This weekend will see a great amount of high-class action on both sides of the Irish Sea and for my money at least, the best betting opportunities are to be found in the green side of the Irish Sea, with the Juddmonte Irish Oaks meeting at the Curragh taking centre stage.
Has Bolger got another great?
The first race of interest is the Juddmonte Farms Expert Eye Irish EBF Maiden (13:10).
Those with long memories may be aware that Jim Bolger has a history of running one of if not his best two-year-old in this maiden. He won it with stars such as Teofilo, New Approach and Mac Swiney, as well as other high-class performers such as Heliostatic and Guaranteed.
Indeed, in each of the last four years, Bolger’s representative in this race has gone on to be rated at least 100.
Bolger will rely on Manu Et Corde in this year’s renewal and he looks to have an excellent chance. He debuted in what is another traditionally strong maiden, the seven-furlong contest on Irish Derby weekend, and acquitted himself very well having been sent off as favourite. Having jumped off in a prominent position without cover, he stuck to his task gamely despite greenness to finish fifth beaten just ½-length. He fared much the best of those that helped push the pace and can be rated a bit better than the bare result.
Manu Et Corde can be expected to have improved from that experience and while he meets Shark Bay again who finished narrowly in front of him at the Curragh, it wouldn’t surprise if Manu Et Corde reversed that form on his way to victory.
Gulliver could be a big price
Arguably the race of the most betting interest all weekend is the Paddy Power Scurry Handicap (16:00). This is traditionally one of the most competitive sprint handicaps in the Irish racing calendar and British-trained runners have a fine record in it, rarely being too far away in it and winning more than their fair share of renewals.
One that got away for the British raiders was the David O’Meara-trained Gulliver in last year’s renewal. Running off a mark of 103 having finished an excellent fourth in the Wokingham at Royal Ascot on his previous start, Gulliver looked to have the prize in the bag when powering to the front over a furlong out. However, he began to get a little bit tired close home and was nailed in the dying strides by Romantic Proposal. That rival was running off a mark of just 83 that day and has since risen to a mark of 105, which hammers home just how big of an effort it was from Gulliver on the day.
Gulliver has been busy since then, most notably bolting up in a valuable handicap at York off a mark of 102 in October, but it has taken him a bit of time to find his form this year. He shaped very well at York on his penultimate start after a slow start spoiled his chance and he returned to Royal Ascot to run another big race to finish a close fifth in the Wokingham last time.
He has dropped back to his lowest mark in the better part of two years and looks dangerously well handicapped given the promise of his two most recent runs. This course and distance has proven to be to his liking before a very big run from him wouldn’t at all surprise.