There is a record breaking £525,000 on offer for the 2014 Oaks at Epsom (4pm, Friday) with four supplemented fillies adding to the prize fund. It looks a very open race with half the field having realistic claims.
Aidan O’Brien’s Marvellous, the 3/1 favourite is well fancied to live up to her name. This daughter of Galileo was the surprise winner of the Irish 1,000 Guineas under Ryan Moore (pictured) at the Curragh. She was sent off at 10/1 and beat the 100/30 favourite, Olly Stevens’ Lightning Thunder (who finished a close second to Miss France in the 1,000 Guineas at Newmarket), in impressive style by three lengths. That was on heavy ground and her strength at the finish suggests that she stands every chance of getting the extra half mile.
Unlike many other contenders, rain should not inconvenience this filly but a major cause for concern is the short space of time since her last run. She had a two month gap between finishing four lengths sixth to her stablemate Bracelet in the 1,000 Guineas Trial at Leopardstown in March and her win. She is the highest rated filly in the field at 116 but to show up on top form after just ten days is a massive ask.
Yes, O’Brien’s Imagine achieved the Irish 1,000 Guineas/Oaks double back in 2001 but she was obviously tough, running six times as a two-year-old. Four of those starts were in the same month. The Oaks was her tenth start. This will be Marvellous’ fourth. Joseph O’Brien takes the ride.
O’Brien also saddles Palace (20/1) and Dazzling (33/1). Palace is rated a stone lower than her stablemate but has to be worth a look, if only because she has the in-form Ryan Moore on board. This daughter of Fastnet Rock finished nine lengths fifth in the Irish 1,000 Guineas but looked to be staying on in the closing stages and has proved that she can cope with a rapid reappearance. She won her maiden in April, 10 days after making her racecourse debut. She is out of a Rainbow Quest mare which has to be a positive on the stamina front. This will be her fifth run and first attempt over more than a mile.
Seamie Heffernan will partner Dazzling. By Galileo, this filly won on her seasonal debut over a mile and a quarter at Naas in April. Most recently she finished six lengths third to Dermot Weld’s impressive Tarfasha over the same course and distance in the Group 3 Blue Wind Stakes on soft ground in mid May. She started as the favourite but appeared to lack finishing speed rather than stamina. This longer distance may suit her if she is not outpaced.
Tarfasha (7/1) also lines up here. Weld thinks this daughter of Teofilo will be at her best on decent ground and will withdraw her if the going is too soft. That looks unlikely. Rated 109, only two are viewed to be better by the handicapper. This will be her second run this season and she should post a good performance if she copes with the distance.
It is a month since we saw the lightly raced 7/2 second favourite, John Gosden’s Taghrooda win the Pretty Polly Stakes at Newmarket over a mile and a quarter. She started the evens favourite and beat Luca Cumani’s Jordan Princess easily by six lengths, staying on well on the good to firm ground. Like the favourite, this daughter of Sea The Stars had just one outing as a two-year-old. She won her maiden at Newmarket by a neck at 20/1, beating the 15/8 favourite, Andrew Balding’s Casual Smile.
This will be only her third start and her first experience of Group company. She could be anything and is proven beyond a mile. All her current entries are in Group races.
Another daughter of Sea The Stars encountering high class company for the first time is Roger Varian’s Anipa (25/1). Connections have forked out £30K to supplement her here. She failed to score in her four runs as a two-year-old for Ed Dunlop but is unbeaten in her three runs for Varian this season. She won her maiden in March at Wolverhampton, then a 0-75 handicap over a mile and a half at Windsor in April and most recently won the Cheshire Oaks (a listed race) in May. Her efforts to date have earned her a rating of 98 giving her more than a stone to find with the favourite. On the positive side she is progressive, proven over the distance and her shrewd young trainer’s horses are in good form.
Ed Dunlop has an outstanding record with fillies and has won the Oaks twice, with Ouija Board ten years ago and Snow Fairy in 2010. He aims for his third success with the 25/1 outsider, Sir Robert Ogden’s Amazing Maria. When interviewed last week he admitted that his horses had been suffering from a bacterial infection and had only just come right. We haven’t seen this daughter of the emerging superstar sire, Mastercraftsmen, since she won the seven furlong Group 3 Prestige Stakes at Goodwood last August. Dunlop says he is sure that she will stay a mile and a quarter and is not certain about the next two furlongs. Frankie Dettori has been booked to partner her. He won this race three times for Godolphin.
Dunlop also sends out the 100/1 outsider of the field, Island Remede. That is a big price for a filly that finished less than three lengths behind Honor Bound in the Lingfield Oaks Trial and is likely to come on for the run.
