Ian Fortune

There has scarcely been a renewal of the Sporting Press Online Edition Irish Oaks that didn’t deliver, but this year’s classic has been very special by any metric and tonight’s decider should provide a fitting conclusion to five weeks of outstanding action.

The outstanding Droopys Mandolin is set to start a warm favourite but the betting tells its own story with four of her five rivals not far behind in the market and separated by only a point or two. Indeed, a straw poll taken on the steps of Shelbourne Park this evening would see plenty tipping up the likes of Droopys Fidget, Droopys Edel, Short Grip and A Lucky Julie.


Fleadh Saraide is the rank outsider of the field and certainly needs luck but her presence could be a concern for a couple. Given her early speed, the Murt Leahy trained starlet is capable of racing prominently.

All evidence suggest she will struggle to match her rivals for pace from the second turn and one the clock but she could do enough to hold up one or two of her rivals.


Droopys Fidget has already achieved plenty in her career, winning a category one on both sides of the Irish Sea. The Steel Cup Puppy Derby winner at Sheffield last year, she has been exceptional since joining Robert Gleeson.

She certainly displayed all her qualities in the Easter Cup, eventually finishing third before running out a brilliant winner of the Select Stakes at Waterford. Always capable of making a fast start and blessed with fine pace throughout, she is certainly entitled to have a big say in the outcome.

From trap two she may need to clear Fleadh Saraide in the opening yards if she is to come out on top. However, that is entirely possible and she is seen as a serious threat to the favourite.


Droopys Edel has perhaps been the most consistent performer through the Oaks, setting the standard in the second round with a 28.21 return before winning her quarter final in style in 28.33. Her two defeats in the classic have come at the paws of Droopys Mandolin but she made her work hard on both occasions.

There is no question her connections would have preferred a draw on the inside of Mandolin but she has both the early speed and back straight pace to put it up to any in training. Her handler Ian Reilly has won an English Oaks in the past but would dearly love to add the Irish equivalent to his tally.

There is no doubt Droopys Edel needs to be at her very sharpest in the early yards but if slipping around in front, she would be a tough nut to crack.


A Lucky Julie is undoubtedly fast and strong enough to win the Oaks but her chances may depend on whether she can match her fastest start of the competition which came in the second round. On that occasion she came home clear in 28.28.

Seven days ago, she almost went as fast to the turn before emerging a wide-margin winner in 28.20. She certainly has the draw in her favour but in a race packed with quality and early speed, only her best start will suffice.

If she doesn’t turn close to the pace, it seems unlikely she would be able to force her way to the front given the quality of those in opposition. Given her style of running, she is certainly one that is likely to make the frame but may find one too good.


Short Grip is perhaps the most interesting runner in the decider. She was beaten a long way last week, losing her action For a few strides around the last two bends. Perhaps she took a false step but it is a slight concern.

If she returns to her brilliant best, which saw her win the Limerick Oaks in stunning fashion and finish a close second in the Juvenile Derby last year, she would have very obvious claims. Pat Cocoman’s charge can really fly into the turn but she really does need to hit the ground running.

If she were to strike the front, given her incredible ability, she would be very likely to hit the line in front. It’s for this reason she has been installed the second favourite behind Droopys Mandolin.


Droopys Mandolin does remains the one to beat, however. It’s been clear since the start of her career she was a bit special with her run at the Winter Racing Festival cited as one of the most memorable in recent years.

Blessed with incredible pace throughout, she returned from a long layoff to set the standard in the opening round before claiming her second win in the classic last week. She can certainly be forgiven for her two defeats in between those two wins and is now a hot favourite to land the €25,000 prize this evening.

Robert Gleeson, who has two finalists, will be delighted with where Droopys Mandolin is at present. Her 28.05 run last week was the fastest of the competition and the joint fastest of the year. She displayed brilliant early speed, the pace to contain some hugely talented rivals down the back straight and the stamina to emerge a good winner. It’s no wonder she is where she is in the betting.


It’s a truly brilliant Oaks decider. Much will depend on how Droopys Mandolin starts. Should she fail to get to the front early, it would open the race to her rivals. Droopys Fidget is drawn on the right side of her kennel companion and can play a big part, while Droopys Edel and Short Grip will also hope to get to the front early.

A lucky Julie should have room to race on the outside of the track and is also greatly respected but Droopys Mandolin is a superstar and superstars tend to win when they need to. Expect Droopys Mandolin to come away racing from three, assert into the corner before coming home in front. The best of luck to all involved.