Passion over Love for O’Brien in Irish Oaks

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Aidan O'Brien

Passion can benefit from the absence of Love in the Irish Oaks at the Curragh on Saturday and give Aidan O’Brien his sixth win in the race. The winner of the Epsom version and the 1,000 Guineas will instead run in the Yorkshire Oaks, leaving the Irish race as an open contest that could produce a high-priced victor. Ennistymon has the form, but his stablemate Passion offers more value at +2000 odds with BetOnline.

The Irish Oaks is the second Classic of the season in Ireland for which only fillies are eligible. It is run over one mile and four furlongs. The race is the second leg of the Irish Fillies Triple Crown, which also comprises the 1,000 Guineas and St Leger. The latter is now an all-aged race where fillies and three-year-olds receive a weight allowance. Peaceful won the Irish 1,000 Guineas last month and is +350 for the Irish Oaks behind the favourite, Fancy Blue.

If Peaceful prevails, connections may be tempted to go for the Irish St Leger. In that race, their horse would carry 12 pounds less than the older boys. Three-year-old filly Search For A Song took advantage of the allowances to win the race last season. Kew Gardens, trained by O’Brien, was two-and-a-quarter lengths adrift in second place carrying the extra weight and so, in theory, was the best horse in the race. Classics are designed to identify champions, but Peaceful could beat better horses in the Irish St Leger because her weight will be almost a stone less than that carried by the older males.

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Peaceful finished third in the Prix de Diane (French Oaks) at Chantilly a week last Sunday. The horse was beaten a short neck by the runner-up, Alpine Star, and a quarter of a length by the winner, Fancy Blue, also trained by O’Brien. Peaceful produced a Racing Post Rating (RPR) of 109, while Fancy Blue ran to 110. The horse was short of room about two furlongs from the finish, and that could have been the difference between winning and running third. Alpine Star will not run at the Curragh on Saturday but could meet Love in the Yorkshire Oaks.

Ennistymon was second behind Love in the Epsom Oaks but nine lengths behind the winner. That run earned her a RPR of 108, so she is not far behind Fancy Blue and Peaceful strictly on ratings. Ennistymon finished one-and-three-quarter lengths behind Frankly Darling at Royal Ascot and that horse was well beaten in the Oaks, finishing nine-and-three-quarter lengths behind Love in third place. Ennistymon is an exposed horse, but there could be some improvement in Passion whose RPR has risen from 69 to 100 over six races and 11 months.

The respective ratings suggest Love would be a long odds-on favourite for the Irish Oaks. O’Brien has aimed her to other targets, but he still has a strong hand in this race. He trains four of the top five potential runners in the betting, the exception being Cayenne Pepper. That horse was fourth in the 1,000 Guineas and second behind Magical in a Group 1 fillies and mares race, receiving 12 pounds from the winner. That allowance raises some doubts about the value of the form, so Passion is the horse to back at odds that seem to underestimate her chances.

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