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Dublin: 2 °C Thursday 14 December, 2017
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Mark Your Card: Irish Oaks day at the Curragh

This afternoon’s Irish Classic is wide open, but we think we might have found a little bit of value.

Image: Julien Behal/PA Wire/Press Association Images

THE HIGHLIGHT OF the weekend’s racing comes at the Curragh today where nine go to post for the Darley Irish Oaks (15:45).

The star attraction is William Haggas’ Dancing Rain, three-quarter length winner of the Investec Oaks at Epsom last month. The three-year-old filly snuck in under the radar that day, with Jonny Murtagh giving her an excellent front-running ride to win at odds of 20/1.

The rain has held off at the Co. Kildare track this week and the good-to-firm going will certainly suit. But Dancing Rain’s rivals will be watching her every move closely this afternoon and are unlikely to let her dictate the pace as she did at Epsom.

One filly who is fancied to reverse the Oaks form is Aidan O’Brien’s Wonder of Wonders. She was sent off the 3/1 second favourite that day but just couldn’t find that extra yard of pace as she chased down Dancing Rain.

All of the ante-post money seems to have been for the Coolmore horse, winner of the Cheshire Oaks over a furlong less earlier in the season, and she  will be partnered by Ryan Moore for today’s test.

Available at prices as long as 4/1 in places, 1000 Guineas winner Blue Bunting is worthy of respect. However, her credentials over 1m4f are yet to be proven, particularly after a disappointing showing to finish fourth in the Oaks.

Her three wins this season have all been over a mile, but Godolphin trainer Mahmood Al Zarooni is adamant that she has the class and the stamina to last the trip.

She is likely to get the fast pace which she needs today though, and connections will surely be massively disappointed with a finish outside the places.

The market would suggest that these are the three to beat, but Jim Bolger’s Banimpire is an interesting one to take note of. This daughter of Holy Roman Emperor has certainly progressed since finishing fifth in the Irish 1000 Guineas earlier in the season and, on her most recent outing at Ascot, got up to win the Group 2 Ribblesdale Stakes by a short head.

She will have to reverse placings with Jessica Harrington’s Laughing Lashes, a filly who finished in the places in both the Moyglare and the Irish 1000 this year. Despite a horrendous run in the Epsom Oaks, she clearly has Group 1 pedigree and, though she hasn’t shown the improvement which might have been hoped for after her win over Misty for Me in the Keeneland, she has the potential to outrun her odds.

Elsewhere on the card, it will be worth keeping an eye on the performances of Fire Lily in the Anglesey Stakes (14:40). She caught the eye in the Group 2 Queen Mary Stakes at Ascot, where she looked to still have plenty left in the tank when finishing fourth. An extra furlong is likely to suit. Frankie Dettori’s Fulbright won the Woodcote at Epsom last month and should go close.

Finally, preparations for the Galway Festival continue in Tipperary this afternoon where a host of familiar names go in the two-mile Grimes Hurdle (15:35). Captain Cee Bee, Muirhead, Jack Cool and Jumbo Rio lead the market in this cracking contest which is sure to whet the appetite for the festival out West.

Each-way

No nap today, but Laughing Lashes has every chance of running into the places at generous odds of 12/1 in the Oaks. Jessica Harrington was understandably delighted with her performance in the Irish 1000 Guineas and said earlier this week that the horse was in great form. Worth a nibble.

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