trained winners of the race. Only the maestro that is Aidan O’Brien has won the race on two occasions in 2014 and 2016. British trainers have an excellent record In the Irish Oaks with John Gosden, William Haggas, Ed Dunlop & Michael Bell on the honours list. Also favourites don’t have the best record in the race with only three winning hotpots in the past decade. The message that can be drawn from the statistics, is that horses that aren’t the favourite but are prominent in the betting do well. This can be seen with the average winning price being 9-2. Also it is worth noting that fillies can take forward improvement on their ratings which has been shown with winner such as Seventh Heaven and Great Heavens whom were both rated 98.

2019 Irish Oaks Betting

Currently Iridessa is the favourite for Joseph O’Brien off the back of her victory in the Group 1 Pretty Polly Stakes at the Curragh. By a Derby winner in Ruler of The World the step up in trip should appear suit and she beat the likes of Magic Wand and Pink Dogwood in assertive style. My only concern about Iridessa is can she back the performance up? Also if the ground softens as she has only ran once before finishing a weakening third on her seasonal appearance at Leopardstown. Apart from this she is the right favourite being the only Group One winner in the field.

When it comes to the Aidan O’Brien battalions, team Ballydoyle field three runners with Pink Dogwood, Fleeting and Peach Tree. Pink Dogwood was a disappointing favourite in the Pretty Polly stakes and was fairly beaten by Iridessa. Despite this she would appear to be the number one contender for Ballydoyle as Ryan Moore retains the ride. Previously a warm favourite for the Epsom Oaks where she finished 2nd and won a Listed race at Navan on her first start of 2019, she has been a talking horse from O’Brien’s stable. O’Brien’s team are starting topick up their form with Ten Sovereigns, Japan and Mohawk winning Group races in the past week. Even though she disappointed last time she could easily bounce back like others from her yard have done this year. Fleeting too fits the description as she ran creditably behind Star Catcher at Royal Ascot in the Ribblesdale Stakes. We know she stays the distance and ran a fast finishing third place in the Epsom Oaks. She could potentially be their best horse as O’Brien’s number one fillies have not delivered in this race in the past decade 10-1 & 14-1 winners. Donnacha O’Brien is booked and has been no stranger to classic success in the past year. My concerns for Fleeting though would be the ground and also her record at the Curragh where she hasn’t ran up to her best. Peach Tree will probably be used tactically but you can never rule out at Aidan O’Brien runner as Sovereign showed in the Irish Derby.

Away from the Irish trained runners, Britain looks almost sure to have a say in this year’s renewal with three contenders. Two of them Manuela De Vega and Antonia De Vega come from the Ralph Beckett stable who do very well with their fillies. Ever since their debut runs especially Manuela De Vega I have always followed and backed these horses and hold a special place in my heart. I was at Salisbury when I backed Manuela De Vega whom won on debut. After the race Ralph Beckett was already bullish and speaking about the Oaks with his filly. She then went on to win a Listed race at Pontefract on her final start as a two-year-old.  Her first appearance this year was in the Chester Vase where she ran a fair second and was slightly unlucky. In the Epsom Oaks she finished a gallant fourth where things didn’t go her away again. Ralph Beckett commented after the Chester Vase that she had been rushed back to make the Oaks and repeated the same sentiment afterwards. It is also interesting that Harry Bentley has chosen Manuela De Vega as he had the choice of both. Colin Keane has been booked to ride the stablemate with Antonia De Vega. Bentley was aboard on Antonia De Vega’s emphatic return in a Listed race Newbury in the same race that last year’s Irish Oak’s winner Sea of Class won. Also the form was boosted as the second place horse Star Terms won a Listed race at Longchamp on Sunday for Richard Hannon. That win at Newbury was also on soft ground so if the rain that is expected does come it can benefit Antonia De Vega. After the race Ralph Beckett said this was the plan for her and has always been the target. Also her form as a two-year-old was very good and I was there when she won at Goodwood when looking in trouble which is something I like in a horse. I really fancy Antonia De Vega to go very close tomorrow and is a mad each-way price.

The other British runner who has a strong chance in the race tomorrow is Star Catcher who won the Group 2 Ribblesdale at Royal Ascot. Her trainer John Gosden has a good record in the race and does well with Oppenheimer horses such as Golden Horn and Cracksman. This filly is unbeaten from two runs on soft ground and likes to make the running. Horses that have been prominent in the Curragh this year especially in the classics have been running away winners with Phoenix of Spain, Hermosa and Sovereign. I expect Frankie Dettori to go all the way tomorrow from the front but I just wonder if the likes of Peach Tree might get into a battle with her for the lead and horses that are patiently ridden might come home stronger.

When it comes to my final selections for the race I am going to have to for Antonia De Vega has my number one choice. I was very taken with her win at Newbury with its easiness and authority and moreover as mentioned the form has been boosted. I also think Manuela De Vega has to make the frame this potentially looks a little weaker than the Epsom Oaks she contested, with a smaller field and make a bit of cut in the ground this could squeeze out further improvements. Pink Dogwood I think can also bounce back too Ryan Moore has been riding better in the past week and we know she will stay and has the form on soft ground. I think Iridessa will disappoint because I don’t think she will stay the trip and I doubt her ability to deliver another Group One winning performance.

2019 Irish Oaks Prediction

1. Antonia De Vega

2. Manuela De Vega

3. Pink Dogwood

Recommended Bets

Antonia De Vega 14-1 EW (Coral)

Manuela De Vega 9-1 EW (William Hill/Bet365/Ladbrokes)

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