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Snow and Wayne Lordan win the Munster Oaks in Cork earlier in the month. Picture: Healy Racing
Snow and Wayne Lordan win the Munster Oaks in Cork earlier in the month. Picture: Healy Racing
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The Jane Mangan column: Marking your card for this weekend's racing

WE’RE back at the Curragh this weekend for the Juddmonte Irish Oaks where Jessica Harrington will be hoping to thwart the Ballydoyle fillies with Cayenne Pepper.

When the dust settled on last season and the winter set in over Commonstown Stables, Jessica Harrington must have allowed herself to dream ... even just for a moment. Planning her season before anyone heard the word coronavirus, Harrington had more aces in her pack than Danny Ocean at a rookie blackjack table.

Fast forward nine months and her vision is beginning to take shape. Albigna fluffed her lines on quick ground at the Curragh — we haven’t seen her since but all it not lost.

Millisle has been a mixed bag of fortunes but one would imagine there is still a big day in her yet while Alpine Star has proven herself as one of Europe’s finest females.

Royal Ascot glory in the Coronation Stakes before Fancy Blue narrowly denied her Prix de Diane glory, Alpine Star is currently the yard’s leading light but don’t forget, Harrington is yet to show her full hand — there is one ace yet to be played.

 Trainer Jessica Harrington will be looking to bag the Irish Oaks this weekend with Cayenne Pepper. Picture: Healy Racing

Trainer Jessica Harrington will be looking to bag the Irish Oaks this weekend with Cayenne Pepper. Picture: Healy Racing

Cayenne Pepper was steadily progressive last season – not a slow burner but more a filly that took gradual steps instead of jumping straight into the deep end. Having won her first three starts at home, Cayenne Pepper was sent to Newmarket in October to contest the Fillies Mile where she finished fourth behind Quadrilateral, Powerful Breeze and Love on her final start last term.

She re-emerged six months later in the Pretty Polly Stakes, not ideal meeting Magical but considering her connections indicated the Oaks as her main objective, it was positive to see her lead home the opposition in second. Now for her next chapter: can she provide her trainer with a second Group 1 of the season and cement her own status among this generation’s leading three-year-old fillies?

It seems Epsom Oaks runner-up Ennistymon and Munster Oaks winner Snow lead the Ballydoyle challenge to foil Harington’s masterplan. Unlike Cayenne Pepper, Ennistymon’s rise to the top has been a rapid ascent. Considering this filly only won her maiden at the beginning of June, she has done brilliantly to fill the second spots in the Ribblesdale at Royal Ascot and then turning that form around with Frankly Darling at Epsom.

Tomorrow’s Oaks will be her third Group 1 run in just over a month and while she was good at Epsom, she was no match for her stablemate Love. If she were to prove good enough tomorrow, the first question on everyone’s mind would be how good is Love?

The Railway Stakes for two-year-old colts is always an interesting affair and one that can identify stars of the future, notably last year’s winner Siskin. This year Ger Lyons sends To Glory into battle, following his impressive debut at Limerick last month. Aidan O’Brien has a number of contenders including Merchants Quay but this isn’t a race I’d advise any punter to invest in. These horses are completely unexposed and an individual’s rate of improvement is impossible to predict.

Sunday’s card features a trio of Group 2 races including the Airlie Stud Stakes for juvenile fillies over six furlongs. It’s difficult to look past Colin Keane’s mount Frenetic, the little ball of fire who has blazed a trail on her two starts in public to date.

The only question regarding Frenetic is that this is an extra furlong, a move that is probably more down to a lack of options at the minimum trip rather than expecting her to progress for stepping up in trip.

In fact, it’s that extra furlong that raises questions about her potentially burning herself out — she’s seriously fast but can she maintain that blistering pace over six furlongs against opponents such as More Beautiful?

There’s only one way to find out!

There is more Group 1 action at Chantilly on Sunday and while we await the final declarations for the Prix d’Ispahan, it seems Godolphin could continue to make hay in Paris with last season’s 2,000 Guineas winner Persian King.