Dettori set to bring ‘Frankie factor’ to Curragh Oaks

Aidan O’Brien seeks to equal Stoute’s Irish Oaks record with Rain Goddess and Alluringly

Freed from classic crowd restrictions controversy, Curragh officials are banking on Frankie Dettori’s famous “Frankie factor” to light up Saturday evening’s Darley Irish Oaks.

The 6,000 attendance limit which dominated the run-in to the Derby at the start of this month won’t be an issue for this latest €400,000 classic due off at 5.55.

All eyes will nevertheless be on Dettori who rides the odds-on favourite Enable as she attempts to become the 14th filly to complete the Epsom-Curragh Oaks double.

And if the Italian superstar's first HQ appearance of the year isn't enough in the "crowd-pleaser" stakes, Olivier Peslier – once labelled the "French Frankie" for his own exuberant winning celebrations – is on Enable's Royal Ascot winning stable companion, Coronet.


The pair look to give top English trainer John Gosden an ultra-strong hand in this latest episode of his 2017 classic rivalry with Aidan O'Brien.

Forced to give best to the Irishman in both the Epsom and Curragh Derbies, Gosden appears to have a real Oaks ace in Enable who hammered O’Brien’s Rhododendron to the tune of five lengths at Epsom.

Ireland’s champion trainer relies this time on the pair of Rain Goddess and Alluringly as he seeks to equal Sir Michael Stoute’s Irish Oaks record of six wins.

However, Ballydoyle’s principal Saturday focus is on Newmarket’s July Cup and Caravaggio’s latest Group One step towards sprinting superstardom.

Ryan Moore is on duty at Newmarket and with no dramatic dash across the Irish Sea on the cards, Seamus Heffernan is set to try and land the Oaks for a second year running when he teams up with Rain Goddess.

Catching the eye

Irish racing's other traditional powerhouse stables are represented too and John Oxx will have two runners with Declan McDonogh's presence on the lower-rated of the pair, Bengala, catching the eye as she dons a first-time hood.

But after a wide-open Derby, the Oaks looks more likely to echo May’s Guineas when both Churchill and Winter completed odds-on English-Irish classic doubles.

Watering is continuing at the Curragh so this will be the fastest going Enable has encountered since finishing third to her stable companion Shutter Speed at Newbury in April.

That form in itself would make her a player but she has looked a transformed proposition since upped to a mile and a half and Gosden has indicated he reckons there’s even better to come.

He has won the Irish Oaks before with Great Heavens (2012) while Dettori has won it three times. The memorable scenes from Vintage Tipple's 2003 success for Paddy Mullins are unlikely to be replicated this time but it's hard to knock Enable's credentials in terms of a classic show.

The Coolmore boss John Magnier didn't hide long-term ambitions held for Caravaggio in the breeding shed after the Scat Daddy colt landed the Commonwealth Cup at Royal Ascot.

The unbeaten grey has already achieved more than enough to guarantee his future career at stud but his credentials will be even more luminous should he beat older horses for the first time in the July Cup.

This is widely regarded as Europe’s most prestigious sprint prize and last year’s winner Limato, as well as The Tin Man, represent a top-class challenge to Caravaggio. His Royal Ascot rival Harry Angel also has less than a length to make up.

However, expectations are that Caravaggio will strip even sharper for Ascot where he also had his stable companion Intelligence Cross in the race.

O’Brien and Moore look to hold a leading chance in the preceding Group Two Superlative Stakes too where Gustav Klimt can further enhance his 2018 classic claims after an impressive maiden victory.

Good opportunity

Heffernan is on Actress in the Anglesey Stakes at the Curragh less than an hour later but this looks a good opportunity for the Coventry Stakes fourth Brother Bear. His trainer Jessica Harrington won the Group Three in 2015 with Final Frontier.

The English raider Marsha has plenty in hand on ratings for the Sapphire Stakes on the same card but there may be value with last season’s Flying Five winner Ardhoomey on his home ground.

Ryan Moore is on Curragh duty on Sunday where he rides Spirit Of Valor for the first time in a notably deep looking Minstrel Stakes.

Spirit Of Valor belied 66-1 odds when finding only Le Brivido too good in the Jersey Stakes and had Mubtasim behind him in third. The latter re-opposes and sports first-time cheek-pieces after not helping his Ascot chances with a slow start. Seven furlongs on fast ground look Spirit Of Valor’s prime  conditions though.

Racing returns to Sligo with an all-jumps card on Sunday that sees the wide-margin Tipperary winner Tay Lane make a first start for Willie Mullins in the mares novice hurdle.

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor is the racing correspondent of The Irish Times. He also writes the Tipping Point column