With more than half of the year's top-level contests still to be run, it would be over-dramatic to say that today's Irish Oaks is, for Aidan O'Brien, the last chance saloon. But the beleaguered master of Ballydoyle may feel that he has just ordered a latte in the penultimate chance coffee shop down the road.
The defeat of One Cool Cat in the International Stakes at the Curragh yesterday put a line through the colt's pretensions to redeeming the reputation lost in the 2,000 Guineas and re-emerging as a Group One contender. He feebly handed the baton to All Too Beautiful, second favourite for this afternoon's Co Kildare feature, the final middle-distance Classic of the season. In the parade ring One Cool Cat, last year's champion juvenile, looked as majestic as ever and went to post with elegance and purpose. All those qualities were missing on the return journey, even allowing for the fact that, held up at the back of the field by Jamie Spencer, he was caught slightly flat-footed as the leader, and ultimate winner, Red Feather quickened away off a slowish pace. One Cool Cat, who had famously been found to be suffering an irregular heartbeat after his Guineas flop, came in fifth, and a slightly reluctant-looking fifthat that.
O'Brien put a brave face on the situation, but whether the son of Storm Cat, who cost $3.1m (£1.7m) as a yearling, will be seen again in public or retired to Coolmore Stud on the strength of his juvenile exploits remains to be seen. He has been removed from the betting for what was to be his next venture, the Sussex Stakes at Goodwood.
"He probably ran well enough considering that it turned into a two-furlong sprint," said O'Brien. "It was not a true mile race and we cannot make any assumptions from it. As to future plans for him, we'll have to wait and see what happens."
All Too Beautiful has seven lengths to make up on her Oaks conqueror, Ouija Board, and, although she is expected to enjoy galloping round the Curragh better than up and down the Epsom switchback, there is no reason to think that the same should not apply to Ed Dunlop's charge in the 110th renewal of Ireland's premier distaffers' prize. Ouija Board will be bidding to become the 10th filly to win both Oaks, and will be the 19th to have tried.
The domestic action centred on the afternoon's richest contest, the Super Sprint at Newbury, a five-furlong dash confined to horses who cost 40,000 guineas or less at public auction. The idea of such races is to give the so-called ordinary owner a crack at a serious pot for a relatively small stake, although anyone who can afford to shell out even 12,000 guineas - as did the owners of yesterday's 11-2 winner, Siena Gold - cannot be considered ordinarily poor.
Siena Gold, a sleek brown daughter of Key Of Luck, had already won back her purchase price with two victories, one at Newmarket and one over yesterday's track, and emphasised her liking for the Berkshire turf as she made virtually every yard of the running under young Frankie McDonald to hold the 9-2 favourite, Don't Tell Mum, by three-quarters of a length and add £78,300 to her haul.
"She's as tough as old boots," said a delighted McDonald, 22, who was unable to claim his apprentice allowance because of the value of the race. "She just loves being out in front, getting her own way." On her previous run Siena Gold had finished eighth in the Queen Mary Stakes at Royal Ascot, a length, and two places, behind Don't Tell Mum.
"The ground was much too quick for her at Ascot," said her trainer, Brian Meehan, "and I knew she was better than that. Frankie gave her an enterprising ride. When he kicked more than two furlongs out I thought he had gone too soon, but she stuck her neck out well for him."
Success for Meehan, who also took fourth prize with Alpaga Le Jomage, thwarted a hat-trick in the race by his great friend and former guv'nor Richard Hannon, another of whose charges, Canton, finished fifth. The interloper among the two men's hegemony was the Bryan Smart-trained Bond City, who stayed on for third just behind the two principals.
John Dunlop sent out the winners of two of the afternoon's three Listed contests, a timely indication, given that his local Glorious Goodwood meeting is only nine days away, that the sickness problems that have beset his Arundel stable are on the wane. Muqbil was another to show his liking for Newbury by taking the Steventon Stakes, his third course victory, and Beneventa, who has been actingconsistently in better company (she took Soviet Song's scalp in April), was too good for her rivals in the Aphrodite Stakes at Newmarket.Reuse content