Aidan O’Brien saddles four chances in the Irish Oaks this weekend as he bids to draw alongside Sir Michael Stoute and land a record-equalling sixth victory in the race.
The Master of Ballydoyle is renowned for his success-rate in the classics, so it may come as a bit of a surprise that the talismanic trainer hasn’t managed to win the fillies classic since Seventh Heaven got up to score in 2016.
He’s in fine form in 2020, though, with victories in both the English and Irish Derby as well as the English and Irish 1,000 Guineas. Can he add the Irish Oaks to that list?
We’ve previewed all of the contenders for Saturday’s 19:15 contest at The Curragh in our runner-by-runner guide.
Cayenne Pepper | Jessica Harrington | 1114-2
As her name suggests, Cayenne Pepper looked every bit the red-hot filly last season. Jessica Harrington’s inmate began her career with a hat-trick of wins and saw off good yardstick So Wonderful in the Group 3 Flame of Tara.
She later came unstuck against Powerful Breeze, Love and Quadrilateral in the Fillies’ Mile, with the latter two in that trio subsequently finishing first and third in the 1,000 Guineas at Newmarket.
Love recently upgraded that run further courtesy of her 9l success in the Oaks at Epsom, while Cayenne Pepper’s comeback run behind the experienced Magical in the Pretty Polly also represents a good piece of form.
The Australia filly stayed on well that day against a classy older rival which suggests she should handle the mile-and-a-half trip, and back down against her own age group, it looks as though she’ll take all the beating.
Ennistymon | Aidan O’Brien | 7-122
Ennistymon proved she was the best of the rest behind runaway Oaks winner Love a fortnight ago, but when you’re beaten by 9l, it’s difficult to know just how good the best of the rest really is.
Ballydoyle’s main hope has yet to score at pattern level after being touched off by Frankly Darling in the Ribblesdale prior to that, although she does have experience over 1m 4f, unlike Cayenne Pepper.
That should hold her in good stead as she bids to give the trainer a sixth win in the contest.
Snow | Aidan O’Brien | 84-121
Snow didn’t make any waves as a two-year-old, but as a three-year-old she’s really hit the ground running. The daughter of Galileo broke her maiden tag at The Curragh in June before finishing runner-up in a Group 3.
She then posted her best effort to date earlier this month with a game staying performance to land the Group 2 Munster Oaks ahead of Yaxeni, who re-opposes in this contest.
Michael Hussey takes the ride on the second O’Brien horse in the contest, and if the last few weeks has taught us anything, it’s to never rule out the Ballydoyle second-string. She has more than a live chance.
Even So | Ger Lyons | 31-351
Ger Lyons has already won one Irish classic this season with Siskin, could he land another with Even So? His hopeful this time around faces a tougher task than the aforementioned Siskin, who bolted up in the Irish 2,000 Guineas.
Even So has run to a decent level as a three-year-old and kept on well over a mile to finish fifth behind Peaceful in the Irish 1,000 Guineas. Her subsequent victory over 1m 2f in the Naas Oaks Trial suggests she should get this trip.
She beat Laburnum that day, who re-opposes here, and while this is her toughest assignment to date, connections will be hoping she can continue her progression over the extended distance at The Curragh.
Laburnum | Aidan O’Brien | 12
Serpentine showed at Epsom that it’s churlish to dismiss the chances of a horse so lightly-raced in this strangest of strange seasons, and there’s every chance Laburnum could improve further in only her third career start.
Another daughter of Galileo, she won with a bit in hand on debut before being touched off by Even So on softer ground in the Naas Oaks Trial last time out.
She steps up to Group 1 company for the first time here and could make appeal on each-way terms.
New York Girl | Joseph O’Brien | 41-47
New York Girl may have the pedigree to suggest she should challenge being by Derby winner New Approach, but she’ll need to find a chunk of improvement based on her two recent efforts.
Joseph O’Brien’s charge weakened into fourth in the Irish 1,000 Guineas last month and was well beaten by in the Irish Derby a fortnight later.
She was held towards the rear of the field that day before staying on well into seventh which suggests a change of tactics could see the double-figure outsider to better effect here.
Yaxeni | Ger Lyons | 1-34
Yaxeni hasn’t been disgraced in her two defeats as a three-year-old, but you’d probably want some better form if you were considering backing her for this.
Ger Lyons’ filly began the season by finishing third of eight in the Group 3 Blue Wind Stakes and then fell a place further back behind Snow to finish fourth in the Munster Oaks.
Like the entire field, the daughter of Maxios is obviously capable of further improvement, although it appears unlikely she’ll be able to match the market leaders in the Irish Oaks.
Passion | Aidan O’Brien | 17-435
Passion has been well beaten in both the Ribbledale and the English Oaks already this season and looks set to take the job as pacemaker for Ennistymon and Snow.
O’Brien’s outsiders may have developed a habit of springing a shock at a big price in the last few years, but it’s unlikely we’ll see a repeat from Passion.
All odds and markets correct as of date of publication.