Aidan O’Brien has won the Oaks seven times but hasn’t had things all his own way in the race in recent seasons. John Gosden has been just as successful of late, and when Anapurna held off Ballydoyle’s Pink Dogwood by a neck in last year’s renewal, it evened the score between the two stables to three wins apiece in the last six runnings.
With leading contenders in both camps, there’s every chance that the finish to Saturday’s Epsom Oaks will again be fought out by fillies representing the same two stables.
Gosden’s fillies have dominated the Oaks trials run in Britain this month and none made a better impression than Frankly Darling. She was an emphatic winner of a maiden at Newcastle and then followed up in the Ribblesdale Stakes at Royal Ascot under Frankie Dettori which has turned into the main Oaks trial in the topsy-turvy calendar this year. Frankly Darling won with more in hand than the length and three-quarter margin would suggest over the O’Brien-trained Ennistymon and is very much the type to improve further.
As for O’Brien, he also saddled the third in the Ribblesdale in which Passion shaped as though needing more of a test. Both daughters of Galileo are improving, notably Ennistymon who had only won her maiden a week beforehand, but they clearly have work to do to turn the tables on Frankly Darling.
Leading Ballydoyle’s raiding party, though, will be Love, who will bid to emulate the same stable’s Minding who was the last filly, four years ago, to complete the 1000 Guineas and Oaks double.
Love had a busy two-year-old campaign that included a victory in the Moyglare Stud Stakes, but that didn’t stop her showing plenty of improvement when she ran away with the 1000 Guineas at Newmarket by over four lengths on her reappearance. She looked better the further she went and she’s bred to be well suited by the extra four furlongs she will get on Saturday.
O’Brien also won the Irish 1000 Guineas, with Peaceful but her trainer has re-directed her to the French Oaks at Chantilly on Sunday. where she is currently third favourite behind compatriot Alpine Star.
The remaining entries are probably looking to pick up place money at best. Gold Wand has shown plenty of promise in a couple of maidens for Roger Varian, landing the odds in a slowly-run race at Newbury on her reappearance without needing to improve on the form of her debut last year.
The same stable’s Queen Daenerys has been more highly tried, finishing second in the Pretty Polly Stakes at Newmarket on her return, and is another open to further improvement.
Godolphin’s Saeed bin Suroor-trained entry Dubai Love can boast better form than plenty of these, but the main worry where she’s concerned is lack of stamina, having won the UAE 1000 Guineas early in the year and finished third in the Sandringham Stakes over a mile at Royal Ascot last time.
Stamina won’t be a problem for Peter Chapple-Hyam’s Sea The Stars filly Bharani Star who was fourth at odds of 100/1 in the Ribblesdale little more than a week after dead-heating in a class 5 handicap at Haydock. The David Simcock-trained Oriental Mystique is another filly who’s bred to be useful over middle distances this season, but didn’t meet expectations in a Listed race at Newbury on her return, while the entries are completed by Frankly Darling’s stablemate Tiempo Vuela who raced too freely when favourite for the Pretty Polly and beat only one home.
The domination of the Oaks by Gosden and O’Brien looks all set to continue, and while Frankly Darling has leading claims on her Ribblesdale victory, it could be O’Brien’s turn to be back in the winner’s enclosure this year with Love whose greater experience, along with the step up in trip, can give her the upper hand.
*Prices quoted are ante-post until final decs and are subject to change.
- Horse Racing: Timeform’s best bets for Saturday’s Epsom Derby
- Horse Racing: How to watch racing for free with Paddy Power
- Horse Racing tips: Santiago looks tailor made for St Leger tilt
- Grab racing previews from the UK, Ireland and the rest of the globe here
- Placing bets is easier than ever with Paddy Power News’ live odds banners