Words tipped to win the Darley Irish Oaks
It’s unusual for an Epsom Oaks winner to line up for this event without being a warm favourite, but that looks like being the case here with Qualify who sprung a shock at Epsom prior to taking on the colts in the Irish Derby.
It would be tempting to call Qualify’s Epsom success a fluke given she appeared her yard’s third string on the day, but she deserves credit for overhauling Legatissimo there, for all that owed at least a little to the stamina limitations of the runner-up.
It’s notable that Legatissimo has been scratched from this, with David Wachman relying on Curvy, and there is no question about the Ribblesdale winner getting home, making her a warm order to gain revenger for her trainer for that mugging on the Downs.
Before we move on from Qualify, we need to deal with her effort over this C&D in the colts’ classic, which represented a drop off from her Oaks performance, possibly as she wasn’t so well suited by the tactics against a strong bunch of colts, or possibly because she was racing for the fourth time within eight weeks of her seasonal reappearance, all of those runs in the highest company.
While it may be that she didn’t give her true running last time, she certainly has a bit to prove given her punishing schedule.
Curvy has obvious claims of completing a five-timer – on the day Qualify was running behind Pleascach in the Irish Guineas, she was beating Giovanni Canaletto in the Gallinule Stakes. Given she also took the scalp of Pleascach in the Ribblesdale, and Qualify finished behind Giovanni Canaletto in the Irish Derby, there is little doubt as to which of the pair the collateral form lines point to.
It’s certainly not a two-filly-race on paper, however, with Words stepping up as the main hope for Aidan O’Brien judged not only on jockey bookings, but on the way her victory in the Munster Oaks has worked out.
Runner-up in the Cork feature was Carla Bianca, who paid the winner a handsome compliment by landing the Group 3 Meld Stakes at Leopardstown on Friday. With Words having just those two runs in the book, there is every expectation of her producing further improvement, and she looks a live threat.
She’s certainly preferred in the pecking order to Jack Naylor, who looked to fail for stamina in the Oaks, and lacks the scope of some of her rivals.
Also worth bearing in mind are the British challengers, with Covert Love winning both turf starts, including a listed race at Newcastle, and Gretchen far from disgraced behind Curvy at Royal Ascot on just her second start.
Pick of the challengers from across the Irish Sea, however, may be Speedy Boarding, who impressed with the manner in which she won her maiden at Goodwood, and backed up that impression with a convincing win in the Ballymacoll Stud Stakes at Newbury.
There’s plenty more to come from James Fanshawe’s filly, although the extra two furlongs here is enough of a doubt for her to be passed over, albeit reluctantly.