The Big Race: Epsom Oaks

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The general perception is that the Oaks are a better race than the Derby this year. And yes, there’s certainly some merit to this. The Oaks field looks absolute delicious -and that’s not only because the brilliant 1000 Guineas winner Legatissimo standing her ground over the much longer Oaks trip. No, it’s the strengths in depth that really intrigues me.

Of course the Wachman filly couldn’t have been more impressive at Newmarket. The drop in trip to 1m didn’t seem to suit beforehand, but it worked absolutely in her favour given the way the race panned out. Racing off the frenetic pace, once she started her big move, she picked them all up one by one, filly after filly, until she was left alone in front.

No doubt, she is a very strong favourite to land the Guineas & Oaks double. The longer trip is rather certain to suit than not, the ground won’t be an issue and she looks a well balanced filly who’s likely to handle Epsom’s undulations.

If you want to find question marks than it has to be the draw. Legatissimo has to start from stall 1 – which would be in any other sport the pole position – but not at Epsom where the record in the Oaks for fillies drawn in one is disastrous. Lucky she is, though, as she has Ryan Moore in the saddle….. there’s some people thinking he’s the best jockey in the world. He may be able to get her out of this dilemma.

Honestly, after making this case for her, I find it hard to oppose her. But I have to. At 3/1 or even shorter I can hardly see any value in the price. It’s a competitive field with strong opposition. Legatissimo is not invincible.

Main danger could be Stoute’s Crystal Zvezda. Lightly raced, she seems to have tons of potential. Her eye-catching success in a Newbury listed race on her seasonal reappearance promises allot. However Epsom is a completely different track compared to what she has seen at flat Newbury. Will this inexperienced filly handle the tough assignment which the Oaks will undoubtedly provide? Maybe. I could be tempted at 4/1, but also believe better value can be found in this field.

Many have been impressed by Jack Naylor’s performance in the Irish 1000 Guineas. So have I. She stayed on from an unfavourable position, trailing the field for most parts of the race, and finished an encouraging fourth in the end. Jack Naylor has a good chance to stay the Oaks trip, albeit it’s a dramatic step up from a mile to 1m 4f. And might the bounce factor kick in? Only 12 days after having a tough race in the Guineas she’s here at Epsom.

Aiden O’Brien is represented with three fillies. Qualify is likely to be deployed as a pacer maker – that’s my best guess. Diamondsandrubies was a very good winner of the Cheshire Oaks. Soft ground may be key to her, so the drying ground seems against her. She also needs to take another massive step forward to win.

Probably the best of the O’Brien trio is Together Forever. A Group 1 winner as a juvenile, after what her trainer said she might be more a Guineas type than one for the Oaks as she shows more speed than expected. Well, here she is in the Oaks, on the back of a very encouraging runner-up effort in the Musidora Stakes over 1m 2f.

The winner had the run of the race from the front that day and Together Forever – albeit making eye-catching progress from four to two furlongs out – appeared to be flat footed once the pace setting filly kicked on. But she kept fighting and stayed on strongly. She almost caught the eventual winner on the line.

On pedigree Together Forever looks certain to stay the Oaks trip, and not only that, she may easily improve for it. I would expect her to come on from her comeback run too. If she handles Epsom, she must rate a very big runner.

Her Musidora form is tied to Star Of Seville, who won the race. A smart filly in her own right, but 10f looks to be her optimum, if not even the limit of her stamina.

That should not be the case for Cummani’s Lady Of Dubai. She impressed at Goodwood in a Listed event and has a very fair chance to get the Oaks trip. Frankie Dettori’s mount Jazzi Top was a good Listed winner last month as well, though stamina is a bit more of a question mark for her.

It is very hard to see either Al Naamah or Bellajeu good enough to land a blow in the Oaks.

Verdict: Legatissimo is likely to be found on any short-list, for obvious reasons – but as mentioned before, she is not a price I’m particularly fond of. Same applies to Crystal Zvezda. I like her and look forward to see her running, but she not a price for me.

Lady Of Dubai is a filly I believe can run a big race and no doubt she is an interesting price. But most intriguing individual is Together Forever. Potentially she has so many things in her favour here. It’s likely that she can improve for her seasonal debut as well as the step up in trip. She’s already a Group 1 winner, so clearly has the class, and has a good draw, which isn’t quite without importance.

Together Forever @ 10/1 Coral – 5pts Win

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