Oaks Friday Selections: 3rd June 2022

4.30: Group 1 Epsom Oaks, 1m 4f

On paper this years Oaks looks not a brilliant renewal, albeit a wide open one, with plenty of potential improvers for the Oaks distance. With that in mind I struggle to warm to short-priced favourite Emily Upjohn.

I understand why she’s well fancied today. Her Musidora victory was impressive. As a daughter of Sea The Stars she appears more than likely to stay the trip and it’s equally reasonable to assume she can improve for her fourth career run.

But she has to. The York performance was only worth a 95 topspeed rating. Solid but doesn’t scream 13/8 favourite. She may well take this crucial next step and can progress to the level the market generally assumes she’ll be capable of running to.

At the same time this can be said about a number of other fillies in this field full of likely improvers. Whether that’s Cheshire Oaks winner Thoughts Of June (quite appropriately named), stable mate Tuesday – a full-sister to 2016 Oaks heroine Minding, or Trial Stakes winner Nashwa. I could make a case for half the field.

But the two fillies that caught my eye more than anybody else – and I can’t split them – are Concert Hall and the only Godolphin entry With The Moonlight.

It’s no surprise that a full-sister to previous Oaks winner Was should feature highly on any short-list. Hence I am seriously surprised to see Concert Hall available at incredibly generous odds – I feel.

I was interested in her for the Irish 2000 Guineas, but it turned out the drop in trip didn’t really suit her. She didn’t posses the speed needed and got badly outpaced from over three furlongs out. But, crucially, she ran on strongly to finish 3rd eventually.

Perhaps it wasn’t the deepest Guineas field, nonetheless, the fact she was able to finish so strongly over an inadequate trip is noteworthy. Aiden O’Brien mentioned beforehand the filly thrives on racing and the Curragh outing would be a stepping stone towards Epsom.

In that light it’s even more significant that she won on her seasonal reappearance at Navan in the Listed Salsabil Stakes – form that looks rock solid. She gave the impression that she wouldn’t mind an additional couple of furlongs that day.

Therefore the Oaks trip looks a good match. Whether she handles the track is a different matter. She clearly has Oaks written all over and with a solid draw should be up there when it matters in my view.

With The Moonlight isn’t quite as clear-cut if it comes to stamina for the Oaks distance. Her pedigree points more towards middle-distance 10 furlongs. And yet, the way she finished at Newmarket was so impressive, giving the impression she could stretch out to 12 furlongs. And certainly giving the impression of a seriously talented filly.

I loved everything about that performance. It’s noteworthy also for the fact because that day she achieved the fasted topspeed rating on offer in the Oaks field.

Whether she can translate this speed to Epsom is the key question. As a full-sister to Group 1 winning Dream Castle she will certainly have the class. Her striding patterns, as far as available to me, give the indication that she has a fair chance to see out the trip, though.

Perhaps she will be ridden with a little bit more restraint today than at Newmarket. If she settles well, it should give William Buick plenty of options how to ride the race, given she possesses a lot of cruising speed, that is crucial at Epsom in my view.

Both fillies, With The Moonlight and Concert Hall appear seriously overpriced in the market in my book.

5pts win – With the Moonlight @ 14/1
5pts win – Concert Hall @ 13.5/1

……………

7.16 Doncaster: Class 4 Handicap, 6f

This looks like the ideal race I had in mind for Golden Apollo to get his head in front again. Since his eye catching run at Thirsk he ran another fine race at York in a big handicap over 7 furlongs where he got badly hampered.

He drops down to 6 furlongs, is three pounds lower in the mark than at Thirsk and runs in a wide open class 4 contest. The favourite may well be on the up and could be able to defy his increased mark – Golden Apollo is at this stage of his career vulnerable to any unexposed improving sort.

But at the same time he’s dangerously well handicapped in my view, given his wellbeing is confirmed.

The golden years are obviously behind the 8-year-old but he still performed of marks in the 80s last year and also ran to topspeed 84 when runner-up in a hot Redcar Handicap.

