Donn's Articles » Irish Oaks

Irish Oaks

Patience rewarded.  Just goes to show you that good things really can come to those who wait.

William Haggas was tempted to allow Sea Of Class take her chance in the Epsom Oaks six weeks ago, but he wasn’t entirely convinced by the project.  She was a late foal, the trainer reasoned, born on 23rd May, she had raced just twice by the time the Epsom Oaks rolled around.  She may have lacked the experience that is usually required for the rough and tumble of Epsom.  Then the rains fell on Epsom and he drew stumps: decision made.  He determined that he would adopt the patient approach, that he would aim his filly instead at the Darley Irish Oaks at The Curragh yesterday.

Sea Of Class gained some more experience in the interim.  The Sunderland Holding’s filly went back to Newbury, where she had won a listed race over 10 furlongs on her second run, and won another listed race over the same trip.  She was stepping up by two furlongs yesterday to a mile and a half, but Haggas had no doubts about the distance.  By Mrs Tsui’s brilliant Derby winner Sea The Stars and a half-sister to three Italian Oaks winners, she should get a mile and a half all right.  She might even improve for the extra distance.

She needed to improve anyway, because this was a strong Irish Oaks.  There may have only been seven fillies in the race, but the home team was formidable: the Epsom Oaks winner and Pretty Polly runner-up Forever Together, the Ribblesdale Stakes winner Magic Wand, the Epsom Oaks third and Blue Wind Stakes winner Bye Bye Baby, and all three trained by Aidan O’Brien.

James Doyle was patient too.  The rider sat last of the seven runners on Sea Of Class, content to allow all his rivals a head start.  He moved his filly towards the outside early in the home straight in order to guarantee her clear passage, and slowly he wound her up.

She picked up her rivals as her partner squeezed.  She moved into fifth place just inside the two-furlong pole as her rider asked her to improve, and she moved into third place as Doyle changed his hands and the furlong marker flashed past, but still the rider didn’t pick his stick up.

Second place 100 yards out as Donnacha O’Brien went for everything on the leader Forever Together, but still no whip from Doyle.  He just changed his hands as his filly continued to move forward, caught Forever Together five strides from the line and forged forward to win by a neck.

“Strange to say,” said the rider, “I always thought that we were going to get there.  I was always happy with my filly and I didn’t want to use my stick unless I had to.  William and the team have done a fantastic job with her, and I had a lot of confidence in her.  I’m delighted to ride a Classic winner for William and Maureen (Haggas).  I’m so pleased I can pay back the faith they have shown in me.”

The trainer had faith in his filly too.

“We were never that keen on going to Epsom,” he said, “and it’s brilliant to come here and win today.  She always showed speed, and we were looking at her pedigree thinking that she should get a mile and a half, so she must have class.  This was the number one priority.  We can make a plan now, and I think Mrs Tsui will keep her next year too.”

The Curragh is a happy hunting ground for James Doyle, who won the Tattersalls Gold Cup every year from 2013 to 2015 on Al Kazeem and Noble Mission, as well as the 2013 Moyglare Stud Stakes on Rizeena and the 2014 Irish 2000 Guineas on Kingman.  He enhanced his Curragh record yesterday with a treble, with two more Group race wins the forerunners to his first Irish Oaks.

The Mark Johnston-trained Marie’s Diamond kept on determinedly for Doyle’s urgings to land the Group 3 Jebel Ali Racecourse and Stables Anglesey Stakes, while the David O’Meara-trained Larchmont Lad made all the running under a well-judged Doyle ride to get the better of his stable companion So Beloved in the Group 2 Friarstown Stud Minstrel Stakes.

The Tote Scurry Handicap also went the way of the raiders, with Intisaab bringing up the first leg of a David O’Meara double when he came from the rear under Daniel Tudhope to get up and beat Ardhoomey by a half a length.

© The Sunday Times, 22nd July 2018