Godolphin’s hopes rest with Saeed bin Suroor’s Ihtimal (8/1) who will have the able assistance of their recent recruit, the veteran Kieren Fallon. This daughter of Shamardal has already clocked up some air miles, starting her three-year-old season with two victories on the Tapeta track in Meydan in February. After taking a listed race over a mile there she won the Group 3 UAE Oaks over a mile and a quarter by 10 lengths, starting the odds on favourite. She has obviously taken her travels well, most recently finishing third beaten less than a length in the 1,000 Guineas.
She posted two wins in Group company as a two-year-old and finished three lengths third to Charles Hills’ ill-fated Chriselliam in the Shadwell Fillies’ Mile in September. She has solid Group form on both good to firm and good to soft ground and should perform well if she can handle the distance. With nine runs under her belt she is a relatively seasoned performer. The handicapper has given her a rating of 110 suggesting she could be a beneficiary if Marvellous is unable to produce her best. The question mark is the extra two furlongs. Her breeding suggests it is far from guaranteed.
An unbeaten, lightly raced filly to consider is Madame Chiang (12/1). She has only had two starts for her passionate but patient billionaire owner/breeder, Kirsten Rausing. Trained by David Simcock, this daughter of Archipenko won her maiden at Yarmouth on soft ground in October at 33/1.
She was more popular in the market for the Musidora at York on 14 May, starting at 8/1 on the soft ground and beat Tony Coyle’s Lily Rules by just over a length. She stayed on well to take the lead in the last 50 yards. She will probably need good to soft or slower going to show her best. Simcock has no fears over the distance and describes her as a very professional, well-balanced filly. William Buick takes the ride.
Supplementing a filly for this race suggests a degree of hope so we have to look at Marsh Daisy (12/1) and Honor Bound (25/1) as potential contenders. Marsh Daisy, trained by Hughie Morrison, only hit the racecourse as a three-year-old. By Pivotal and out of a Lammtarra mare, she has stamina on her dam’s side and has only run over a mile and a quarter. On May 22 she won the listed Height of Fashion Stakes at Goodwood comfortably, beating John Gosden’s Eastern Belle by two lengths. Earlier in the month she won her maiden at Ascot by a much shorter margin. After her latest win Morrison said he thought a mile and a half should not be a problem for her – but that Epsom probably wasn’t her track and that she would not be supplemented. Perhaps her owner, Sir Thomas Pilkington wanted to find out for certain.
Ralph Beckett saddled the first two in the Oaks last year and is double-handed this time. Honor Bound won the Oaks Trial Stakes at Lingfield, beating Gosden’s Criteria by a nose. This daughter of Authorized clearly stays the distance but what did she beat? Her performance attracted the attention of Sheikh Mohammed Bin Khalifa Al Thani who has since bought her from her owner/breeders, Ashley Stud. She also won her only other start this season, scoring at 14/1 in a maiden over a mile and a quarter at Windsor in April on soft ground. She was pretty keen last time and wears a hood for the first time.
Her stablemate Regardez (50/1) finished nearly four lengths third to Madame Chiang in the Musidora. By Champs Elysees she has a rating of 92 and will have to be very progressive to feature here. She will be ridden by Richard Kingscote as Beckett’s stable jockey Jim Crowley prefers Honor Bound.
The Musidora second, Lily Rules (33/1) has also been supplemented. She scored twice in her eight runs as a two-year-old for Tony Coyle. By Aussie Rules and out of a Giant’s Causeway mare, she has unsurprisingly showed her best form over a decent distance. She was not disgraced in her first run this season over an inadequate seven furlongs in the Group 3 Nell Gwyn Stakes at Newmarket in April. She finished three lengths sixth to Richard Fahey’s Sandiva. Coyle describes her as ‘tough as old boots’ and thinks she will have improved at least 7lb for her last run. Now rated 96 she still has plenty to find to be in the frame here.
Unlike Coyle, Cumani is a name associated with success in classics. He saddles his first Oaks runner for over 20 years, Volume (16/1). This daughter of Mount Nelson ran three times as a two-year-old, winning her maiden and a 0-90 handicap at Nottingham. Most recently she won the Swettenham Stud Fillies’ Trial at Newbury (over a mile and a quarter) at Newbury in mid May under Richard Hughes. Hughes was concerned that Epsom would not suit her but she has since been tested round an Epsom style track and handled it well. Cumani has saddled a total of six runners in the Oaks. Three of them came second and one came third.
Oaks Betting Tips Conclusion
Only two favourites have succeeded in the Epsom Oaks since the turn of the century and we have to oppose Marvellous who is unproven at this distance and may need more time than she has been given since her last race. At 20/1 Palace looks the best value bet of the Ballydoyle contingent but we have to look elsewhere. Ed Dunlop’s pair are both tempting each-way shots but he has saddled a number of beaten favourites in the last fortnight. In contrast, Roger Varian’s horses are in good form and the supplemented ANIPA has to be our choice each-way at 25/1 with Coral, BetVictor, Betfred and William Hill.