Following the July Festival at Newmarket, the focus shifts across the pond. We start with the return of Snowfall, the dominant winner of the Cazoo Oaks at Epsom. She returns in the Irish Oaks, looking to take the Oaks double and prove that her 16 length victory was no fluke. In the sprinting division, we have two nice fields lined up on either side of the Irish Sea, with the GII Sapphire Stakes on the Irish Oaks undercard, as well as the GIII Hackwood at Newbury.
We come back on Sunday with a slew of Group 2s including the Minstrel and Kilboy Estate for three and up from headquarters in Ireland, The Curragh. We also make a trip back to France and Chantilly for the GII Prix Robert Papin, a prep for the GI Prix Morny next month, a race won last season by Wesley Ward’s Campanelle.
On top of the great overseas action this weekend, the Diana at Saratoga is represented by the Charlie Appleby pair of Summer Romance and Althiqa, the 1-2 finishers of the GI Just A Game on Belmont day. A strong field has come together for Saratoga’s first group one of the season, however I will not be surprised to see them repeat that same order of finish, potentially with Summer Romance on top.
The Curragh – Saturday
Race 5 – GI Irish Oaks – 1 1/2 Miles, 3 YO Fillies
8 – Snowfall – After her 16 length romp in the Cazoo Oaks at Epsom, Snowfall will be an extremely short price on the day. However, I don’t particularly see any horses capable of turning the tables on this favorite. The daughter of Deep Impact has won both starts this year and won’t have to improve much to capture her 3rd group win of the season.
6 – Party House – Unraced as a two year old, the Ger Lyons trainee closed from last and stumbled badly on the turn in the Naas Oaks Trial. Despite that stumble, the horse stayed on okay and ended up 6th to Willow. First time up for this horse at The Curragh and both prior performance and pedigree suggest the distance will be ideal.
3 – Divinely – A full-sister to Best In The World, the dam of favorite Snowfall, the family connection ran first and third in the Oaks and has a decent chance to compete the exacta here. Has had several consistent placings this season and won the Flame of Tara Stakes as a two year old over a mile at The Curragh. Has top level performances that are better than the rest in this field.
Race 4 – GII Sapphire Stakes – 5 Furlongs, 3 & Up
7 – Measure Of Magic – The disparity in odds between Logo Hunter and Measure of Magic is substantial and it shouldn’t be. Johnny Murtagh jumped this filly up into group one company in the Commonwealth Cup at Ascot and was no match for either Campanelle or Dragon Symbol, but did defeat last week’s GI Prix Jean Prat winner Laws of Indices. If Logo Hunter is as heavy a favorite as she is in the market right now(5/4 over 9/2 with Ladbrokes), then Measure of Magic may be the best play of the day.
1 – Gustavus Weston – Captured a very competitive contest at The Curragh LTO in the GII Greenlands Stakes. Shortens up to 5 furlongs which is not his preferred distance, but his form has been fantastic as of late. Has raced throughout his career against multiple stakes winners such as Make A Challenge & Speak In Colours and was always competitive, but now boasts some of the best form of the lower level group sprinters in Ireland.
7 – Logo Hunter – The favorite in this field has put together two sharp back to back efforts in listed company. Won last time out with Billy Lee aboard but gets back to regular rider Seamie Heffernan today. Cannot argue how consistent the horse has been recently, but this jump into group company is his first and although it is the correct step for this horse, I am not sold he is worth the price. Measure of Magic could be the better horse and the value is with her, I am willing to take my chances against this one winning the race.
Newbury – Saturday
Race 4 – GIII Hackwood Stakes – 6 Furlongs, 3 & Up
3 – Tabdeed – First time up this season came over the All-Weather at Newcastle and Tabdeed stayed on well from the back. A winner of this race last season, Tabdeed tried the jump up to the GI Sprint Cup, got caught up in the ground and bottomed out to finish last of 13. Better ground in the forecast this Saturday and starts on the grass for the first time this season, should be primed for a nice effort.
