Epsom Investec Oaks Preview

by Dave Stevos

This year’s Investec Oaks has cut up already and with rain forecast it could be a minefield of a race for punters. Last year’s winning trainer Aidan O’Brien fires three bullets in an attempt to retain his crown, and of his entries Minding is the one fancied to do the business at 10/11. However, the Oaks has been a graveyard for favourites in recent years, and indeed Qualify was priced up at 50/1 when winning last season. Only two favourites have obliged since 2006, and none since Sariska back in 2009. Four of the last five winners have been priced 20/1 or bigger, so if you fancy one and it is a big price don’t let that put you off. Below are my thoughts on the main contenders in what promises to be an Oaks to remember at Epsom.


Weight: 9st 0lbs
Official Rating: 97
Draw: Stall 9
Best Odds: 12/1 Sportingbet 

Hugo Palmer has announced himself as a trainer to be reckoned with this season and he already has a classic in the bag after Galileo Gold romped home in the 2000 Guineas. He has some serious ammunition at his disposal and this daughter of Zoffany is a live contender for the Oaks. She has won just one of her three starts thus far, but she has shown smart form and she deserves her place in this field.

Crucially, given the weather forecast, she has shown that she handles easy ground well and after her debut defeat at Sandown (8f sft) she made no mistake next time at Nottingham (8.5f gd/sft). She was stepped into listed company at Lingfield (11.5f gd) on her seasonal return and she lost no caste in defeat behind Seventh Heaven, who she faces again today. That filly had the benefit of a run and she was all out to fend off Architecture by less than half a length. She has every chance of turning that form around on easier ground and with that run behind her. At odds of 12/1 she shouldn’t be discounted for a trainer that is going places.


Weight: 9st 0lbs
Official Rating: 95
Draw: Stall 2
Best Odds: 33/1 Ladbrokes

Ralph Beckett is a trainer that should always be respected in fillies’ races. He has an excellent record with the girls and he has won this race twice since 2006. Talent (20/1) and Look Here (33/1) obliged in 2013 and 2008 respectively. Even though Diamonds Pour Moi has been written off as a 33/1 shot by the bookies it would be no surprise to see her run a massive race.

She is by Derby hero Pour Moi so she should have no problem handling the tricky track at Epsom.

Her grand-dam is a half-sister to Group 2 winner and Group 1 placed Mukaddamah, so she is bred to be useful. She ran just once last season, winning her maiden at Kempton (8f) in November. She returned to action with a very nice run in a listed heat at Chester (11.5f good), staying on well for third behind Somehow, beaten a length. That rival is just 10/1 for this race, but there is hope that Diamonds Pour Moi can turn the form around as Somehow had a run under her belt when they met at Chester and the Beckett filly was trapped wide. Beckett reckons easy ground will suit and with rain forecast this filly looks overpriced at odds of 33/1. 


Weight: 9st 0lbs
Official Rating: 102
Draw: Stall 5
Best Odds: 25/1 Ladbrokes

Mick Channon and Silvestre De Sousa have teamed up to good effect this season. De Sousa has ridden 11 winners for him already and he has elected to ride this filly rather than Australian Queen. Harlequeen is the fourth highest rated filly in the race so on the figures she should go close to claiming a place, and the rain that is forecast should suit this daughter of Canford Cliffs. She showed on her debut that soft ground held no fears with an easy win at Goodwood (8f sft) last September.

She was put away after that and reappeared with a fine effort behind Linguistic in the Class 2 Tattersalls Millions 3yo Trophy at Newmarket (10f gd/sft). However, the winner of that race let the form down somewhat on his next two starts by getting beaten in listed company. She was then a decent fourth behind So Mi Dar on her first run in Group 3 company at York (10.5f gd), outpaced but keeping on well to be beaten under 5L at the finish. However, I am not sure she will measure up to the best of these and she will have to hope that easy ground slows down her rivals on the day if she is to make the frame.


Weight: 9st 0lbs
Official Rating: 119
Draw: Stall 4
Best Odds: 10/11 Paddy Power

As ever Aidan O’Brien and Coolmore hold a strong hand in the Oaks and Minding is the clear form pick in this race. She is streets ahead of her rivals on the figures and she absolutely hosed up in the 1000 Guineas at Newmarket (8f gd/fm). She was sent off a warm order to follow up in the Irish equivalent but she was found out on the soft ground by Jet Setting, who prevailed by a head in a thrilling finish. That was just her third defeat from seven starts and plenty will fancy her to get back to winning ways at Epsom.

As one would expect with a horse from these quarters Minding is exquisitely bred, by Galileo and out of dual Group 1 winning miler Lillie Langtry. However, her pedigree suggests that a mile should be her optimal trip and there has to be big doubts about the suitability of the 12f trip at Epsom, especially if it comes up soft. As a big believer in pedigree I don’t think she should be as short as she is and with rain forecast I would be a layer rather than a backer at her current odds of just 10/11.


