The Cazoo Oaks is the third Classic of the year which will provide the season's leading middle distance filly from the classic generation. Here is an A-Z guide of the field along with some other thoughts on an excellent Epsom card.
DIVINELY – One of five for Aidan O’Brien seeking his ninth Oaks success. Only fourth on her return at Lingfield (beaten two lengths) but was the subject of some positive reports last week from the trainer that helped her price plummet. She won over a mile on heavy ground last season and is a full sister to Arc heroine Found so stamina is assured.
DUBAI FOUNTAIN – Top class juvenile form over a mile last year and showed her stamina under a Franny Norton special in the Cheshire Oaks at Chester, the race that put Enable on the springboard to stardom. Not guaranteed to uphold the form with Zeyaadah on worse terms but can be expected to run her race and finish respectably.
LA JOCONDE – Another from Aidan O’Brien’s Ballydoyle base and has lots to find on her Cheshire Oaks conquerors. That was her second run of the season and would take an almighty effort to lose her maiden tag in this Classic.
MYSTERY ANGEL – A first Classic runner for Rookie trainer George Boughey who was supplemented for the race at a cost of £30,000. She needs to place to return on that investment, but she is already a hot prospect for breeding duties after her impressive Pretty Polly Stakes success at Newmarket and was not beaten far in the Musidora behind Snowfall. Will stay, lots of experience and fancied to beat more than beat her.
OCEAN ROAD – Staying on third at Lingfield having been slowly away and can be expected to build on that. Could be the one to take from that trial to come out best here but not sure if it is the strongest form line. Has Champion Jockey Oisin Murphy on board.
SAFFRON BEACH – Never out of the first two in four starts including impressive G3 success last season and second in the 1000 Guineas. Raced exclusively at Newmarket but handled those contours well. Does have a stamina doubt going up half a mile in trip but no doubting ability. Could surprise a few if she stays.
SANTA BARBARA – Red hot favourite for 1000 Guineas on the back of a positive stable tour article. Ran an absolute blinder on the face of it on just her second start in that classic and this looks a more suitable test on her breeding. Became a warm order for this after that effort last month and has a favourites chance of landing a sixth Oaks in the last decade for her legendary trainer.
SAVE A FOREST – Was noted staying on well into second at Lingfield last time but had won a handicap off 79 by a length previously so brings that form into question. Progressive filly who deserves her shot, but others have stronger claims and yard have stronger candidates.
SHERBET LEMON – Winner of that popular Lingfield trial when the outsider of the field. Took a big step forward from her reappearance effort and another leap forward required here to trouble the protagonists although would be a huge story should Hollie Doyle land a Classic.
SNOWFALL – Disappointed in group races as a juvenile and only had a maiden success to her name heading to York for the Musidora. Sent off at 14/1 there and made all under Ryan Moore. That impressive win may have been attributed to the step up in trip in keeping with her pedigree and more progress can be forthcoming over this mile and a half. Another solid string to the O’Brien bow.
TECHNIQUE – Showed she handled Epsom when a close second in the Blue Riband Trial at the track but that form has taken a few knocks and she was well beaten in the Lingfield trial.
TEONA – Burst onto the scene with a nine-length success at Newcastle in November and work in the spring had been reportedly breathtaking on the Newmarket gallops ahead of her return at York. She was far to keen to see out the trip on the Knavesmire and ran well considering how much energy she had used. A bigger field and stronger pace plus the application of a hood (been wearing it in her work) should see a more professional performance from this exciting filly.
WILLOW – Looks likely the fifth string from Ballydoyle but Aidan O’Brien has won this race with a 20/1 and 50/1 shots in recent years so discount at your peril. Although well beaten twice already this season and more likely the pace angle for her stablemates.
ZEYAADAH – Lost her unbeaten record in the Cheshire Oaks but proved her stamina and handling of the tight track. She is 3lb better off here with Dubai Fountain who was given the better ride as Zeyaadah travelled the best but could not get the breaks. Longer straight will help and gives Roger Varian a strong hand alongside Teona.
VERDICT – A fantastic renewal of the Oaks with Aidan O’Brien saddling no less than five runners in a quest for an historic NINTH victory in the race. The step up in trip again for Snowfall only increases her credentials but surely SANTA BARBARA has the strongest of claims after her eye catching fourth in the 1000 Guineas. Only because of those strong comments from the trainer earlier in the spring did some view that fourth placed effort as disappointing but taken at face value it was a stunning effort on just her second start and the Oaks trip should be more to her liking too on pedigree. She looks a solid favourite and prove hard to beat.
REST OF THE EPSOM CARD:
2.00 EPSOM – DAIRERIN can get favourite backers off to the best start in the Woodcote. He was narrowly denied his unbeaten record at Newbury last time in a similar contest and can make use of stall one under Champion Jockey Oisin Murphy. George Boughey has been excellent with his juveniles this season and the fact he has selected Oscula to represent him here is of interest and is drawn next door in two.
2.35 EPSOM – Irish Admiral sets a good standard after his York third on just his fourth start, form franked when the second Makram filled the same spot on Monday at Redcar. However, I will chance MOSTAWAA here, who is one from one under Martin Dwyer, has been consistent this season with a third in the Spring Mile and a fair fourth in the Hambleton Stakes at York.
3.10 EPSOM – Another Group One on the card at Epsom on Friday is the Coronation Cup which sees a pair of brothers take each other on in Japan and Mogul. Japan was a game winner at Chester and fared better of the pair in their respective Derby’s, Japan finishing a close third, Mogul a well beaten seventh. The year older sibling Japan is the choice of that pair but they both have the impressive Al Aasy to beat. He has sauntered to success twice at Newbury this season, but there a couple of doubts regards the ground and the nature of Epsom for him to overcome for an odds-on favourite.
One of the performances of the season came from ALBAFLORA when routing listed opposition at Ascot. The second was seven lengths back there and she has won a Group 3 subsequently. Frankie is on board this lightly raced 4yo filly and she looks overpriced at double figures.
3.45 EPSOM – DATA PROTECTION is usually very keen and is not ideally drawn in 11 for a prominent racer but has course figures of 13124 (fourth in this race last year) and is just 2lb above his last winning mark. Three last time out winners in Dream With Me, Victory Chime (track and trip winner) and HMS President will be popular but Blue Cap will head the market and he was very unlucky at the course in April. He was too keen at York and the hood goes on here to settle him under Oisin Murphy and will be popular.
5.10 EPSOM – A good race on paper and an excellent opportunity for MEHMENTO to get back on track after plenty of use was made of him at Longchamp in French Guineas. He was a good second in the Greenham and the drop-in class and trip can see him resume winning ways. Mystery Smiles will appreciate this easier task and brings some solid juvenile group form to the table while Meu Amor was not disgraced against her elders at Lingfield and is respected in receipt of weight from the boys.
5.40 EPSOM – ARIGATO brings good course form into this contest and will strip fitter for his return three weeks ago. Despite being well beaten in this race two years ago and a draw in stall ten not ideal, he has been dropped back to his last winning mark and 5lb below his close fourth in the Bunbury Cup at Newmarket last season. Best drawn in stall one is Ataser making his return to the track after a successful juvenile season. He can miss the break though and may well come on for the run but is worth a market watch as he should still have improvement in him.