Blue Bunting wins the Irish Oaks.

Blue Bunting wins the Irish Oaks.

Caroline Norris

Blue Bunting Lands Irish Oaks Thriller

Blue Bunting wore down Banimpire to win the Darley Irish Oaks (Ire-I) by a head.

Blue Bunting got up in the final stride to nip Banimpire at the wire, claiming a hard-earned victory in the $601,588 Darley Irish Oaks (Ire-I) at the Curragh July 17.

With the win, the daughter of Dynaformer atoned for her fourth-place finish in the Investec Oaks (Eng-I), in which jockey Frankie Dettori dropped his hands and quit riding in the closing stages. The move cost Blue Bunting a placing, and as a result, Dettori was handed a 10-day ban by the stewards. This was the second classic win of the season for the Mahmood al Zarooni-trained filly, who previously captured the QIPCO One Thousand Guineas (Eng-I) May 1.

Aidan O’Brien’s Wonder Of Wonders was sent off as the slight favorite in the field of nine 3-year-old fillies. The daughter of Kingmambo was last seen finishing a close second to Dancing Rain in the Investec Oaks last month. That rival would also be facing the starter on this day, in addition to Jim Bolger’s tough Banimpire, winner of the Ribblesdale Stakes (Eng-II) at Royal Ascot in her last start.

Amazing Beauty broke alertly and was sent straight to the front by Joseph O’Brien. She was soon joined by Hurricane Havoc and Rumh, and the three fillies set the pace while disputing the lead through the early stages of the race. These three were allowed to open up a few lengths on the rest of the field, as most of the contenders were content to track the pacemakers early on.

Dancing Rain was settled into fourth by Johnny Murtagh as Banimpire and Wonder Of Wonders raced in fifth and sixth, respectively. Blue Bunting raced along the rail in seventh, as Gemstone and Laughing Lashes brought up the rear.

The bulk of the field began to reel in the tiring front runners as they entered the large sweeping turn before the charge for home. Dancing Rain was the first to make a move, driving to the lead three furlongs from the wire. Banimpire and Wonder Of Wonders were racing in tandem to Dancing Rain’s outside, with Banimpire soon taking control with a quarter of a mile left to run.

Dettori swung Blue Bunting, who had been stuck behind a wall of horses, into the clear on the outside with just over a furlong to run. Under a relentless drive by Dettori, the filly cut into Banimpire’s lead, just getting up in the shadow of the wire to claim victory by a short head.

Banimpire finished a half-length in front of Wonder Of Wonders, who in turn was just a short head in front of Laughing Lashes. Final time for the 12 furlongs was 2:42.90 over the yielding turf course.

Dettori admitted afterwards that the race didn’t go according to plan. “I knew she had a great chance today, but when I was stuck behind the other horses I was really struggling. As a last resort I switched to the outside and once she saw a bit of daylight, she picked up and it worked out well in the end.”

He added, “I didn’t know I had won until I passed the line. I had to ask Kevin (Manning on Banimpire).”

Blue Bunting was bred in Kentucky by B.M. Kelley, and races in the royal blue silks of Godolphin. She was sold for $200,000 at the 2009 Fasig-Tipton August yearling sale to Anthony Stroud. The gray filly is out of the unraced Linamix mare, Miarixa.