Tony Keenan's Irish Angle

Just before the nursery season begins our Irish expert Tony Keenan looks at which trainers' two year olds are performing well and gives his thoughts on Saturday's Irish Oaks

  • Wednesday 17 July
  • Blog

IRISH 2YO TRAINERS

The Curragh hosts the first nursery of 2019 this Sunday and with us over 60 races deep into the two-year-old season, it seems an opportune time to see what has been happening with the juveniles.

Below is a table of the top six trainers of two-year-old winners in Ireland so far this year along with four significant others and already there are some patterns emerging; all figures quoted below are correct through the Fairyhouse card on Sunday July 14th and are from Irish races only.

Trainer

Winners

Runners

Strikerate

Places

Place Strikerate

Actual/Expected

A. O’Brien

15

78

19.2%

38

48.7%

0.71

J. Harrington

13

48

27.1%

25

52.1%

1.52

G. Lyons

7

14

50.0%

11

78.6%

1.76

J. O’Brien

6

58

10.3%

22

37.9%

0.59

M. O’Callaghan

3

22

13.6%

8

26.4%

0.95

W. McCreery

3

18

16.7%

4

22.2%

1.62

J. Stack

2

23

8.7%

5

21.7%

0.55

J. Bolger

1

14

7.1%

5

35.7%

0.58

D. Weld

0

6

0.0%

0

0.0%

0.00

J. Murtagh

0

30

0.0%

4

13.3%

0.00

Aidan O’Brien is going ok by previous standards but the gender divide highlighted in this column a fortnight back persists; his colts seems well ahead of his fillies. As a stallion-making operation, that is one of those good problems and even his male B-team are going well, Royal Lytham winning the July Stakes last week despite being sent off 11/1 and passed over by Ryan Moore.

Much of the pre- and post-race coverage analysis centred on Visinari, perhaps rightly so given what he did on debut, but Royal Lytham is exciting in his own right. Things didn’t go his way as he conceded first run and came from off the pace at a meeting where many of the winners raced prominently. An extra furlong will be no harm either.

As to the fillies, winners continue to be hard to come by for the yard, Love just the third one to put her head in front at Leopardstown last Thursday and probably fortunate to do so as she had every advantage of the rail, experience and a soft lead.

Jessica Harrington's juvenile season to date has been the flip side of O’Brien’s, her record with colts and fillies below:

Gender

Winners

Runners

Strikerate

Places

Place Strikerate

Actual/Expected

Colts

0

12

0.0%

3

25.0%

0.00

Fillies

13

36

36.1%

22

61.1%

1.80

This differential is reflected in future entries – Harrington has no entry in the Phoenix Stakes and one in the National (Free Solo) while she has four in the Moyglare – but picking your favourite filly of hers is like picking your favourite type of ice-cream: they’re all nice.

Secret Stash is one that could be underrated having broken her maiden at Bellewstown but she did fast sectional on debut at Fairyhouse despite plenty going wrong while she was four lengths clear of Moyglare entry in her win with nine lengths back to the third.

Efficiency has been the watch word for Ger Lyons with far fewer runners to this point of the season compared to previous years. In the last three seasons, he had 60, 40 and 59 two-year-old runners by the end of July but as of the middle of that month he has only had 14 this year.

This represents a change in approach but seven of those have won with only three out of the places so it is working. His winner to runner ratio of 55% (five winners from nine individual runners) is impressive too (Harrington is on 37%, O’Brien on 30%) and he also has the top-rated juvenile in Ireland with Siskin on 110.

With Joseph O’Brien, it has been more about volume than quality to this point though his horses tend to improve with racing. Unforgetable is one example when winning at Fairyhouse on Sunday in what looked a strong maiden for the track. Many of his may prove more nursery types.

Jim Bolger had his youngsters out early – he had the second and third in the opening two-year-old maiden at Naas – but things have not gone smoothly since and he went without a juvenile runner between May 19th and June 20th.

That is not the Bolger way and can hardly have been by design given how frequently he tends to run his horses but they have been back on track lately with Arranmore shaping well at the Derby meeting; he is Bolger’s sole Phoenix Stakes entry and is also in the Gimcrack.

It has not been a good season so far for Johnny Murtagh and a poor crop of two-year-olds do seem a part of that given they were a strength of the yard in each of the two previous campaigns when he had 12 and 10 juvenile winners respectively.

Things have been quiet in this section of Rosewell House too which is something to bear in mind ahead of Galway. He has had just six two-year-old runners so far, none making the frame, well behind his tallies to this point in the season in the middle part of this decade and even the reduced numbers of the last two years.

Azila showed ability at Leopardstown last Thursday but hinted at temperament too though it is interesting to note she is one of a vast Weld entry in the Moyglare over Irish Champions Weekend with 13 engaged at this point.


IRISH OAKS

Iridessa makes sense as favourite for Saturday’s Kerrygold Irish Oaks after an impressive win in the Pretty Polly but there is a suspicion she will prove a ten furlong specialist; she travelled and quickened like one last time and connections have been voicing concerns about the mile and a half since the start of the season.

Pink Dogwood was an underwhelming third in the same race and has a bit to prove now and it is her stablemate FLEETING that looks the overpriced one. She reached a high level at two – higher than anything in the field bar Iridessa – despite missing two months in the middle of the season and was better than the result when third in the Epsom Oaks, given too much to do and meeting trouble.

It was a similar story when runner-up in the Ribblesdale behind Star Catcher who has been supplemented for this race as Ryan Moore attempted to follow Frankie Dettori through a gap early in the straight only for it to close quickly and she was always playing catch-up from there.

The Ascot race was not that well-run which wouldn’t have suited Fleeting who is a strong stayer while the soft ground was more in favour of the winner than her; there is rain forecast this week but the Curragh round track was described as firm, good to firm in places yesterday so it will take a lot to alter it.

A concern with Fleeting is that her hold-up style isn’t ideal for this track but one hopes Ballydoyle will be able to engineer a decent pace which would suit their two main runners rather than Iridessa, allowing that she is hardly trained by a hated rival.


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