(Published 18 August, 2018) – One of the top middle-distance fillies events in Europe, the Group 1 Darley Yorkshire Oaks is staged at York’s famous Ebor Festival and takes place this year on August 23. It is open to fillies and mares aged three years old and upwards and is run over a mile-and-a-half.
First run way back in 1849, the Yorkshire Oaks offers an opportunity to bring together the winners of the English, Irish, and even the French Oaks, as well as those that have figured prominently in major middle-distance events such as those at Ascot, Newmarket, and on the continent. Last year the brilliant John Gosden-trained three-year-old Enable landed the spoils before going on to a famous victory in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe at Chantilly in early-October.
The former champion trainer has won this race three times in the last nine years, while Aidan O’Brien and Sir Michael Stoute are the winning-most handlers over the last 20 years, both having sent out four winners during the period. In the last 10 years, jockeys Frankie Dettori and Kevin Manning have both won the race twice, Dettori having been aboard Enable 12 months ago.
Class Act Sea Going For York Glory
William Haggas’ Sea Of Class is the current 13/8 favourite with 888sport having stepped up from two wins at Newbury in listed class to land the Group 1 Tattersalls Irish Oaks at the Curragh last time out where she stayed on really well to get the better of the Aidan O’Brien-trained Investec Oaks heroine Forever Together by a neck. Bye Bye Baby (fourth), and Magic Wand (fifth), stable companions of the runner-up, were both well held.
The manner of that victory was highly encouraging as James Doyle rode the daughter of Sea The Stars with a tremendous amount of confidence, holding her up off the pace on her first start at a mile-and-a-half before making good headway from the two furlong marker without any great effort from the saddle. Indeed, Doyle rode just hands and heels as he reeled in Forever Together in the last 75 yards to eventually score with rather more in hand than the winning margin indicates.
Held in high regard by her trainer, Sea Of Class should take some beating being proven over the trip and on an upward curve. Any easing of the ground might be a concern as she has done most of her racing so far on good to firm ground, but otherwise, for those looking to take the current odds, she looks sure to go well.
Forever Together (4/1 with Boylesports), who romped away with the Oaks at Epsom in June on soft ground, would be fancied to turn the tables if the heavens opened. To be fair to the daughter of Galileo, while she has been beaten in both starts since her Classic success, she would have found the drop back to 10 furlongs against her when runner-up to Urban Fox in the Group 1 Pretty Polly Stakes at the Curragh in June, and the fast ground at the Curragh far from ideal when nabbed close home by Sea Of Class last time out. If the ground were to ease she would have much in her favour so is no forlorn hope under those circumstances. But if it doesn’t, you would fancy Haggas’ filly to confirm her Curragh superiority.
O’Brien’s other three entries all have a little to prove on recent form. Magic Wand (9/1 with Sky Bet) was a shade of odds-on to win the Irish Oaks but ran flat and could only finish fifth, having previously stormed away with the Group 2 Ribblesdale Stakes at Royal Ascot in June. Prior to that she won the listed Cheshire Oaks at Chester in May, and was fourth behind Forever Together in the Oaks at Epsom on unsuitably soft ground. If she were to bounce back to her Ribblesdale form she would be in with a shout, but that might have been a flash in the pan.
Bye Bye Baby (25/1 with Betfair), a winner of the Group 3 Blue Wind Stakes on soft to heavy ground earlier in the term, ran third in the Oaks at Epsom before finishing fourth in the Irish Oaks. She is another who would want some rain, and having been beaten some way in both Classic races it would be a surprise to see her reversing the form, while Flattering (50/1 with Paddy Power), winner of the Group 3 Munster Oaks in June, has been well beaten in her last two starts and has around a stone to find on official ratings so makes little appeal.
Laurens Flying Flag For The North
Yorkshire’s big hope in this great race is the high-class Karl Burke-trained filly LAURENS, a winner of the Group 1 bet365 Fillies’ Mile at Newmarket last season as a juvenile. The daughter of Siyouni has trained on tremendously well and enjoyed a great campaign. She was a brave second to Billesdon Brook in the Qipco 1000 Guineas at Newmarket in May, then stepped up to 10 furlongs to win the Group 1 Prix Saint Alary at Longchamp three weeks later, battling on really well to beat Freddie Head’s With You by a short-head.
The Middleham-based star then returned to France last time for the Group 1 Prix de Diane (the French Oaks) where she was in the firing line all the way but refused to be passed, battling on tenaciously under regular rider PJ McDonald to land a famous neck success over the best of the French three-year-old fillies.
Having won at the highest level over a mile as a two-year-old, and being a half-sister to two winning jumpers, it seems reasonable to expect that Burke’s tough-as-teak filly will see out the extra two furlongs of the Yorkshire Oaks. Of more concern is the fact that she may be taken on for the lead by one or other of the O’Brien battalion, but connections may decided to allow Laurens to slot in behind this time in a bid to ensure she gets the trip. Laurens has proved herself remarkably tough and classy, has never been out of the first two, and at 4/1 with Paddy Power looks the value to get the better of Sea Of Class.
Could Coronet Be Crowned Champion?
John Gosden won this race last year with the great Enable, and he’ll be hoping his four-year-old Coronet (5/1 with Bet365) can provide him with back-to-back Yorkshire Oaks triumphs. This classy filly has to concede weight-for-age to the market principals, but she is a smart performer on her day as she showed when chasing home Enable in this race 12 months ago – albeit five lengths behind the brilliant winner.
Runner-up to stablemate Enable in the Yorkshire Oaks last year, Coronet starts 2018 in style in the Betfred Middleton Stakes #DanteFestival
— Racing UK (@Racing_UK) May 17, 2018
Coronet began this term with a win at York in the Group 2 Middleton Stakes, comfortably accounting for Horseplay, who may reoppose on Thursday. She was then beaten just a nose by Waldgeist in the Group 1 Grand Prix de Saint Cloud before finishing a respectable but distant third behind Poet’s Word and Crystal Ocean in the King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot last month. She should again give a good account of herself in this race and seems to go well at this track.
Dermot Weld may field an interesting candidate in the shape of the still unexposed Eziyra (12/1 with Betfair), winner of her last three races, most recently landing the Group 3 Ballyroan Stakes at Leopardstown last week. The Aga Khan’s filly stays well, but this is a big step up in class. However, Weld is a master trainer and must feel that his daughter of Teofilo is worth her place in the line-up.
A fine return – last seen winning on @IrishChampsWknd, Eziyra is back with victory in the feature @GrenkeIreland Ballyroan Stakes at @LeopardstownRC. Treble for Dermot Weld and @declanmcdonogh ? pic.twitter.com/YAUY7wZAUE
— At The Races (@AtTheRaces) August 9, 2018
The aforementioned Horseplay (14/1 with Ladbrokes), runner-up to Coronet here in May, went on to land the Group 2 Lancashire Oaks at Haydock last month for Andrew Balding and is clearly in good heart. This is another step up in class for the four-year-old daughter of Cape Cross, and brave though it was, her short-head defeat of God Given last time just doesn’t look good enough here.
Germany will be represented in the race by Frau Steinberg’s Night Music (20/1 with bet365), a five-year-old Sea The Stars mare who has been a revelation since joining her current handler having previously been trained by Andreas Wohler. She has won all four starts for Steinberg, including two listed events and a Group 2 at San Siro in Italy. SThere are no concerns about the trip but the German mare is at her best with give in the ground, and unless it comes up very testing it appears most likely that this sporting continental challenger will go home empty handed.
ADVICE: LAURENS (4/1 with Paddy Power)
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.