Today we see the third Classic of the season as the Oaks takes centre stage at the Surrey venue. Last year it was won by the superb Taghrooda.
This year’s renewal sees Legatissimo aim for a 1000 Guineas & Oaks double. If she were to be successful she would become the third filly since 1990 to do the double.
There is plenty of action at Epsom this afternoon and here is a look at every race on the card.
14:00 – Princess Elizabeth Stakes
This looks a weak Group 3 contest with the market headed by Odeliz. The Karl Burke five-year-old hasn’t won since winning the three-year-old fillies Prix De Liancourt at Longchamp back in 2013. She has been racing in very good company and last time out was a respectable fourth of eight at York in the Group 2 Middleton Stakes.
Another positive away from the form is that she has course experience and form. She was 2nd in this race last year behind Roger Charlton’s Thistle Bird. A replication of that run here should be good enough. Despite setting the standard she is one that I’m more than happy to pass over to try and find some better value.
Crowley’s Law looks to fit the bill and looks a fair each-way price. She was an unlucky loser on her first start of the season at Goodwood when beaten by Don’t Be. On that day in the Listed Conqueror Stakes she stayed on well and Don’t Be got up in the final few strides to claim a controversial victory. After the race it was noted that jockey Chris Catlin used his whip over the permitted limit and it re-opened the discussion on the topic, especially as the winning distance was only a shoulder.
That run suggested she could come on for it and e better for this race here. As a three-year-old she was 3rd in the Distaff behind Belle D’Or, who has since finished 3rd behind Bragging in the Dahila Stakes. Her current mark of 99 looks fair and one that she could strike from after going close last time out at a track, which wouldn’t be too dissimilar to here.
Lamar was 6th in aforementioned Dahila Stakes and then 3rd in the Festival Stakes at Goodwood behind the improving The Corsican. She is 2lb lower for that effort and that could be lenient however her best form does come on the synthetic surfaces.
Don’t Be and Bold Lass are the other two worth mentioning. The former had improved to beat Crowley’s Law last time out and that was her first win on turf in the UK after wins over winter on the all-weather. She has a strong pedigree and could improve further for that run. The David Lanigan trained Bold Lass is on an upward curve and has won three of her last four starts, winning two by a neck. She has progressed nicely but may need to find more here.
It is also worth noting that Amulet is in foal. