Crafty Opello and Fireheight Una will get the 2014 National Meeting underway on Saturday morning and what a stake it promises to be. The field looks like one of the strongest of recent years and has a real headline first round buckle with the clash of Bank Perspective and Ballarue New sure to get the punters talking.
Trying to predict the Oaks is no simple task and if last year’s anything to go by I might struggle to go give half the last eight a mention!
While the third quarter has been getting the headlines and the big names the opening quarter is also of a fairly high standard. Somelittlething, Skellig Kiwi, Paramaddan Buzz, Windgap Breeze and Skellig Rose had all but been priced at 20-1 or shorter by the bookmakers prior to the draw, while there are one or two others that could spring a surprise.
Somelittlething was cut to 12-1 by Berkie after the draw and he gave her a relatively positive mention on Radio Kerry on Saturday. She set tongues wagging on the opening day in Mooncoin with some fancy clocks before losing out to Roll Over Magic in the final of the Puppy Stake. She’s one, especially given her breeding, that you’d have to give every chance.
I’d be surprised if she didn’t meet Skellig Kiwi in the third round, should everything run smoothly (that’s much easier said). Kiwi was an impressive winner of the Trial Stake in Newcastlewest having just lost out to Careful Betty in Killimer-Kilrush. She could have plenty to say here.
The bottom half of the quarter contains a excellent looking buckle between Paramaddan Buzz and Skellig Rose. Buzz saw her price cut after a fine performance in the Corn Cuchullain, reaching the semi-finals and that experience will certainly stand to her here. She’s been busy, winning 13 from 15 this season but meets a very interesting bitch in Skellig Rose. Rose’s performance in Cork taken in isolation was one of the most impressive of the season and should she get a little more luck (and longer slips) than full brother Skellig Wish in Powerstown then she could be a ‘dark horse’.
Windgap Breeze is another who has flown under the radar having been well regarded after winning her Trial Stake. That Trial Stake in Johnstown and Urlingford was a decent one but she meets a bitch in Magical Amber who might be under rated. She was ahead on the clock through almost every round in Thurles. I wouldn’t be in any rush to write her off.
The big names in the second quarter, Turbo Julie and Needham Pine will be fancied by many to come out of this quarter but it might be far from simple. Turbo Julie might be the outright favourite and well fancied by connections but she’s got a very tricky opener in Turning Pace, a battle hardened bitch who has raised 16 flags from 19 this season.
Fancy Baker Rae‘s another I’ve been banging the drum for, for a while. She won a good Trial Stake in Edenderry and could well be under-rated. [EDIT: And she’s now a non-runner] Ballynakill Lady, a litter sister of Turbo Julie, impressed in Sevenhouses and is well regarded.
In the bottom half Heart Light‘s one of interest. She has plenty of gears though I’d have some concerns about her ability to eye the hare. If she was to go well it wouldn’t be the first time a winner from Tubbercurry went to Clonmel and won through. Bower Lucy, a Reserve and a full Trial Stake winner is one who could go well. A litter sister of Kingsmill Rover, she’s one to take note of, but it might well be Needham Pine who is the one to look out for here. She caused a stir in Wexford at Christmas, is in experienced hands and as a daughter of Needham Time she’s got the pedigree for Powerstown.
I’m not entirely sure where to start here given the quality of this quarter. I’ll be here all night if I start analysing each bitch individually so I’m going to have to try and be brief.
I’d expect to see Fota Castle and Floating Cove meet in the second round but to be honest I’m not quite sure what to make of the former. She’s bred in the purple and showed well in Fermoy before winning her Trial Stake in Rathdowney. Her Fermoy form could see her in with a chance here. Floating Cove won a decent Trial Stake in North Kilkenny and in any other quarter she’d have a great chance of making the last 8. I’m not so sure here.
Call Her Dresden was the early season Oaks favourite and but for defeat in Old Kilcullen she might still be. After an admirable performance in the Corn na Feile she’s right back on the radar here. You’d fancy her to win her opening buckle. She could well meet Ballyverry Snowy, the Glanworth Trial Stake winner. The stake produced a handful of winners and Snowy was clocking consistently ahead of the rest of the field. She could be a dark horse.
Careful Betty, leads the betting in the bottom half of this quarter, one that’s packed with quality. She’s been well touted as a potential winner and one who impressed when winning her Trial Stake in Killimer-Kilrush. Horige Baby has been consistent all year and would be fancied to beat Anna Bolena but then the fun starts.
Ballarue New and Bank Perspective have put in almost foot perfect seasons to date and their buckle will be one to whet the appetite. Given Bank Perspective’s form I’d be tempted to side with her. Skellig Blues in the bottom buckle has a difficult opener but I’d fancy her to progress.
This quarter probably lacks the depth of the others but there are a couple of ladies who will have real claims on Oaks success. The top half of this quarter is fairly open, with 25-1 the smallest price available with Berkie for any of the 8. One that might be worth following is Sotogrande, a bitch of Ian Reilly’s who was cut with both Boyles and Brownes after victory in Cavan, one can only assume as a result of some support. She’s another with a tricky opener, the Loughrea winner Nidge Weasel having been safely stored away since her victory. Another to receive some support was Shadow Hunter, the winner of a decent Trial Stake in Rathkeale. She’ll not be without a chance.
Ocean Hannalora and Smart Sadie really stand out in the bottom half of this quarter and in the draw as a while. Ocean Hannalora is another reported to be with Ian Reilly and her form is fairly strong if not perfect. Smart Sadie changed hands (and names) after her Trial Stake win and is now in the kennels of last year’s winning trainer Barney Mooney. Sadie mightn’t get things all her own way, with Split Decision one that might appreciate the heavier going. Ocean has been well supported but her first round opponent, Atlantic Diva, has not been without her fans and she could well cause Ocean problems.
My ‘tips’ for the final four: