The Horse and Jockey Hotel Oaks promises to be as hotly contested as ever. With Sullane Erin and Crafty Luciano set to get proceedings underway on Friday morning this years competition promises to be intriguing from opening round to final round.
The first quarter looks fairly open with the shortest priced lady 14-1 with the top and bottom bitches Sullane Erin and Isnt She Lovely sharing the favourite tag here. Sullane Erin has done absolutely nothing wrong in two appearances. On her first show in Glin she was withdrawn when favourite in the third round before proving an impressive winner of the Ballyduff Trial Stake a month later. She’ll have a tricky opener with Crafty Luciano while Amelies Milly in particular could have a case made for her. The Clonmel Trial Stake winner showed up well in Fermoy on debut. She offers a litter value at 33-1.
Mad Moment‘s form was franked by Skellig Sky in Tubbercurry and she’ll be fancied in her opening round while Newinn Rose and Pumpkin Kia won Trial Stakes late in the season and come here in form. The worry about the pair of them is that the work put in on heavy fields late in the season could count against them.
Oakview Banba was well fancied after her win in Loughrea but disappointed in Roscommon at Christmas. She’ll need an improved showing against Newcastlewest winner Tory Ellie. Isnt She Lovely has seen some support in recent days, the Millltown Malbay Trial Stake winners form ties in well with Skellig Jewel. Kilcastle Five is certainly one to consider impressing on her two showings. She has to contend with litter sister Chevalto in the opening round.
The second quarter is certainly a red hot one with three off the market principals all found in the bottom of it. The first round meeting of Skellig Jewel and Manley Girl, probably my two main fancies before the draw is probably the most eagerly awaited buckle of the first day of the meeting. Not to be overlooked in any form or fashion is the current ante-post jolly, the John Flynn trained Graceandglamour.
Manley Girl has been near the head of the Oaks market from the second weekend of the season having blown apart the field at the Ennis-Clarecastle meeting. Skellig on the otherhand took two meetings to book her ticket running up the Trial Stake in Milltown Malbay before clocking consistently ahead of anything in the field in Ardpatrick. She’s seen support in recent days suggesting confidence is high amongst connections.
Graceandglamour, from the excellent Razor Ashmore and Quality and Dash litter, continued the excellent record of the Flynn family in Glin, as she claimed her Oaks ticket. She further underlined her credentials in Rathkeale winning the All Age Bitch Stake in good style. Should she get over her opening course she’ll meet Melting Pot, who was impressive in Abbeyfeale or Killucan Rose. Melting Pot caused a good impression in Abbeydorney and reached the final of the Corn na Feile where she was drawn after a hard semi-final. Killucan Rose can’t be written off however, having beaten Trial Stake winners Dale Sansa and Coshair Orla enroute to Trial Stake success and her only defeat came to Derby favourite Blueview Rio in the Troy Electrical Puppy final.
In the top half of the draw, there are a number of interesting runners, with Hey Ma, Coshair Orla and Corbraighe Holly among those who could run well. I’ll give a special mention to Madonna, a bitch who is bred for Powerstown Park and who should on breeding at least relish the heavy conditions. From a repeat mating of Kyle James and Eastwell Blonde, a pairing that produced Miss Fury and Broadwell Blonde both of whom who impressed at Powerstown a couple of years ago. She’s one to keep an eye on at 25-1.
The third quarter looks almost as competitive with a number of well matched buckles spead through the quarter. Laurdella Dani has been near the top of the mark since winning her Trial Stake in New Ross. She’s bred for the hill, out of Jamaica Jane, a sister of Central City and she’s in good hands with Gerry Holian. She has a banana skin first round against Skellig Doll, a bitch who comes here fresh from her victory in Clonakilty. She’s pulled out some excellent clocks especially early in Trial Stakes and if she produces one here she might cause a shock. Kilty Sadie is a potential second round opponent and she’s not without some decent form this season winning 11 of her 13 courses.
Heart Strings caused a bit of a stir in Castletowngeoghegan when she won the All Age Bitch Stake. The heavier the ground the better for this lady and she looks like she’s going to get her ground. There’s little to pick between Smokey Zara and Skellig Sky on paper, but it does throw up a nice storyline, their mothers having met here in the 2014 Champion Bitch Stake. Smokey can recover some family pride as she comes in here the fresher.
In the top half there are a few interesting ones, not least the white collar in the top buckle, Moat Matilda purchased by Noreen McManus and friends after her Trial Stake win and sent to the Holian kennels. She’ll be fancied against Northland Jenny. Dale Sansa, looked a decent lady on her three outings this season, running well in Castletowngeoghegan in the All Age Bitch Stake before being withdrawn. Delightful Babe however might be the most interesting of the bunch. Both parents have won in Powerstown Park, and she got the better of Moat Matilda on the way to winning her Trial Stake. She might be the one to reach the last 8 from the top half of the quarter.
Banba Be Lucky is the standout bitch in the bottom quarter after her outstanding performance in the Abbeyfeale Oaks Trial Stake. She was kept busy with four outings this year although first round slip ups in North Kilkenny and Limerick City might point to a little vulnerability. She’ll be well fancied against outsider Choctaw Squaw, although the northern runner will love the longer stretch if her performances so far this season are anything to go by. Donegal Tina is a potential second round opponent and she impressed in Dungarvan before winning her Trial Stake. It could well be a fantastic second round clash.
The one that really interests me and who has slipped under the radar is Old Kilcullen winner Fingal Sansa. Her mother took to Powerstown Park reaching a semi-final and she looks an interesting bet at 20-1. She’ll have to beat probably Vim and Vigour or Accessibility if she wants to progress to the third round, two bitches who are certainly in with live chances. Others to keep an eye on in this quarter include Glenlough Dixie who reached the All Age final in North Kilkenny and Carozza who only ran once this season and might be open to improvement.
This comes with the usual health warnings. There were a few very tight buckles that might be too close to call.