5 – Diligent Harry – He has proven his ability throughout his three year old season, however he has not proven anything on the grass. A winner of an All-Weather Championship in April at Lingfield, he had a long layoff until a very game performance at Newcastle in the GIII Chipchase. Same distance today but different ground. Has never been out of the money in 5 starts and funny enough during his sire Due Diligence’s very good three year old season, his worst performance came in a third place finish over the All-Weather at Dundalk. I am expecting this horse to take to the grass and put in a solid performance second off the layoff.
6 – Method – Dwelt at the start of the GI July Cup and was never in contention in the 19 horse field. Both efforts in 2021 have been subpar but showed talent as a two year old and won the Rose Bowl Stakes over course and distance. He needs to find that form again but will be at the right venue and right level to do so.
The Curragh – Sunday
Race 2 – GII Minstrel Stakes – 7 Furlongs, 3 & Up
7 – Power Under Me – With all three starts coming over soft ground at Naas, that seems to be the only question I have with this horse. The progeny of Mehmas this season have handled good to firm ground extremely well and thrive at six and seven furlongs. Ran a huge 3rd(placed 2nd) in a Lacken Stakes with good form coming out of that race, including Laws Of Indices who won the GI Prix Jean Prat at Deauville. Expect the horse to step up in his first start over the new ground condition.
5 – Ace Aussie – A Winner over course and distance to break the maiden last year. The breeding suggests longer is better but has good efforts over this distance prior. Main thing that jumps out with this runner is that jockey Shane Foley, the regular rider for trainer Jessica Harrington chooses to ride Ace Aussie over Njord. They both look to be live chances and Foley being the contracted stable rider for Harrington took Ace Aussie.
1 – Order Of Australia – Drops in class and will be 2nd up this preparation. I was against Order of Australia in the GI Queen Anne and I feel the same way about his chance to win this race. The drop in class makes him a place chance, but not a deserving favorite at 9/5 on the morning line. There are a lot of excuses that can be made for his lackluster efforts in Hong Kong and at Royal Ascot, but there won’t be in this start and I am more than willing to play against him.
Race 5 – GII Kilboy Estate Stakes – 1 1/8 Miles, 3 & Up
3 – Insinuendo – On class she is much the best, finishing a strong 4th in the GI Pretty Polly Stakes and winning the GIII Blue Wind Stakes at Naas. The Blue Wind has been one of the more influential races over the past few years, producing the Irish Oaks runner up in One Voice, as well as 2019 winner and Breeders’ Cup Turf champion, Tarnawa. William McCreery gets regular rider Billy Lee back aboard after he rode multiple stakes winner, Epona Plays for McCreery in the group one last time.
5 – Create Belief – Statement win for this horse in the Sandringham Handicap at Royal Ascot, romping up the standside rail in a field of 21 runners. Back to back wins for trainer Johnny Murtagh and the up and coming jockey Ben Martin Coen. Will be a bit short in the market based on her only start in stakes company being a disappointing effort at listed level at Naas. This may be a step up into group two company, but there are very few challengers in this field that should be at that level.
1 – Angel Power – Looks to continue her roll from 2020 after ending the season with three consecutive wins, including the GIII Pride Stakes at Newmarket. Shortens up from a mile and a quarter to this mile and an eighth for the first time. This race should suit her extremely well and on recent form alone she’s probably the best in the field. My concern is less about it being first up and more about the ground being a bit too firm for her on the day.
Chantilly – Sunday
GII Prix Robert Papin – 6 Furlongs, 2 YOs
5 – Atomic Force – Trainer Kevin Ryan has had a great amount of success shipping sprinters over to France. Look at Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint winner, Glass Slippers, who won and placed 2nd in the GI Prix d’l Abbaye de Longchamp. He did the same thing with this two year old and it paid off winning the GIII Prix du Bois LTO over course and distance. A winner of back to back starts and looks a serious contender for the GI Prix Morny in a month’s time.
8 – Diablotine – Broke the maiden over 5 furlongs at Chantilly back in April. Was impressive on debut and came back strong to win in listed company at Vichy. Should get some moisture in the ground but not as much as in recent starts. Still don’t think we have seen the best of this daughter of Kodi Bear.
3 – Tipperary Sunset – The speed in the race and could be good enough to make all in the running. Although the wins have been comfortable on the line, he has had to show some resilience in mid-stretch and did just that. The ground condition will be similar to his maiden breaking score at Hamilton and the breeding is ideal for this spot.