It was pretty much Group One business as usual at the Curragh, with an Irish Classic dominated by Aiden O’Brien. After Australia headed a clean sweep for Ballydoyle in last month’s Irish Derby, the Co Tipperary stable had to settle for just a first, second and fourth in the Irish Oaks, courtesy of 10-1 chance Bracelet, Tapestry and Beyond Brilliance. One of the British challengers, Volume, was the interloper in third.
There were only two necks between the first three in a race that started more than 20 minutes late because Volume had to be re-shod after turning up wearing a type of footwear forbidden in Ireland. The controversial delay in the build-up affected high-mettled Tapestry, the choice of her trainer’s son Joseph in the saddle, more than her calmer, victorious stablemate.
Bracelet, winner of the Ribblesdale Stakes at Royal Ascot last month, went past trailblazing Volume a furlong out and had enough in reserve to hold Tapestry, who had worked herself into a lather in the protracted preliminaries but finished strongly to take second in the final strides. It was a first Classic win for Colm O’Donoghue, who is re-establishing himself in Ireland after a spell riding abroad. “She came to the race on a good profile at the top of her form,” he said. “It was a hard pace all the way and she ground it out well.”
The daughter of Montjeu gave O’Brien Snr a fourth Irish Oaks. But the £9,000 fourth place will have given him as much pleasure as the £180,000 win; 80-1 shot Beyond Brilliance was ridden by his daughter Ana, the first woman to ride in the prestigious race. The 7-4 favourite Tarfasha, who had finished in front of Volume when second in the Epsom Oaks, faded to fifth in the straight.
For once, the day’s richest domestic purse rewarded the best talent as a younger filly put down a marker towards stardom. Though the Weatherbys Super Sprint is immensely valuable, it carries no Group kudos, being restricted to animals bought relatively cheaply at auction with a commensurate weights structure.
It has been won by some nonentities from the base of the handicap in the past but today’s edition, and the £122,925 first prize, went to the top weight and class act, Queen Mary Stakes runner-up Tiggy Wiggy. The daughter of Kodiac, a £41,000 yearling, led all the way and streaked in by six lengths, an extraordinary margin in a five-furlong dash.
It brought back memories of the brilliant Lyric Fantasy, who scored by the same distance in 1992 and was one of the few genuine superstars to emerge from the Newbury race, winner of the Nunthorpe Stakes at York on her next outing. She was also the first of now eight winners trained by the Richard Hannons père et fils and Tiggy Wiggy is likely to try to emulate her against her seniors on the Knavesmire next month.
One of last year’s proven top performers, Al Kazeem, also has a top-level target at York pencilled in. The triple Group One winner made a satisfactory fourth-placed comeback after proving sub-fertile in his first season as a stallion, travelling like the best horse in the 10-furlong listed contest until lack of match fitness told in the closing stages.
A star of any time, Tony McCoy, passed his latest milestone at Market Rasen as he rode his 4,192nd winner to beat the training career total of his now-retired former boss Martin Pipe. The name of his mount was entirely appropriate, on the weekend of the Open golf and considering the inevitability of the achievement: It’s A Gimme.