Racing / Irish Oaks: Son and Hair can take family affair: Hills' Wind may blow backers some good as the Epsom runner-up aims to go one better in The Curragh's generation game

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The Independent Online
THE IRISH St Leger, which has been open to older horses for several years, will not be the only Classic on The Curragh this year which offers a contest of the generations. The runners in today's Irish Oaks are all three-year-olds, but if Bolas and Wind In Her Hair pass the furlong pole neck and neck, loyalties in the Hills family will be slightly strained.

Bolas, the likely favourite, is prepared by Barry Hills, while Wind In Her Hair runs from the yard of his son, John, and will be ridden by another son, Michael. If a fair number of their relatives make the trip, the Irish Tote may notice an unusually high demand for dual forecasts, which will have every chance of success if the bookmakers are correct. Wind In Her Hair is the second favourite at around 5-1, and beat several of the other leading fancies - Hawajiss, Bulaxie and Bonash - when finishing second to Balanchine in the Oaks at Epsom.

Bolas, not thought worthy of an entry in that Classic after racing just once at two, went instead to the Ribblesdale Stakes at Royal Ascot, where she led throughout to beat a disappointing field by an easy five lengths. Simple wins against substandard opponents are always difficult to assess, but with just three runs behind her, Bolas should still be improving. She still has a great deal to prove, though, and would barely be value at twice her current odds of 3-1.

On Epsom form, there is no reason to believe that either Bulaxie, the disappointing favourite that day, or Bonash can reverse placings with Wind In Her Hair (though both are surprisingly short prices to do so). Hawajiss, however, should be suited by the less demanding track at The Curragh, as her stamina seemed to desert her at a vital moment at Epsom.

With the exception of Bonash, all these fillies are British-trained (as were eight of the last nine Irish Oaks winners), and it will be of no comfort to Irish racegoers that the only other country with a serious chance of success is France. Andre Fabre, who broke the British run of success with Wemyss Bight last year, saddles Her Ladyship and Trefoil in addition to Bonash. Both Her Ladyship and Trefoil merit serious respect, the former for her close second in the Prix de Diane (French Oaks), the latter simply because Michael Kinane will hold her reins. But after Balanchine's success in the Irish Derby, the Epsom Oaks is surely the most reliable form, and Wind In Her Hair can beat Hawajiss, with the latter an obvious each-way bet at 8-1.

The top card in Britain today is at York, where the Magnet Cup will be the main attraction. It is a day which tends to provoke a rash of tetchy letters to the trade press, complaining about the 'over-exuberant' behaviour of racegoers. Quite why the Knavesmire crowd chooses this day above all to push the boat out is a mystery (the brewers who sponsor the feature race no longer offer cut-price beer), but anyone who objects to meeting the real world face-to-face has been warned.

Whether the festivities continue until Sunday night may depend on whether Luca Cumani's Midnight Legend can take the main event. His emphatic success in the King George V Handicap at Royal Ascot held the promise of better to come, but whether today's shorter trip and slower ground will allow him to fulfil it must be doubtful.

A more backable proposition is Mr Confusion, a previous winner of this race whose only start this season saw him finish a commendable sixth to Wainwright in the fiercely competitive Zetland Gold Cup. Going and trip are ideal, and though that run was in late May, Sally Hall, an under-rated trainer, should have him fit and ready.