Can Illusion Put Sheikh Mohammed Back in Classic Spotlight?

1 year ago

(Published 02:00, June 1, 2018) – Charlie Appleby has been at the helm of Sheikh Mohammed’s Godolphin training ranks for some little while now and is optimistic that his filly Wild Illusion can land the spoils in this afternoon’s Group 1 Investec Oaks at Epsom (4.30) –  and bring a smile to his patron’s face.

The Dubawi filly will bid to end a relatively barren spell for the Sheikh’s team whose last British Classic “win” came when the disgraced Mahmood Al Zarooni sent out the subsequently disqualified Encke to foil Camelot’s Triple Crown bid in 2012. It was following al Zarooni’s demise that Appleby stepped in to take over as principal trainer at Godolphin, ahead of long-time stalwart Saeed bin Suroor.

Wild Illusion, the mount of William Buick, is one of nine fillies set to go to post for today’s mile-and-a-half contest and is generally a 5/2 favourite, although SportPesa buck the market going 11/4. She was a fine winner of the Group 1 Prix Marcel Boussac at Chantilly in soft ground over a mile at Chantilly last October, then reappeared to finish a staying-on fourth in the Qipco 1000 Guineas.

“She’s going in the race off the back of a good trial in the 1000 Guineas,” said Appleby. “We always felt and hoped that stepping up in trip would be her forte. With the conditions likely to be testing she has proven Group One form on soft ground. She ticks a lot of the boxes.”

“She’s very stoutly bred on the dam’s side and, being by Dubawi, has a great pedigree,” added Buick. “You would like to think the distance won’t inconvenience her.”

Wild Illusion will have to repel a formidable numerical challenge from Aidan O’Brien who saddles five of the remaining eight runners. Stable jockey Ryan Moore has chosen to partner recent listed Cheshire Oaks winner Magic Wand (9/2 with Bet365), while the team’s other main hopes appear to be Forever Together (6/1 with Betfred), hampered when third behind Magic Wand at Chester (see video below), and Bye Bye Baby (7/1 with 188Bet), winner of the Group 3 Blue Wind Stakes at the Curragh three weeks ago. The other Ballydoyle raiders are outsiders I Can Fly and Flattering.

The field is completed by the unbeaten Clive Cox-trained Lingfield Oaks Trial winner Perfect Clarity (15/2 with 888Sport), William Haggas’ Group 3 Tatersalls Musidora Stakes heroine Give And Take (11/1 with Betfair), and David Simcock’s Ejtyah (20/1 with Bet365), third at York in the Musidora behind Give and Take.

Paul Alster

Written by Paul Alster

Paul Alster has been part of the British and international racing media for more than three decades working as a race commentator, TV/radio presenter, journalist, betting correspondent, SP returner, and form analyst. He’s always sought out overpriced runners in handicap races, a quest that excites him as much now as it did at the start of his career.