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The Oaks preview 2024

Ladies' Day on the Downs, that remarkable track that you'd never build if you scrapped it and started again...

Love it or hate it, the Oaks is a career-defining race for the fillies and while this edition doesn't seem to be the strongest we've seen, it's still an intriguing one.

Queen of Epsom: Oh So Sharp out on her own under Steve Cauthen in the 1985 Oaks. Photo: Mark Cranham / focusonracing.com

BETFRED OAKS

Group 1, 1m4f, £550,000
For 3yo Fillies
Epsom, Friday May 31, 1630 BST, 0130 Sat AEST

 

1. Caught U Looking: Trainer Noel Meade: Jockey Colin Keane: Barrier 1

Fourth in the Salsabill at Navan behind Ezeliya, had every chance but only two lengths behind coming off almost 200 days off. Well beaten twice by Ylang Ylang (was a shorter price than her in the G1 Fillies' Mile), can't see any reason to expect her in the finish but does have better form on soft tracks if the rain continues. Big price difference between her and Ezeliya, as highlighted by Robbie Wilders, The Ante-Post man, in the Racing Post. Inside draw not ideal on this unique track and trip.


2. Dance Sequence: Charlie Appleby: William Buick: 2

Looked talented in three starts leading into the 1000 Guineas before she was beaten 7.5L into ninth place, eased down fairly quickly once it was evident there was nothing left in side the final furlong. Ran a nice second in the Nell Gwyn the start before but started odds-on. Figures suggest she is up to this but yet to run further than the mile. By Dubawi, so she has that staying risk but out of a Street Cry mare, the same cross as Rebel's Romance who simply cleans up international staying races (earnings approaching £7m). Has won on soft going. Big step up from the mile to the Classic distance, but the big stables seem to do this better than anyone else. Take out her Guineas run and she'd be half the current price.


3. Ezeliya: DK Weld: Chris Hayes: 5

Took a while to get going at Navan in the G3 Salsabill but kept on late to defeat Purple Lily plus today's rivals in Everlasting and Caught U Looking. Dubawi, the super sire, has a statistical anomaly in that he hasn't sired a Classic winner over 1m4f to my knowledge, but there have been stayers who have won over further. Dermot Weld might be getting on, but he does know how to train Classic winners. Getting rather short in the market, this doesn't seem to need a high performance bar to win.  


4. Forest Fairy: Ralph Beckett: Rossa Ryan: 4

Took her record to two from two in the Cheshire Oaks when she had the cosy run behind the leader before having to work clear in the straight. Enable was the last filly to win that race at Chester and then the Oaks. That was just her second start, so she's got plenty of talent yet is still learning the game. However while she got to the front, I thought she only laboured home to get her nose in front, against a fairly limited Coolmore filly who is entered in weaker races like the Munster Oaks. The RPR for that win was one of the lowest of the last decade and miles off Enable, but how strong is this edition of the Oaks? Trainer has won this before, and if she can handle the constant turning at Chester, she's halfway there with handling the traits of Epsom. Hasn't faced wet ground yet, but her sire Waldgeist did win the Arc and other Group 1s on various degrees of Soft going.  


5. Making Dreams: Karl Burke: Clifford Lee: 10

Formerly a Nick Bradley Racing filly, she's been acquired by the might of the Katsumi Yoshida breeding operation. She won a G3 at Saint-Cloud in April before trailing in second last in the Prix Saint-Alary at ParisLongchamp, just behind War Chimes. Has won on soft and heavy going before. Can't see her being anywhere near them at the end unless it's very wet.


6. Rubies Are Red: A P O'Brien: Wayne Lordan: 6

Classically-bred, by Galileo out of a multiple G1-winning mare, a full sister to the Arc and Breeders' Cup winner Found, and to the dam of Snowfall who won the Epsom & Irish Oaks by a combined 24L three years ago. However, she is yet to get her nose in front in three starts to date, on good and heavy going. Last time though, running second in the Lingfield Oaks Trial, she came from another county early in the straight to get within a half-length of You Got To Me. She got left behind coming down the hill which is a little concerning - if there's ever a track a horse needs to handle the undulations, it's Epsom. Ideally bred for this, but I wouldn't want to take a short price on her handling the track - you need to be getting a premium for that risk.


