While the Oaks and the Derby have already taken place at Epsom Downs Racecourse, with Frankie Dettori and Soul Sister winning the former and Auguste Rodin bouncing back from his 2,000 Guineas disappointing to deliver Aidan O’Brien’s ninth Derby success under Ryan Moore, the Irish versions of the Classics are due to take place at the Curragh in July.
Unlike their British counterparts, the Irish editions of the Oaks and the Derby don’t take place on the same weekend at the picturesque County Kildare racecourse — with the latter pencilled in for 2 July while the fillies’ race is scheduled for the 22nd.
Nevertheless, it’s the Irish Oaks we are going to focus on today and it’s — unsurprisingly — another Ballydoyle runner at the fore of the horse race betting as O’Brien has his sights set on a record-breaking seventh victory in the race. That said, read on as we take a look at the early favourites for the Irish Oaks.
Savethelastdance – 6/4
The heavy favourite for the Oaks itself after winning her first two outings of the season, including the Chester Oaks by a massive 22 lengths in May, Savethelastdance set off at 5/6 for the Epsom Classic but flattered to deceive as Dettori’s fairytale farewell tour continued with a length and three-quarters victory over the Ballydoyle horse atop 11/4 chance Soul Sister.
The John and Thady Gosden-trained horse was ridden to lead a furlong out and kept on well despite drifting left to hold off the rallying Savethelastdance. The three-year-old filly looks classy enough to come on from that and win the Irish Oaks this time out, but the Gosdens might be a thorn in the side once again.
Al Asifah – 2/1
The Gosden horse hoping to throw a spanner in the works, Al Asifah looks set to be supplemented by Shadwell Stud after a fantastic start to her career in which she won a Maiden Fillies’ Stakes at Haydock by over four lengths on debut in May before going on to win the Listed Agnes Keyser Fillies’ Stakes at Goodwood even more impressively earlier this month.
That six-and-a-half length victory has resulted in pundits and punters alike comparing Al Asifah to her Shawell counterpart Baaeed, who was the star of last year’s flat season when winning four-straight Group 1s and almost emulating Frankel’s record before failing to win at Champions Day and ultimately being retired to stud.
Never Ending Story – 6/1
Another potential O’Brien entry, Never Ending Story is much more experienced than her counterparts with eight races under rules already to her name. Six of those victories came as a two-year-old, two of which resulted in wins — most notably in a Group 3 at Leopardstown — while also placing in Group 2s at Deauville and Longchamp.
Never Ending Story has been seen twice this season, winning a 1,000 Guineas Trial at Leopardstown before finishing fifth in the Poule d’Essai des Pouliches (the French equivalent of the Guineas) in May. Given her consistency, she could put up a challenge at the Curragh but she might be outclassed by her stablemate and Al Asifah.