With the Epsom and Irish Derbies and the Irish 1000 Guineas secured Aidan O’Brien launched a five-pronged attack on the Irish Oaks at the Curragh on Saturday.
The move paid off, as Bracelet and Tapestry came home first and second. Then, for good measure, O’Brien’s 18-year-old daughter Ana - the first woman to ride in the race - finished fourth on the stable outsider Beyond Brilliance.
Tarfasha from the Dermot Weld stable went to post a heavily-supported favourite in what looked a vintage renewal of this fillies Classic, but she was a pale shadow of herself and finished a well-beaten sixth.
Kevin Manning, aboard Volume, decided to make it a true test of stamina and had most of the field including the favourite off the bridle well before the straight. At this point Bracelet was just getting into the race and once given the go-ahead by jockey Colm O’Donoghue hit the front a furlong or so out, holding the late surge of Tapestry to win by a neck with Volume finishing third just half a length further in arrears.
The fourth Oaks victory for O’Brien, the win illustrated the strength in depth of the talent at Ballydoyle and highlighting the difficult task of picking the right one as proven by Joseph O’Brien, who sided with Tapestry.
Having performed below expectations in the English 1,000 Guineas Bracelet was fitted with a hood when taking the mile and a half Ribblesdale Stakes at Royal Ascot. She is the daughter of Montjeu who was also responsible for last year’s winner Chicquita and the grand-daughter of broodmare Urban Sea.
Tapestry certainly improved on her previous outings of the season. She ran poorly when favourite for the 1,000 Guineas and then encountered traffic problems in the Coronation Stakes. Many who doubted her ability to see out the stiff mile and a half at the Curragh, but she finished strongest of all to discount this theory.
Kevin Manning was loud in his praise for Volume, suggesting that she might have won but for becoming unbalanced a furlong or so out before running on again in the closing stages.
There was no doubt that defeat was a huge disappointment for the favourite. Connections had been bullish about her during the week but this was a tame effort, prompting jockey Pat Smullen to remark that she ran a stone below what he expected.
The opening seven furlong juvenile maiden is a race that has thrown up the likes of Teofilo, New Approach and Australia in the past. Indeed, the mighty Sea The Stars could only finish fourth in it on his debut, but it remains to be seen if this year’s winner East Africa will live up the standard set by some of the aforementioned.
Riding arrangements would suggest that he was the second string of the O’Brien runners, as Joseph had plumped for the once-raced St Patrick’s Day who was an odds-on favourite.
Given a patient ride by Shamie Heffernan, East Africa only got into the race at the two furlong marker. When it appeared that the favourite was going nowhere Heffernan kicked his mount into the lead well inside the final furlong and held the late run of Portage by a neck.
Time alone will tell just how good a race this was. St Patrick’s Day dropped tamely away but the one to catch the eye was Portage, who finished like an express train after being out with the washing early on.
Team Ballydoyle were also responsible for the winner of the Group Three Anglesey Stakes for two-year-olds over six furlongs as Dick Whittington made amends for his disappointing effort in the Chesham Stakes at Royal Ascot with a workmanlike success over Toscanini.
From the first crop of Rip Van Wrinkle this bay colt responded well to the urgings of his rider to lead 100 yards out and hit the wire half a length to the good. Connections are adamant that he failed to stay at Ascot so sprinting will be his game from her. The Phoenix Stakes is a possible target.
Sabrina Harty, whose family are steeped in the racing game, trains just a small string near Newbridge. She was on Cloud nine after recording a double on such a big stage.
The Celtic Swing gelding Ansgar set the ball rolling, making every post a winning one under Pat Smullen to beat the favourite Darwin in the Group Three Minstrel Stakes over seven furlongs.
Later in the evening she saddled Breathe Easy land a small touch in the mile and a furlong 75-95 handicap. Given a cracking ride by Rory Cleary, Breathe Easy set off in front and never saw another rival as he won a length and a half ahead of Specific Gravity.
The winning trainer said that her charge is a nervous type who needs plenty of minding but he has loads of ability. He will now be aimed at a similar type of contest.