It’s the first of the mid-season Classics on Friday as the ladies take centre stage for the Epsom Oaks (4.30pm).
It all looked so easy when ante-post fav Minding breezed past the post in the 1,000 Guineas at Newmarket. But Aidan O’Brien’s filly blotted her copybook in the Irish equivalent when getting beaten by Jet Setting in a slog-in-a-bog at the Curragh less than a fortnight ago.
If she can produce her English Guineas form she should win, as she’s the highest-rated on 119. And the field’s not exactly bomb-proof either.
But there’s little juice left in her price and plenty of it in the ground – especially for a filly with stamina to prove.
The Ballydoyle yard have saddled the Oaks winner five times since 2001 (including last year’s 50/1 screamer Qualify) and O’Brien has the unbeaten-this-season Somehow and Seventh Heaven to fall back on.
Somehow finished a length ahead of Diamonds Pour Moi in the Cheshire Oaks last month and neither should have much difficulty seeing out the 1m 4f trip.
Soft ground is a definite plus for Somehow (an easy winner over 10f in a Leopardstown maiden on heavy ground) but Ralph Beckett’s DPM was having just her second start at the Roodee and if she improves again can give the Beckett yard high hopes of a third win in the fillies division after Look Here (2008) and Talent (2013).
Touch of Class
Turret Rocks finished second to Ballydoyle in the Group 1 Prix Marcel Boussac at Longchamp after winning the Group 2 May Hill Stakes at Doncaster last year before finishing sixth to Minding at Newmarket in the 1,000 Guineas. She has a touch of class but the winter-like conditions in Britain this week won’t help.
Godolphin have dug deep into their well-lined pockets to supplement Goodwood winner Skiffle who didn’t get the clearest of runs on her Ascot debut before staying on well to score at Goodwood over 10f and is bred to stay 1m 4f handy.
That Goodwood trial has already provided the 2010 Oaks winner in Snow Fairy while Lady of Dubai took the same route before finishing a three-length third at 7/1 to Qualify last year.
If Minding has as much in hand as the ratings claim Skiffle could be a solid alternative to fill the places.
Selection : Minding Alternative: Skiffle
Saturday’s Epsom Derby is the richest race ever run in Britain – and possibly the most open – so Paddy’s paying 1/4 the odds the first four home.
There’s 16 runners declared for the Colts’ Classic with last season’s victors John Gosden & Frankie Dettori taking the same path with York’s Dante winner Wings of Desire as they did with Golden Horn.
He just got the better of Aidan O’Brien’s seasonal-debutant Deauville on the Knavesmire – with the runner up doing a lot of the donkey work from three furlongs out and is joined by four other stable-mates as Team Ballydoyle look for a sixth win in the Epsom Classic.
Ryan Moore sticks with the unbeaten US Army Ranger who chinned stablemate Port Douglas in the Chester Vase to give the O’Brien / Moore combo their fifth win in that race in six years.
It’s a mixed bag of those who won there and went on to run at Epsom, Treasure Beach (25/1) was a head second to Pour Moi in 2011, Ruler of the World won the 2013 Derby at 7/1, while Orchestra 12th to Australia (16/1), Hans Holbien (14/1) seventh to Golden Horn were also rans.
But the Ranger was getting 4lbs from Port Douglas that day who was only beaten a short-head and is more than twice his rival’s price for Saturday.
Beacon Rock was a close up third to Port Douglas in a Group 2 Curragh but was no match for Jim Bolger’s Moonlight Magic in the Derinstown Stud Derby Trial over 10f at Leopardstown and his trainer has boldly claimed that he doesn’t fear anyone in the race.
It’s a ballsy call but the last time he raced on soft ground he was fifth to Dermot Weld’s Harzand in a Group 3 at Leopardstown and Pat Smullen’s mount is considered more of a St Leger type while another trainer bigging up his runner is Sir Michael Stoute, whose Ulyssess has been punted into third fav on the back of a Newbury maiden win.
Guineas runner-up Massaat could be hidden in full view and is the only runner who brings Classic form to the table on the strength of his second to Galileo Gold at Newmarket last month.
French ace Andre Fabre saddles Cloth of Stars who loves to get his toe in and the stable were successful with Pour Moi in 2011.