There may only be 11 runners in Friday’s Investec Oaks but punters face a real dilemma in one of the most open Classics I can remember.
I made the journey up to Epsom last week with the Booby for the ‘Breakfast with the Stars’ pre-race gallop. Racing should really open the event to the public, so they could come and watch the derby horses gallop. It is done around the world, so why not in the UK?
Anyway, it was interesting to see French trainer Andre Fabre helicopter over and let his Oaks contender Al Naamah get a feel for Epsom. She looked a fine filly and powered clear on her gallop reminding me of his 2011 Derby victor Pour Moi. She is definitely the each-way value bet in the race to my eyes at double-digit odds.
One to beat
But the one to beat is David Wachman’s 1000 Guineas winner LEGATISSIMO (below) who looked very impressive at Newmarket, staying on strongly to win and this trip should not pose any problems for her. The draw (stall one) has done her no favours – but she still she sets the standard.
Even though Star of Seville won the Group 3 Musidora Stakes at York over 1m 2f – it was hardly impressive.
She pulled clear, then idled in front and nearly handed the race to Aidan O’Brien’s filly Together Forever who looked in need of the run that day. She’ll improve plenty and I’m convinced she will reverse the form in the Oaks.
As for their Epsom gallop, if Star of Seville and stablemate Jazzi Top were Big Brother contestants, they’d have been voted off in week two. It was workman-like.
The Sir Michael Stoute-trained Crystal Zvezda won very impressively at Newbury over 10f and looks like she will improve further for the step up to 1m 4f.
Champion jockey Richard Hughes takes the ride as Crystal Zvezda looks to become Sir Michael’s first Epsom Oaks winner since Unite in 1987. And there’s been plenty of support for her over the last few days.
- Mac’s Pick: Legatissimo
- Alternative: Al Naamah (each-way)
The layers will be out to get Derby fav Golden Horn
Frankie Dettori riding the Derby favourite and York’s Dante winner Golden Horn maybe a dream for the Epsom executive and sponsors Investec – but there will be plenty of layers out to get the favourite.
There’s question marks over him getting the 1m 4f Derby trip and I won’t be taking short odds about John Gosden’s runner. Even his owner Anthony Oppenheimer has doubts about his stamina and wanted to go for the French Derby over 1m 2 ½f.
Golden Horn could be travelling as well as anything as they come down the hill and around Tattenham Corner – but it is a long way home from there.
There’ll be plenty of fast finishing, hold-up horses challenging him, and that final couple of furlongs may find him out.
However, he looked superb at the Epsom gallop as did stablemate Jack Hobbs. He looked mighty impressive and moved as well as any horse on show that day. He’s now part-owned by Godolphin, so William Buick (who rode Golden Horn to win at York) will be in the saddle.
Andrew Balding’s Elm Park looked in need of the run when third to these two on his seasonal bow at York and needs some rain in the ground to be seen at his best.
He won the Grade One Racing Post Trophy over a mile on soft ground last year – but if the Factor 20 is out on Saturday – his chance will diminish. He was withdrawn from the 2000 Guineas due to the quick going – so watch the skies at Epsom.
I thought Dermot Weld’s unbeaten ZAWRAQ (above) was the one they all had to beat – but a late injury scare has ruled him out.
Although dual Guineas winner Gleneagles heads straight to Royal Ascot’s St James’s Palace Stakes – his trainer Aidan O’Brien (who has won the last three Epsom Derbies) still has Chester Vase winner Hans Holbein and Ryan Moore’s pick Giovanni Canaletto among his entries.
But it’s a big ask for both to step up and win a Derby on recent performances.
- Mac’s Pick: Jack Hobbs
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