Akdarena can dictate tempo and lift Manning to Oaks glory
Irish racing could receive both a welcome and timely pre-Derby boost at Epsom this afternoon when champion trainer Aidan O'Brien and former mentor Jim Bolger combine to mount formidable challenges for the English Oaks and Coronation Cup.
Success for our runners in recent seasons in these twin Group One features on the eve of the premier English Classic is nothing new, but a double strike today in contests worth almost £600,000 would up the ante nicely for tomorrow's Investec showdown.
Oaks specialist Henry Cecil's Aviate, with Waterford's Tom Queally aboard, has generally been heading the ante-post betting on a renewal of the fillies' Classic that appears wide-open, with question marks hanging over the stamina and ability of most of the 15 runners.
The O'Brien stable, which scooped the Oaks spoils for a third time with Alexandrova in 2006, is responsible for three of our runners, with Johnny Murtagh hoping Remember When can open her account after a fast-finishing fourth to Bethrah in the Irish Guineas.
Accompanied by Awe Inspiring and Cabaret, Murtagh's mount should make her presence felt as a progressive close relation to Dylan Thomas, although she might not quite measure up to the more exposed Akdarena, which merits each-way support.
Bolger, who famously scored with 50/1 chance Jet Ski Lady in 1991, could take centre stage ahead of his star pupil here if Kevin Manning's mount continues on the upward curve that saw her rout the Blue Wind Stakes opposition at Naas last month.
Owned and bred by formidable Swedish multi-millionairess Kirsten Rausing, Akdarena revels in a front-running role and Manning may be allowed to dictate the tempo yet again, which would have the added bonus of them staying out of trouble.
Last year's star filly Sariska, which completed the English-Irish Oaks double, may not be quite as effective on the drying ground as Akdarena when squaring up to hot favourite Fame And Glory for the O'Brien-Murtagh team in the Coronation Cup.
Last year's visored runner-up Youmzain, in the hands of Kieren Fallon, and Godolphin's Cavalryman are perceived as the only other major players in this league, with the hat-trick seeking Fame And Glory, aided by regular pacemaker and galloping companion Dixie Music, expected to put his seal on the race back over the route he led in the Derby pack behind Sea The Stars 12 months ago.