Daliyra can deny vivacious challenge
Just seven runners contest tomorrow's EBF Coolmore Stud Ulster Oaks at Down Royal, but there are a number of useful fillies in attendance and it promises to be a competitive event. The likely favourite is Vivacious Vivienne, Donal Kinsella's four-year-old, which is bidding for a fourth consecutive success.
A winner at Dundalk on her final start last year, Vivacious Vivienne has landed the spoils on her only two outings this term. However, the handicapper has been progressively harder on her, the latest seven-pound hike taking her rating to 15 pounds above that off which she won in November. That might be enough to stop her.
John Oxx's hat-trick seeking Shareen is another interesting contender. One of just two three-year-olds in the line-up, Shareen is six pounds out of the handicap. That disadvantage is halved if you factor in her useful claimer's allowance, but she might still have a bit to find at that.
Certainly, Shareen doesn't look as attractive a proposition as her fellow Aga Khan-owned three-year-old, Daliyra. Mick Halford's filly has massive scope for improvement.
A juvenile winner at Dundalk in October, the daughter of Refuse To Bend got the new campaign under way with a sound effort to be third over a mile at the same venue. Next time up, on just her fourth career start and her first on grass, Daliyra ran Vivacious Vivienne to a half a length at Navan in May.
That was her first start over tomorrow's 10-furlong trip, and she was clearly better for it. When you factor in that Daliyra is now nine pounds better off with Vivacious Vivienne, carrying a stone less on 8st 4lb, it's not hard to see her turning the tables.
On the day's jumps card at Gowran Park, Spanish Auriga is worth a look in the opening maiden hurdle. Four times a runner-up and once third from four starts over flights, Jessica Harrington's charge has been a bit frustrating. Nonetheless, this may be his best chance of a win.
Spanish Auriga's most recent second came behind the smart Jumbo Rio at Limerick in October, so it was disappointing that he failed to confirm that promise at Killarney last time. That was his first start for seven months, though, and, having run freely, he can be expected to pose a more potent threat now.