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Investec Oaks preview

So it's that time of year again when the lah-dee-dars come out in their top hats and expensive frocks to watch (mostly) expensive thoroughbreds compete for the right to charge a squillion for eternal breeding rights. But best of all for these career-defining races, they run it at a goat track. Up, down, left and right with reverse camber on some of the bends - you've got more chance of ruining a good horse than creating a champion. Yet somehow the worst phrase in business "But we've always done it that way" prevails and we're stuck with this place which is responsible for the biggest annual get-together of middle-aged South Londoners getting blind and sunburnt in the car park.

Bulldoze the place and run classic Flat races on a course which has a half-decent claim on being declared 'flat'.

There have been some genuine star fillies win the Oaks over the years - most recently Enable, Minding, Taghrooda, Snow Fairy and Ouija Board, but there are more than a few who did not progress after their moment in the spotlight, particularly from the Aidan O'Brien stable. The O'Brien stable has a brilliant record in the 3yo Classics. After all, it is the entire raison d'etre of the organisation, so it's not a huge surprise. What is unusual is their recent success with the depth of runners rather than the top seed. O'Brien has trained the winner six times this century, each time with a different jockey, suggesting they weren't often the perceived main chance. The last four winners have been at 20/1, 20/1, 10/11 and 9/1 - don't be afraid to back the second/third/fourth string for them.

Onto this year's edition:

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The Investec Oaks
1m4f, Group 1, £523,750.
1630 BST 0130 AEST


1. Anapurna - Frankel filly who has won her last two starts by panels. The first of those was an AW maiden but the performance in winning the Lingfield Oaks Trial three weeks ago was breathtaking.



Breeding - tick; trainer & jockey - big tick; form - tick. How she will measure up to winners from the other trials is guesswork at best, but she had plenty in hand last time and must have a solid chance.

2. Blue Gardenia - ran a solid fifth in the Musidora at York and scores a substantial upgrade in Jamie Spencer taking over from Shane Gray. Very impressive signing off her 2yo season with a win in the Listed Montrose Stakes, and she is bred to get better the further she goes. Place chance at big odds.

3. Delphinia - the first of the Coolmore runners. One win from five starts, in a Galway maiden on a soft track last October. Most recently she ran third, her only other placing, in the Blue Wind Stakes at Naas behind Tarnawa. No obvious reason to expect her to reverse that form, and the Weld runner isn't one of the leading chances. Assume she'll be sacrificed to set the pace.

4. Fleeting - stone-motherless last in the 1000 Guineas, beaten over 11 lengths. Offered nothing that day, and by Zoffany, you must have severe doubts about getting the trip. Always down the pecking order within the stable, likely to be sacrificed to set the pace.

5. Frankellina - another Frankel filly, this time owned by Anthony Oppenheimer and raced in the same colours as Derby (plus several other G1s) winner Golden Horn. Has raced quite greenly at both starts so far, was only just denied in the Musidora and should have learned plenty from that run.



Will need to step up again from that run, not just a few lbs of rating but mentally as well.

6. Lavender's Blue - just the two starts so far for this daughter of Sea The Stars who only saw a racetrack for the first time six weeks ago. Last time out she was second to Queen Power at Newbury, being collared near the line.



Impeccably bred, out of a filly who ran sixth to Dancing Rain in 2011, and like her mother, owned by ABBA star Benny Andersson. Entitled to come on a lot for her last run, to be ridden by champion jockey Silvestre de Sousa. Solid chance at bigger odds.

7. Manuela de Vega - a distant runner-up in the Cheshire Oaks but she didn't have the clear run like the winner and was entitled to at least finish closer to her (see under Mehdaayih for the replay). By Lope de Vega out of a Daylami mare, no concerns about running the trip out strongly. Trainer has been here before, winning with Talent at 20/1 back in 2013.

8. Maqsad - bolted in at Newmarket in the Pretty Polly and hasn't been seen since. That was her first run at 1m2f and debate since has raged over whether she is 'too briliant' to stretch out to the mile and a half. Siyouni progeny usually show their best in the 8-10f range, but her dam is by Galileo which should tick that box. Same connections as the mighty Taghrooda, winner in 2014. Was beaten by Mehdaayih in her last run as a 2yo, when she started 4/9. Unbeaten in two starts since.



9. Mehdaayih - comfortable winner at Chester in the Cheshire Oaks, her first start in a Pattern race, propelling her to near-favouritism here. Look at her approaching the home turn, just cantering and ready to power away from them once clear.



Trained by John Gosden, regular rider Robert Havlin retains the ride with owners keen to reward his loyalty and success. No concerns with breeding, definite chance.

10. Peach Tree - fourth behind Tarnawa last start, beaten about a length but importantly, was more favoured in the market that day. Was resuming on that occasion so expect some improvement out of the run. Beat Tarnawa in a Listed race at the end of last season, and by Galileo, is bred for the occasion. Stable second choice with Donnacha aboard, history says do not overlook the stable second- and third-strings.

11. Pink Dogwood - touted as the leading Coolmore hope over the winter, she lived up to some of the hype in her last run, winning the Salsabil with a bit in hand.



A full sister to Irish Derby winner Latrobe, there’s no concern there. Wins have been on Heavy and Yielding surfaces, and was beaten 10 lengths on debut on a Good track. Clutching at straws but perhaps there's a doubt on the dry (good to firm) track.

12. Sh Boom - 33/1 behind Queen Power and Lavender's Blue at Newbury, no hope whatsoever.

13. Tarnawa - Dermot Weld-trained filly with solid lead-in form. The main concern for me is on breeding. Shamardal stock have strong records over 8-10f, not so much over the classic distance. Dam is by Cape Cross, sire of Sea The Stars. Do we back the trainer’s trust in her or strike a line through on breeding? Third in the Salsabil at Navan, under two lengths behind Pink Dogwood, then stepped forward (on Racing Post Ratings) to win the Blue Wind at Naas, both over ten furlongs.



In the mix at a juicy price if she runs out the trip.

14. Tauteke - handy filly owned by controversial Kazakh squillionaire Nurlan Bizakov. Ran six lengths second to Anapurna in the Lingfield Trial. Will come on for the run but hard to see her turning the tables on the winner. 


SUMMARY

Strong race with plenty of chances, and on that note, I'm prepared to go a bit wider than the obvious favourites. Very taken by Anapurna and think Frankie Dettori has a great chance of doing the Classic double this weekend. Peach Tree might be the Coolmore horse to provide the shock, while Blue Gardenia, Lavender's Blue and Tarnawa will be in my exotics.

Anapurna
Peach Tree
Tarnawa
Lavender's Blue
Blue Gardenia

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