Weight: 9st 0lbs
Official Rating: 98
Draw: Stall 7
Best Odds: 20/1 Coral

This is the biggest priced filly of the O’Brien/Coolmore trio but that didn’t stop Qualify winning for the same jockey and trainer at 50/1 last season. This daughter of Galileo looked very moderate in her two race 2yo career but she wintered really well and she has looked like a different horse this season. Judging by her pedigree on her dam side she is bred to be a sprinter more than a stayer, but it looks as though she has inherited her sire’s stamina.

She returned to action at Dundalk on the all-weather in April and stormed to a three length win, staying on really well to draw clear. She was stepped up to 11.5f at Lingfield in a listed heat on good ground next time and she held off the late challenge of Architecture to prevail by a neck. That rival was having her first run back so there is a worry that she could improve past Seventh Heaven at Epsom. However, this filly is still unexposed over middle distances and she might not be finished improving herself. With stamina assured this filly could easily sneak a place at least at odds of 20/1 with Coral.


Weight: 9st 0lbs
Official Rating: 103
Draw: Stall 8
Best Odds: 6/1 Skybet

Skiffle is the sole representative for the boys in blue and this is a race that they last won with Kazzia back in 2002. It has been a long time between drinks for Godolphin and they look to have a realistic chance of ending the drought with this beautifully bred daughter of Dubawi. Her dam was placed at Group 2 level in France (12.5f sft) and she is a half-sister to the dam that produced Arc winner Solemia.

She made a very pleasing debut in a maiden at Ascot (10f gd/fm), falling out of the stalls and keeping on really well to finish third behind Abingdon, beaten just over 3L. Appleby showed how much he rates her by stepping her up into listed company at Goodwood (10f gd) next time out and she justified that decision by staying on well for a 1L win. She needed every inch of the 10f trip that day and her racing style suggests she will be even better over further. Her dam handled soft ground well so the rain shouldn’t be a worry and she should run a huge race at odds of 6/1.


Weight: 9st 0lbs
Official Rating: 98
Draw: Stall 6
Best Odds: 10/1 Ladbrokes

The third of the three O’Brien entries and on jockey bookings she looks to be the second string. This daughter of Fastnet Rock is exceedingly well bred and she is out of Alexandrova, a mare that was a triple Group 1 12f winner, including this race by 6L back in 2006. Of all the O’Brien horses this filly looks like the one most suitably bred for the job, and she has already shown that she handles an ease. She was beaten on her debut at Leopardstown (7f gd/yld) on her only start as a 2yo and she was put away after that run.

She reappeared with a smooth win at Leopardstown (10f hvy) and was stepped up to listed company at Chester (11.5f gd) on her next start. She looked in trouble a few furlongs out but Moore threaded a passage through and stayed on best close home to beat Moorside and Diamonds Pour Moi by a length. I think any rain that falls will suit this filly and it will be interesting to see if she upholds the form with Diamonds Pour Moi, who was having her first run of the season at Chester. At 10/1 she is a fascinating contender and she is definitely one to be interested in each way.


Weight: 9st 0lbs
Official Rating: 110
Draw: Stall 1
Best Odds: 7/1 Bet365

Jim Bolger took this race with Jetski Lady at odds of 50/1 back in 1991 so he knows what it takes to win an Oaks. Turret Rocks will be nowhere near that price on Friday and she comes into the race as the second highest rated filly in the field. She is also a daughter of Fastnet Rock, the same sire as last year’s winner Qualify. Her dam’s half-sister produced the magical mare Goldikova, so she has a pedigree to match any of these. Bolger has long talked about her as an Oaks filly, but he has repeatedly emphasised the importance of good ground to her chances.

Her form would bear that out as she has yet to even attempt to race on ground softer than good. She has won just two of her six starts so far, but one of those victories came in the Group 2 Mayhill Stakes at Doncaster last season. She then went close behind Ballydoyle in the Group 1 Prix Marcel Boussac at Longchamp (8f good), a run that earned her a rating of 110. She reappeared in the 1000 Guineas at Newmarket and she ran a respectable race in sixth, nearly 7L behind Minding. She should get closer to her over this longer trip, but the forecast rain is a huge worry. On fast ground she would be my idea of the winner, but with soft ground likely she is best watched at odds of 7/1. 


The bookies prices would suggest that this race is all about Minding, but I am not sure her price of 10/11 is justified. Yes, she was ultra-impressive at Newmarket but that was on quick ground, and she was found out by Jet Setting on easy ground at the Curragh. Of the O’Brien trio I would probably side with Somehow at odds of 10/1 as the trip and ground are sure to suit on both form and pedigree. Architecture is another one that deserves a mention as she has also shown an affinity for easy ground.

Skiffle is another for whom the ground and trip hold no fears and she is a fascinating contender. As stated above the rain has come at the wrong time for Turret Rocks and if the ground comes up softer than good it is hard to see him making an impact. The filly I like at big odds is Diamonds Pour Moi for Ralph Beckett and Oisin Murphy. She should come on leaps and bounds for her comeback run behind Somehow at Chester and she gave up a lot of ground by coming widest of all. Beckett reckons she will be best with an ease so the rain should not be a worry. She looks a huge price at odds of 33/1 and she could run a huge race for a trainer that knows what it takes to win this race.