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Juddmonte Irish Oaks

Star Catcher and Frankie Dettori celebrate winning the Kerry Gold Irish Oaks (Group 1) The Curragh. Photo: Patrick McCann/Racing Post 20.07.2019

The countdown to the fourth Irish Classic of the season is on and it’s a tantalising battle in store at this weekend’s Juddmonte Irish Oaks, writes Will Jennings.

The eight-strong field for the 1m4f fillies joust has now been confirmed, with a star-studded array of runners and riders going to post at the Curragh at 7:15pm on Saturday.

Jessica Harrington’s Cayenne Pepper goes in as a red-hot favourite hoping to deliver a spicy performance, while the familiar Ballydoyle charge is spearheaded by Epsom Oaks second Ennistymon.

Irish 2000 Guineas-winning trainer Ger Lyons also enters a pair of runners in Even So and Yaxeni, while Aidan O’Brien is also represented by Laburnum, Passion and Snow.

Joseph O’Brien’s New York Girl completes the field – and here’s our runner-by-runner guide ahead of what promises to be a thrilling battle in County Kildare.

Cayenne Pepper (jockey: Shane Foley, trainer: Jessica Harrington)

The favourite and deservedly so – for more reasons than one.

Harrington’s three-year-old has shown considerable signs of promise in her five trips so far, winning her first three at Leopardstown, Tipperary and the Curragh before coming second in the Group 1 Pretty Polly Stakes last month.

And with Ireland’s leading Flat jockey Shane Foley on board, don’t bet against Cayenne Pepper cooking up a real treat come Saturday evening.

Ennistymon (jockey: Wayne Lordan, trainer: Aidan O’Brien)

The evergreen O’Brien is bidding to equal Sir Michael Stoute’s record six wins in the Irish Classic, having triumphed with Alexandrova, Peeping Fawn, Moonstone, Bracelet and Seventh Heaven since 2006.

And with Oaks second – behind brilliant stablemate Love – Ennistymon he has every chance, who has raced three times this season and never finished outside the top two. 

Snow (jockey: Michael Hussey, trainer: Aidan O’Brien)

Another in-form Ballydoyle horse O’Brien will be hoping fires, Snow triumphed at Cork at the beginning of the month in the Group Three Munster Oaks.

Michael Hussey, not Wayne Lordan, takes the ride this time but given her liking for a mile-and-a-half, Snow looks a good bet to deliver an ice-cool performance.

Even So (jockey: Colin Keane, trainer: Ger Lyons)

Lyons and Colin Keane knows a thing or two about navigating the Curragh in a Classic, combining in scintillating fashion in the Irish 2000 Guineas as Siskin romped to glory.

And they’ll be hoping to replicate that hegemony with Even So on Saturday, who comes into the bout off the back of a good win at Naas earlier this month in listed company.

Laburnum (jockey: Declan McDonogh, trainer: Aidan O’Brien)

Laburnum’s last outing saw her beaten by Even So in that 1m2f duel, as O’Brien’s mount lost a thriller at Naas by a neck.

Laburnum remains an inexperienced horse but with a win and a second in her two trips so far, she’ll be ready to fire at the Curragh when Classic time comes calling.

Passion (jockey: Billy Lee, trainer: Aidan O’Brien)

Passion is one of the more experienced horses in the race but is yet to taste victory since at Cork last September, having racked up seventh, fourth, third and fifth-placed finishes since.

Jockey Billy Lee is enjoying a prolific season in the saddle, however, so the Ballydoyle star has every chance of mounting a challenge over the 12 furlongs.

New York Girl (jockey: Shane Crosse, trainer: Joseph O’Brien)

Joseph O’Brien tried his luck with New York Girl in the Irish Derby last month, as his attempt to train the first filly to win the race since 1994 – when Frankie Dettori rode Balanchine to victory – failed to materialise.

New York Girl finished seventh that day but with two fourths and a first in her other three starts, she has every chance of returning to winning ways against her same sex.

Yaxeni (jockey: Gary Carroll, trainer: Ger Lyons)

It’s a two-pronged charge from Lyons and the trainer opts for Munster Oaks fourth Yaxeni as his second entry, who finished behind Snow at Cork on July 5.

That suggests she may struggle with the pace at the Curragh on Saturday but after a couple of prep runs this season – she finished third at Leopardstown in June – she may be ready to hit the ground running on her Classic debut.

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