(Published Tuesday 29 May, 16:00) – First run in 1779 and restricted to three-year-old fillies only, the Oaks, run over the smae mile-and-a-half distance as the colts’ Classic, the Derby, has always been a wonderful race that has been won by some of the greatest fillies of all time. In recent decades the likes of User Friendly, Ouija Board, Snow Fairy, Taghrooda, Minding, and most recently Enable have landed this historic prize which over the last six seasons has seen three victories for the great trainer Aidan O’Brien, likely to saddle at least five runners in this Friday’s renewal.
Those followers of Betting.Net’s ante-post tipping who took our early advice to back Lah Ti Dar each-way at 12/1 for the Oaks prior to her running away with the Pretty Polly Stakes at Newmarket earlier this month, were getting very excited by this time last week as John Gosden’s exciting prospect was a general 5/2 favourite. But racing being racing, no sooner do you think you have managed to move a step ahead of the game than the carpet is pulled from under your feet.
A routine blood test taken last week on Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber’s filly came back short of the 100% clean needed and connections decided they wouldn’t take a chance with this potential star and she does not run in the Oaks on Friday. So it’s back to the drawing board – well, not quite, because we also recommended backing Charlie Appleby’s Wild Illusion at (7/1 with Bet365) as a saver, and that is beginning to look like a shrewd move.
Illusion Looks The Right Call
WILD ILLUSION has always been highly thought off by trainer Charlie Appleby and was a high-class juvenile, winning the Group 1 Prix Marcel Boussac at Chantilly last October. She didn’t do a lot wrong when finishing a creditable fourth over a mile in the Group 1 Qipco 1000 Guineas at Newmarket in early-May (see video below), looking as though the longer trip of the Oaks would be more in her comfort zone.
The daughter of Dubawi is out of a Monsun mare, meaning that there is every chance on pedigree that she will be better at middle distances than the mile over which she raced to date. This doesn’t look a vintage renewal of the Investec Oaks on what we’ve seen so far, so Sheikh Mohammed’s filly could well prove good enough to give the excellent William Buick his first Derby win. The 4/1 still on offer with Marathonbet looks a fair price.
The Ballydoyle Batallion
At the five-day declaration stage Aidan O’Brien doesn’t appear at first glance to have as strong a hand in this Classic as he clearly does in the Derby with Saxon Warrior. Numerically, he has an overwhelmingly presence being represented by eight of the 13 entries, but we already know that both Athena and Sizzling will not take their chances, and as of Tuesday afternoon there is now a doubt about the particiaption of apparent first-string Magical, who picked up a minor knock on a joint during her final training session.
Beaten a short-head in last year’s Group 1 Moyglare Stud Stakes by stable companion Happily, Magical finished fourth on her final two outings as a juvenile behind Wild Illusion at Chamntilly and behind Karl Burke’s Laurens at Newmarket in the Fillies’ Mile. The daughter of Galileo was fourth in heavy ground in France on her reappearance in April, and while she’s never raced beyond a mile she is bred to stay being a daughter of Galileo.
Ryan Moore had been expected to ride Magical, suggesting that connections felt she was best of their possible six starters, but that is now up in the air and throws a cloud over the market leading up to the day of the race.
O’Brien’s Magic Wand (8/1 with Sun Bets), impressive winner of Chester’s Cheshire Oaks a couple of weeks ago (see video below), would probably have been our pick of the O’Brien posse even without the doubt over her stable companion. She scooted round the Chester turns in fine style and there appear to be few doubts about her stamina.
Magic Wand lands the Cheshire Oaks @ChesterRaces and gives Aidan O'Brien a sixth win in the race in the past decade. She's now a general 14-1 for the Investec Oaks at Epsom. Enable did the double last year. #BoodlesMayFest pic.twitter.com/g86FQeC3cV
— Racing UK (@Racing_UK) May 9, 2018
The Chester race has proved a good yardstick to the destiny of the Oaks on a number of occasions, most recently providing a launch pad in 2017 for the stellar career of John Gosden’s Enable who went on to score at Epsom before mopping up a hatful of Group 1’s including the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe last October.
O’Brien’s Forever Together (7/1 with Bet365), beaten more than three lengths by Magic Wand at Chester but twice denied a clear run, looks to have every chance of running well at Epsom. Although she doesn’t have as much stamina on the dam’s side as Magic Wand, she gives the impression she will stay and might not be too far away.
O’Brien’s other expected runners are this month’s Group 3 Blue Wind Stakes winner Bye Bye Baby, I Can Fly, outpaced on fast ground over a mile when only 11th behind Billesdon Brook in the Qipco 1000 Guineas at the start of the month, and Flattering a beaten favourite when only third to Perfect Clarity in the listed Lingfield Oaks Trial a few weeks ago.
The Other Main Contenders
Clive Cox has been very bullish about his unbeaten filly Perfect Clarity, who won a Nottingham maiden last August and then followed up on her first start this term by landing the Oaks Trial at Lingfield, beating Ceccini and Flattering in pleasing fashion (see video below). The daughter of Nathaniel has done absolutely nothing wrong, and in a year when there are no overwhelming candidates she more than deserves her place in the line-up.
Perfect Clarity for Clive Cox and Adam Kirby land the Oaks Trial at Lingfield Park
Were you impressed?
— ODDSbible Racing (@ODDSbibleRacing) May 12, 2018
“She’s got a lot of ticks in a lot of boxes,” said Cox, “and she’s definitely the best middle-distance filly I’ve had anything to do with. I’m looking forward to [The Oaks] very much.”
York’s Group 3 Tattersalls Musidora Stakes saw a pleasing victory for William Haggas’ Give And Take (12/1 with Bet365), a filly who should have no stamina issues but may just lack the touch of class needed for this top-class contest. Her dam is an unraced full sister to Irish Derby and Ascot Gold Cup winner Fame And Glory, so it seems more than likely that she will last home – although it would be a surprise if she’s quick enough to spring a surprise.
— BetVictor Racing (@BetVictorRacing) May 16, 2018
The Newmarket handler may possibly be doubly represented as recent Newbury listed winner Sea of Class seems set to run after her trainer felt this had opened up following the withdrawal of Lah Ti Dar. The daughter of Sea The Stars won in good style at the Berkshire track on only her second career start and has been a market positive this week being backed down to a general 6/1, although Bet Stars still offer 7/1.
In summary, this doesn’t look a vintage renewal and with Lah Ti Dar out of the race it could be WILD ILLUSION’s chance to step up and make a name for herself. We recommended her earlier in the month at 7/1 and she is now a top priced 4/1 shot. For those looking for an each-way alternative they might not want to look to much further than Aidan O’Brien’s Cheshire Oaks winner Magic Wand. She’ll stay, she should handle the track, is in form, and at 8/1 each-way with Sun Bets looks good value.