He’s been a shade unlucky a number times too in the meantime, including the last two; as a results his mark is reduced all the time. This looks an ideal opportunity to strike.

10pts win – Golden Apollo @ 9/1

……….

7.37 Goodwood: Class 3 Handicap, 6f

I was very taken with Kimngrace the last time at Sandown when she was seriously unlucky over the minimum trip. Today she steps up to 6 furlongs, which should be the perfect distance for this exciting and potentially well handicapped filly.

At Sandown after a steadied start she settled in rear of the field. She made some smooth progress from over three furlongs out but was stuck behind a bunch of horses and a clear passage denied until very late. She finished well when a bit of racing room opened up in the closing stages.

The winner made all from the front, the runner-up and third raced close to the pace too. Given these circumstances this was a big run on what was Kimngrace’s seasonal reappearance. The form is seriously strong as well.

She looks a filly open to considerable improvement, possibly more so now stepping up to 6 furlongs again. When last seen in 2021 she won a Maiden race at Haydock over 6f and looked at home over the trip. That particular form worked out well with the runner-up having ran a huge race in the Fred Darling Stakes this season.

10pts win – Kimngrace @ 10/3

………

7.51 Doncaster: Class 5 Handicap, 1m 4f

Gibside has caught the eye a number of times this year. He’s certainly a tricky sort, can be temperamental, gets upset in the stall and looks a horse doing things in his own time.

There was good money all day for him last time out at Ripon when he stepped up to 12 furlongs for the first time – a trip that he should appreciate.

He ran really well over shorter 10 furlongs on two occasions at Beverley previously, when things didn’t go his way and he ran better than the bare result suggested.

The same can be said about this most recent Ripon run. Of course at some point you’re not unlucky but it’s more what you truly are. Nonetheless, I feel Gibside deserves another chance.

He was unruly in the starting gate, slowly away, trailed the field and raced generally highly inefficient with a move at the halfway stage costing vital energy and another huge move turning for home from 4 furlongs out on the wide outside.

He paid for it in the final three furlongs, yet finished in 3rd eventually. Coming from so far back was a huge disadvantage. The runner-up led the field, the winner raced in midfield.

I feel a more conventional, flat track like Doncaster will suit this big, rangy gelding much more than Beverley, or even Ripon. No excuses today. I must stress though he is on the drift this morning – at the same time it ensures a seriously good price, if he is in it to win it today.

10pts win – Gibside @ 6.8/1

……….

Added after initial post – 12.30:

3.10 Group 1 Coronation Cup, 1m 4f

High Definition has drifted into a serious price to the point I feel he’s so far overpriced I have to add him as a bet today. By no means is he’s a 11/2+ shot in this field.

No question that if on song Pyledriver is the one to beat. A consistent top-class horse, the defending champion which saw him achieve a career best here last year. He ran well at Meydan when last seen. If he’s close to the form he showed twelve months ago he’s probably hard to beat.

I can’t have Manobo around 2/1 at all. He is lightly raced and open to considerable improvement. On the other hand he’s clearly shown to need a trip to be seen to best effect. Dropping back to 1m 4f is a major question mark for me.

Hukum has only once in his career ran to a topspeed rating of 100. That dates back to 2020, or nine runs. It would need some of the others to misfire for him to win.

High Definition backs up quickly. That is my major concern. He has been a disappointing horse ever since showing so much promise as a juvenile. But the level of form he produced last time out at the Curragh in the Tattersalles Cup is right up there with the best of Pyledriver.

He got a superb ride that day, and clearly that has to be taken into account as a source of the improvement. Nonetheless, he made it a true test going from the front and was just beaten in the dying strides in a top-class field.

He ran to topspeed 108 at that day. I feel it’s a genuine performance. If he can show this level of form today he has a major chance.

At given prices he’s clearly overpriced with ground ad trip not really being a worry in my view.

10pts win – High Definition @ 5.8/1

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