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The Darley Irish Oaks Preview

The lack of Taghrooda in this year’s running of the Darley Irish Oaks at the Curragh may take away from the race somewhat when you consider that she’s the class act of the 3-year-old fillies.


However, the benefit of her absence is that the race looks a lot more wide-open now and it’s a thoroughly interesting affair, with claims easily made for many of the 11 remaining contenders.


I’m going to take a runner-by-runner look at the field, with the intention of finding the winner! It’s being previewed under the assumption that the ground remains on the quick side of good.



Runners listed in racecard order:


Ballybacka Queen – decent sort, officially rated 100; plenty to find with the majority of these, hence why she’s one of the rags, but actually quite interesting on breeding when you consider that she hasn’t raced beyond a mile yet and is by Hurricane Run out of a Linamix mare. Ran a nothing race when only 10/1 in the Irish Guineas a couple of months back but possible that properly testing ground in such company wasn’t ideal over the mile and is almost nailed-on to improve for a step up in trip. Whether it’s a trip this far remains to be seen but might outrun her odds and finish in the top half of the field. As far as winning goes, however, she has next to no chance barring divine intervention.


Beyond Brilliance – exposed, but generally consistent; performing well in what has been a hectic season, winning two of her ten starts since returning in April. Most recent win, however, came in a handicap four starts ago off a mark of 85 (with jockey claiming 7lbs; can’t claim here) and biting off a lot more than she can chew at this level. No chance either.


Bracelet – beautifully bred and improving daughter of Montjeu; found the English 1,000 Guineas far too hot on second start of the season after encouraging success on seasonal reappearance but bounced back in fine style when landing the Group 2 Ribblesdale (1m 4f) at Royal Ascot, scoring by a half-length in a first-time hood on what was her debut start beyond a mile. That proved her staying prowess, something she was always likely to be capable of given her breeding, and it’s entirely possible that she has got even more to offer at the trip. My worry is whether the form of that win is worth much given some of those who finished close up behind and Joesph O’Brien looking elsewhere only heightens the doubts.


Lustrous – improving sort since faced with a quicker surface; won Listed race over a mile at York two starts back, but stepped up on that dramatically when half-length second to Bracelet in the Ribblesdale, that her first attempt over a middle distance. Has the scope to continue being a force over this trip and appeared to stay well there, but needs to find more to overturn form with that rival and even doing so may not be enough. Price about right and only claims I’d give her are directed towards a place.


Maid Of The Glens – last time out maiden winner, rated 79 afterwards; more likely to win a selling hurdle around Worcester than win this. Will stay the trip… very slowly.


Marvellous – lightly-raced and evidently talented sort; finished 4-lengths behind Bracelet in 7f Group 3 at Leopardstown, just her second career start, but improved a tonne to land the Irish 1,000 Guineas by 3-lengths back at a mile. That wasn’t much of a race and she picked up the pieces from a sit in rear, but it sees the daughter of Galileo arrive here as the highest-rated filly in the race and that entitles her to a lot of respect. Ran all right when tackling this trip in Epsom Oaks last time out, failing to handle the track and looking as if she was still feeling the effects of the Curragh run less than a couple of weeks previous. Could show up a hell of a lot better here with Ryan Moore back on board and blinkers entrusted for the first time, but doesn’t go without something to prove and quotes of 5/1 or so hardly mind-blowing as a result.


Palace – decent sort who may well have more improvement in her; 2-7 in her career for Aidan O’Brien to date, all of those runs coming this season. Seemed to shape as if she’ll be effective in the longer term over this type of trip when seventh behind Taghrooda in the Epsom Oaks and might be able to post better figures on this more conventional track. Dropped back to a mile and won a Listed race last time out, so is clearly in grand order at the moment, but has to find 10-14lb of improvement and hard to see where it comes from.


Tapestry – obvious talent but hard to weigh up; yet to fully fire in two runs following an extremely encouraging juvenile season where she won a Group 2 second time up and finished runner-up to Rizeena afterwards in the top-level Moyglare Stud Stakes. Began this season in the English Guineas and was smashed in the betting to go off as the 4/1 favourite before disappointing massively, finishing last of the 17 runners. Back on track last time out at Royal Ascot when sixth in the Coronation, beaten only a few lengths in a race that was run completely wrong for her (they crawled, then sprinted for a couple of furlongs, if even that; met other trouble in-running too). The question now is whether she’ll stay this 1m 4f trip as she hasn’t tackled anything beyond a mile and her pedigree is hit-and-miss. She’s by Galileo, but out of a quick mare (exceptional juvenile; only had one run at 3) who never got the chance to race past the mile and her breeding wouldn’t roar middle-distances, quite the opposite. The percentage call is to suggest that Tapestry is a doubtful stayer.


Tarfasha – classy, improving type who will stay longer than the mother-in-law; only disappointed once in her five-race career to date (sole run at this track but over trip too short versus more forward types) and improved as expected when upped in trip as a 3-year-old, winning Naas Group 3 against older horses in easy fashion before going on to contest Epsom Oaks last time out. Finished second to Taghrooda on that occasion and confirmed herself to be capable of landing a big one before the season’s out. This looks like an exceptional opportunity with ground to suit perfectly and another big positive in my book is the more conventional track, as Epsom may have caught her out somewhat. She’s liable to having more in the locker as well, so could improve on that last run figures-wise and is the one they’ve all got to beat, mainly thanks to a lack of chinks in her armour.


Volume – prominent racer who has been progressive and much improved this year; was well-backed in the Oaks at Epsom last time out and ran a cracker under Richard Hughes, finishing third to run nearly a stone above her previous ability according to the handicapper. Finished just a nose behind Tarfasha there, so you could easily make value claims with her given that she’s twice the price of that rival. However, she did have the run of the race there and I don’t see any obvious reason why the form should be turned around, with this track more favourable for the runner-up in my book. Could have more to offer and is an uncomplicated sort, but needs to find a bit more to do better than another place.


Vote Often – lightly-raced sort with a good attitude already; Group 3 winner on seasonal return over a mile around here and ran to similar level when third in the 1,000 Guineas behind Marvellous, clearly finding it all happening too quick but staying on well enough to grab a creditable place. Has over 7-lengths to turnaround with the winner, however, and hopes pinned on this dramatic step up in trip being the answer. It could well be given her breeding and run-style, but not the classiest and could do with rain given past exploits on a testing surface. Likable but surely not up to the task unless numerous others disappoint in grand style. Possible a couple might to increase place claims, but unlikely enough to win.




A thoroughly interesting affair. Aidian O’Brien, oddly enough, has failed to win any of the last five renewals and chucks plenty of darts at the board with no less than five of his inmates all set to line up. Of those, the most respected is Marvellous given her Guineas exploits and sound run in the Epsom Oaks, which came too soon. The ground could be an issue, however, and first-time blinkers could yield a number of responses, so there’s enough in place to put me off. Bracelet and Lustrous will have to step up on their Ribblesdale form is they’re to be winning, whilst Tapestry must be a doubtful stayer, for all that it’s interesting to see Joesph O’Brien presumably pick her as his first choice of the Ballydoyle contenders. TARFASHA (5/2), my ante-post fancy for the Epsom Oaks, will get an unoriginal nod of approval and really should be the one to beat. There are no issues with her when it comes to staying prowess, her form with Taghrooda obviously stacks up well in the context of this and this track may be a lot more favourable than Epsom. With no overnight rain, the ground has come right for her as well and there should be no excuses. She’s a talent with more than enough about her to land this race and I think she’ll do exactly that.


Result Update:

If I got that any more wrong, I’d have been right.


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