7. Seaward: Ralph Beckett: Silvestre de Sousa: 9

Another of the big hand from Ralph Beckett. Finished third in the Cheshire Oaks recently, leading and battling on OK behind Forest Fairy. Perhaps with a better sit, she'd be able to finish the race off. She was first up this campaign in that race, stepping up 3.5f further than she'd gone before. Bred for this and cost 460k guineas as a yearling. Outside chance but her weakest two runs have been on soft oing.


8. Secret Satire: Andrew Balding: Oisin Murphy: 3

Claimed the Musidora at York in style just 16 days ago, when the odds-on favourite flopped, but she did beat a few decent ones, despite her SP of 22/1. Oisin Murphy has chosen to stick with her which is significant given his recent form. Her worst performance was on debut on soft going, but she was hampered at the start and never got into the race. By Advertise, who won multiple Group 1s over 6f, I wouldn't be convinced on her ability to stay the trip on paper, but the Musidora was only a furlong and a half shorter and she didn't appear to be stopping at the end. That York race is traditionally the strongest prep race with Soul Sister (won), Emily Upjohn (close second), Snowfall (16L winner) being the last three on the honour roll - and only the beaten one of that trio was under 10/1 on the Kanvesmire.


9. Treasure: Ralph Beckett: James Doyle: 11

The Royal runner who ran fourth in the Lingfield Oaks Trial recently at just her second start. Won easily on debut at Nottingham last October in heavy going. Might need the heavens to open to come into contention. Big step up here, it's too fairytale for me - unlikely. 


10. War Chimes: David Menuisier: Tom Marquand: 7

Sussex-trained filly who has done most of her racing in France, seeking higher purses. From six starts, she has won a Haydock maiden (good) and a Listed race at Chantilly (heavy). This season she finished a few lengths behind in French G2 and G3 races, on soft tracks (althought you never can tell with French going reports). Stable has the favourite for the French equivalent so perhaps the decision was to separate them. Looks like this is above her but the stable is going very well lately.


11. Ylang Ylang: Ryan Moore: A P O'Brien: 12

Named after Cananga Odorata, a tropical tree native to many parts of SE Asia. There's been a huge boom on her since day one. A 1.5m guineas yearling purchase, she's the first foal of a half-sister to HK champion Viva Pataca. That mightn't mean much to you but he was exceptional. Add to that, she's by the mighty Frankel. From six starts to date, Ylang Ylang has three wins and three finishes outside the each-way payout. After winning her first two starts, she flopped in the G1 Moyglare before moving onto to win the G1 Fillies' Mile in October at Newmarket. She returned to that track in the 1000 Guineas, running home late to be beaten a length into fifth place. None of Aidan's were flying at that point with City of Troy flopping in the colts' equivalent. Hasn't run further than a mile yet, but that's never stopped one from Ballydoyle before. Two from two on slow going. Drawn the outside but that's not much of an issue with the swayback course early on. Big chance but that is reflected in the price.


12. You Got To Me: Ralph Beckett: Hector Crouch: 8

Impressive winner of the Lingfield Oaks Trial at just her third start. Was quite keen that day, she went to the lead and kept on fighting, resisting the challenge from the previously impressive Danielle and then the late swoop from Rubies Are Red. It wasn't a record-breaking performance figure she recorded but it was a considerable step up on her 2yo campaign when she won a Kempton maiden before flopping on a heavy track at Newmarket in November (missed start, settled behind, always under pressure). The last winner of the Lingfield Trial to go onto Oaks success was Anapurna in 2019, and her RPR wasn't far behind that. Should need to settle better than at Lingfield, but not out of it at all. Should be the top seed from the Beckett stable and this is a race they know how to win.


SUMMARY

Do we go the boring option with Coolmore or look a bit wider? Ylang Ylang sets a high standard but she's been short in the betting at every start and only won half the time. I'm not taking 2/1 based on that.

I'll side with You Got To Me, she showed some proper fight to win at Lingfield with room for improvement, and her sire, Nathaniel, has Classic winners in Enable and Desert Crown to his name. Rubies Are Red can repeat the exacta from Lingfield while Secret Satire can extend the solid York form.



YOU GOT TO ME, Rubies Are Red, Secret Satire.

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