Aidan O'Brien has yet to hit the classic bullseye in Ireland this year but is set to try and fix that with a record-equalling sixth Darley Irish Oaks success at the Curragh on Saturday.
The Ribblesdale Stakes winner Magic Wand is currently a general 5-2 favourite for the €400,000 highlight and could be backed up from Ballydoyle by no less than the Epsom Oaks heroine Forever Together.
With one of last year’s leading juveniles, September, also in the mix to make her return to action, it leaves O’Brien with a particularly strong hand for the latest Curragh classic of 2018.
“At the moment we’re looking at Magic Wand, Forever Together, Bye Bye Baby and either Magical or September could start off in the race as well. What winds up running will probably come from that bunch,” O’Brien said on Monday.
The Oaks picture will become more clear after Tuesday’s forfeit stage. But with the connections of both Lah Ti Dar and Sun Maiden indicating they will skip the Curragh, and Laurens likely to wait for York, the main threat to Ballydoyle looks set to be the William Haggas-trained Sea of Class.
The last of O’Brien’s five previous Irish Oaks winners was Seventh Heaven in 2016 when she proved to be his sole domestic classic winner of that year. The last time he endured a classic blank in Ireland was way back in 2005.
Victory for any of his team on Saturday will see O’Brien equal Sir Michael Stoute’s record of six Irish Oaks wins.
O’Brien gave a clean bill of health to both his weekend Group One winners, Kew Gardens and US Navy Flag, with the latter now on a break before being targeted at the $13 million Everest Sprint in Sydney on October 13th.
O’Brien said of his latest July Cup hero: “He had a tough early part of the season so he is on a little break. The lads have a slot in the Everest so the plan is to go there. We have to decide if he will have a prep run, and if he will have it either here or there. We’ve not had a runner in Sydney before so it might be a little different to Melbourne. We’ll see.”
The ground at the Curragh is currently good to firm and firm in places on the round track with watering taking place and a mainly dry forecast over the coming days.
Watering will also take place at Leopardstown ahead of Thursday evening’s fixture which features the Group Three Icon Meld Stakes. Hazapour, fifth in last month’s Epsom Derby, is among 22 entries still left in the race after the latest forfeit stage.
In other news, Frankie Dettori is odds on to have a 10 day ban for careless riding sustained at Newmarket last week reduced on appeal.
The Italian jockey was left “devastated” when suspended after Angel’s Hideaway finished runner-up in the Duchess of Cambridge Stakes at Newmarket. The suspension rules him out of the King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes and the whole of the Goodwood festival.
Paddy Power rates Dettori’s chances of overturning the appeal entirely at 100-1 but reckon it is 4-9 he can have the ban reduced. Dettori’s Goodwood rides are set to include Without Parole in the Sussex Stakes.
Barry Geraghty goes to Killarney on Tuesday evening for two rides who both look to hold winning chances.
Last year's winner, Ballyoisin, again tries to land the featured €50,000 handicap chase and although he probably relishes a longer trip his jumping ability on quick ground should still make him hard to beat. Geraghty's other ride is Fintara, who can land a third career success.
Donnacha O’Brien is likely to be on board the favourite in three of the four flat races.
Cardini has proved expensive to follow up to now but gets a valuable 3lb from a trio of winners in the opener while Arthurian Fame carries the China Horse Club colours in the conditions event.
O'Brien may be out of luck in the three-year-old maiden, though, where first time blinkers, and a drop back to a mile, can help Fridtjof Nansen continue John Oxx's recent good run.