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Oaks preview

A special race needs a special preview, so we've called in the experts from GeeGeez for shrewd analysis. On their site, you'll find a preview of the entire day, plus a wide range of racing expertise and resources. You can also follow the man behind the site, Matt Bisogno on Twitter, @mattbisogno.

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4.00 INVESTEC OAKS (Group 1) (Fillies) (CLASS 1) (3yo)

The big race. The Oaks. A Group 1 for fillies over a mile and a half, and it looks a bobby dazzler this year. Secret Gesture leads the market after her demolition job in the Lingfield Oaks Trial, but this will be a different kettle of kedgeree altogether.

Before we dig into the form, let’s consider the trends, and the first thing to note is that plenty of big-priced lassies have prevailed here in recent years. Indeed, in the last five years, there have been two 20/1 winners and a 33/1 champ.

Aidan O’Brien has won four of the last fifteen Oaks’, but not always with his first string. Was was a 20/1 shot last year when prevailing in a rough race, and Shahtoush was 12/1 back in 1998 (though she was his only runner that year).

Thirteen of the last sixteen winners were first or second last time out, and that includes 20/1 Dancing Rain, and 33/1 Look Here. Don’t make too many excuses for beaten horses last time out unless they were second, beaten less than a length.

Secret Gesture knocked the eye out visually last time, when putting ten lengths between herself and the re-opposing Miss You Too. Whilst visually stunning, that’s a world away from this contest, and 5/2 offers very little wriggle room for value hunters. I’m against her at the price, though she can of course win.

Moth is perhaps the most likely to my eye from the leading contenders. If your eye wasn’t ‘knocked out’ by Secret Gesture then it must surely have been ‘caught’ by the eye-catching run of Moth in the 1000 Guineas, where she was staying on strongly over that mile. If she handles the track – a comment that applies to all of these, right enough – then I think she’ll go very close to winning.

Liber Nauticus is respected because of connections, but she was more like Labour Nauticus when bustled to win the Musidora from the handicapper, Romantic Settings. Not for me, at least not at 3/1 or thereabouts.

There are no worries about trip and few about ground with Cheshire Oaks winner, Banoffee, who won well on the Roodee. Obviously, Epsom will be a very different test but she quickened well there and deserves her chance here. Second in that race and any price you like here, is Gertrude Versed. She was beaten a length and a quarter at Chester, and will appreciate slower turf being a daughter of Manduro. Her half-sister, Gertrude Bell, won the Cheshire Oaks en route to running fourth in the Oaks itself and this girl’s prominent racing style will be suited to Epsom. Interesting at 40/1.

The ‘now’ filly might be Say, Aidan O’Brien’s second string. She won by nine lengths last time in a fillies’ maiden, but the horse she beat – Silky Pyrus – has been well trounced before and since. At the price, she’s no value.

Beckett himself has a second string here, in the shape of Talent, winner of the Listed Pretty Polly Stakes on fast turf. She’ll be having her first try at further than a mile and a quarter and slower than good to firm and, she might improve for either or both. Interestingly, if she did win, she’d be setting up a nice Oaks/Derby double for her sire, New Approach, who is also Dawn Approach’s daddy, of course.

There are worse bets in the race than Talent at 16/1.

Madame Defarge was about three impeded lengths behind Talent in the Pretty Polly, and she’s got plenty of scope to improve on what will only be her third career start. She might also like the dig in the ground, but I don’t think she’d be quite good enough.

When you look beyond the top of the market, this race is a real puzzle. While a horse like Secret Gesture could be head and shoulders better than the rest, she’s no price to demonstrate that. Moth is a nice filly too but at a short enough price, and Liber Nauticus is hugely under-priced, irrespective of whether she wins.

In the middle order, Banoffee and Talent hold most attention for me. And, as a rag on which to speculate, Gertrude Versed has a fair bit going for her.

Big Priced Each Way Selection: Gertrude Versed 40/1
Obvious Dangers: Secret Gesture 9/4, Moth 7/2, Banoffee 8/1

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