Timeform Preview: Irish Oaks weekend at the Curragh

Timeform preview the action on Irish Oaks weekend at the Curragh
Timeform preview the action on Irish Oaks weekend at the Curragh

Timeform preview the weekend's five Group races at the Curragh, including the Irish Oaks, and pick out their best bets...

"...he could prove tough to pass if getting his own way in front. "

Timeform on Caspian Prince

Aidan O'Brien will be aiming to win the Group 3 Anglesey Stakes for the fifth time in six years on Saturday with Just Wonderful. She caught the eye when making a winning debut over this C&D in May under Ryan Moore, a maiden in which Clemmie had finished third the year before. She went backwards in the Albany Stakes next time - Moore getting caught in two minds about which group to follow - but she has a host of glamorous entries and she is expected to get back on track here.

The Group 2 Minstrel Stakes is next on the card, which sees David O'Meara send two over in the form of Larchmont Lad and So Beloved. The latter is on a winless run which stretches back to May 2016, though he has been shaping well of late, and was slightly unfortunate not to finish closer when second in a Group 3 contest at Newmarket last time, not getting a clear passage into the race. However, the three-year-old St Patrick's Day is an interesting alterative. He arrives here after an eye-catching debut for Aidan O'Brien when third in a listed contest over a mile here in June, shaping better than the bare result, and the drop back to seven furlongs now will suit.

As usual, Aidan O'Brien has a strong hand in Saturday's feature, the Irish Oaks, though he hasn't quite tasted as much success in this as you may expect at first glance - winning three of the past ten renewals. He has three runners in this year's renewal, most notably Forever Together and Magic Wand, who reoppose having finished first and fourth respectively in the Oaks at Epsom last month.

The score stands at 2-1 in the favour of Magic Wand in terms of their head-to-head record, a clue perhaps to why Ryan Moore has sided with her, but it is in fact Forever Together who sits clear on Timeform weight-adjusted ratings. The emphasis on stamina seemed to bring out the best in her at Epsom, and she is taken to be seen in a better light returned to a mile and a half here. Forever Together is a much bigger price than Magic Wand at the time of writing - around the 4/1 mark, with Magic Wand 6/4 - and as such, she offers some value.

The sole British challenger is Sea of Class, who takes a big step up in class having impressed with back-to-back wins at listed level. She's lightly raced for her age, with just three starts to date, and she will need to improve again if she is to trouble the aforementioned pair. The Aidan O'Brien trio is rounded off by Bye Bye Baby, the likely pace angle in the race. She hasn't disgraced herself at this level in her two previous starts, finishing third at Epsom, and she could prove dangerous if allowed an uncontested lead up front.

There's two Group 2 contests at the Curragh on Sunday, too, beginning with the Sapphire Stakes over five furlongs. It's an interesting renewal, and at the time of writing the market is headed by Mabs Cross, who has progressed nicely this season. She finished third in a blisteringly quick renewal of the King's Stand last time, having Battaash to aim at, but with a weak pace forecast, both she and Washington DC may find their challenges coming too little too late. As such, the best option could well be last year's winner of this race, Caspian Prince, who has been in terrific form this year, almost defying a huge weight in a competitive handicap here last time, and he could prove tough to pass if getting his own way in front.

The Group 2 Estate Stakes follows 35 minutes later, in which we'll see the long-awaited return of September. She hasn't won in four starts since running out an emphatic winner of the Chesham at Royal Ascot last year, though she has still shown smart form nonetheless, finishing a nose behind Laurens in the Fillies' Mile, and it will be fascinating to see how she fares in this, considering her subsequent entries for the remainder of the season - which include the International Stakes at York. Stablemate Magical, the choice of Ryan Moore, was behind September in the Fillies' Mile last October, for all that she wasn't ideally placed, and will need to show more than she did when fourth in a Group 3 contest on reappearance at Longchamp in April.

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