The Oaks is the fillies’ equivalent of the Epsom Derby, over the same course and distance, just one day earlier (4.00pm, Friday). The betting is dominated by Secret Gesture (5/2) and Liber Nauticus (7/2), both of whom won their respective trials with some authority.
The form of the Tattersalls Musidora Stakes, in which Liber Nauticus stayed on well to beat Romantic Settings by 1½ lengths, is arguably the stronger, but Secret Gesture was visually impressive when sauntering home by 10 lengths from Miss You Too in the Lingfield Oaks Trial.
Of course, Secret Gesture could only beat the opposition that was put in front of her, but what she achieved in doing so is difficult to assess. The second in the Lingfield Oaks Trial, Miss You Too, finished third in the Criterium de Saint Cloud on her final start as a juvenile, but has just a York maiden win to her name, while the third, Whippy Cream, subsequently finished third, beaten 4¾ lengths, in the Premio Oaks d’Italia at San Siro.
The time of the Lingfield Oaks Trial was nothing special and even her trainer, Ralph Beckett, has expressed doubts about the quality of the opposition, so Secret Gesture may be worth taking on at a short price.
Ralph Beckett makes life difficult for punters by also saddling Talent (16/1), who won the Pretty Polly Stakes, over 1m2f, at Newmarket on her reappearance earlier this month and, on one highly dubious form line, has the beating of Secret Gesture. However, Jim Crowley has passed her over in favour of her stable companion so, while she can be expected to improve for the step up to middle distances, she looks the stable second string according to both the jockey and the latest Oaks betting odds.
Closer inspection of the Musidora form reveals that Romantic Settings had previously beaten King Of The Danes by 1½ lengths, conceding 6lb, in a handicap at Musselburgh. King Of The Danes went on to win his next two starts, bolting up by 6 lengths in a handicap at Goodwood on the most recent, so the form stands fairly close inspection. However, a line through the Musidora third, Woodland Aria, also suggests that Liber Nauticus has very little in hand of Banoffee (9/1) so, while Sir Michael Stoute’s filly appears to have a decent chance, she may not be one to go overboard about.
Connections of Banoffee have come up with £30,000 to supplement the daughter of Hurricane Run for the Oaks and she shouldn’t be underestimated. She didn’t race as a juvenile, but won a Newbury maiden on her debut in April and successfully stepped up in class when coming from almost last to first in the Cheshire Oaks, over 1m3½f, at Chester earlier this month. Strictly speaking, that form leaves her with about half a length to find with Liber Nauticus, but she can be expected to progress again and looks better value for money than Sir Michael Stoute’s filly at the odds on offer.
In the absence of Snow Queen, who finished unplaced in the Irish 1,000 Guineas at the Curragh last Sunday, Aidan O’Brien relies on two entries, Moth (3/1) and Say (12/1).
Moth represents British Classic form, having run on strongly to snatch third, beaten two lengths, behind Sky Lantern in the 1,000 Guineas at Newmarket earlier this month. That form has been franked by the runner-up, Just The Judge, who won the Irish 1,000 Guineas last Sunday and, with improvement likely now that she steps up to middle distances for the first time, it’s hard to fathom why she’s such a generous price.
Say, who like Moth is a daughter of Galileo, was just touched off in a Leopardstown maiden, over 1m2f, on her reappearance in April before winning a similar race, over 1m4f, by nine lengths at Cork three weeks ago. Clearly stamina isn’t an issue for her, but she has raced exclusively on soft going and takes a huge step up in class.
Secret Gesture is the best horse in the race, according to official BHA ratings, but Moth is rated just 4lb inferior and appears to have more convincing credentials on this occasion. She’s bred to be suited by middle distances, being by Galileo out of a Seattle Slew mare, so it can be argued that anything she’s achieved to date is a bonus and the best is yet to come. Furthermore, she already has solid Classic form. So this preview’s Oaks betting tips advice is to have a flutter on MOTH to win at 3/1 with Paddy Power, Bet365 or SkyBet.