We’re usually a lot wiser after York’s Dante meeting on the pecking order for the Epsom Oaks and Epsom Derby – but there’s a few factors this year that could alter that picture.
As I write, the weather forecast is very unsettled and we could quickly go to a soft or heavy ground meeting if the threatened cloud bursts arrive. We’ll have to tailor our selections to reflect this.
The feature race on Wednesday’s opening card of the three-day meeting is the Group 3 Musidora Stakes over 1m 2f.
We’ve a short-priced favourite here in John Gosden’s unbeaten Shutter Speed who won on soft ground over a mile at Yarmouth last October and showed her versatility when beating Raheen House over 10f at Newbury last month on good to firm going.
She’s clear in the ratings, but there have been rumblings that Gosden’s filly mightn’t run if the ground turns very soft. The Newmarket trainer doesn’t want her bottomed out in a slog with just two weeks until the Epsom Oaks.
Shutter Speed also holds an entry in the French Oaks and should win – but doesn’t interest me at long odds on.
It the favourite wasn’t to line up, it leaves us with what could be a wide-open, tactical, four-runner affair. Jim Bolger’s Vociferous Marina sprang a 20/1 shock when beating Pocketfullofdreams at Navan last month – but the Ballydoyle runner disappointed at Lingfield last weekend.
Of more concern is that Bolger said his filly got ‘lost’ in soft ground at Naas before that. Miss Infinity has winning form on soft ground but that was over 6f and has had plenty of runs since. Roger Varian’s Serenada steps up from winning a Sandown maiden on what will be just her third start.
Hugo Palmer’s Vintage Folly could be worth chancing. She won a Newcastle maiden last November beating Gymnaste who ran out a ready winner at Chester last week. She could be the big improver in the field – but will need to be to win whether the fav runs or not.
We’ve got Company
If it’s all about potential in the feature race, Wednesday’s opening 1m 2f handicap at 2.20pm has plenty of form lines to untangle. The one I really like is John Quinn’s Speed Company who should be bang on for this after his fifth-place run behind Brorocco at Epsom.
He started and ended last season with wins over 10f under today’s pilot Ryan Moore – the first of which was on soft ground at Newmarket.
While the stall 14 draw is a negative, gaps could start to appear in the field if the ground rides soft. Moore could find himself weaving through beaten horses at the business end of the race.
One who looks to have an ideal berth in box 4 is the former Andre Fabre-trained Qassem. He made his debut for Hugo Palmer last season in the November Handicap on good to firm ground, but could be a dark horse with a bit more juice around.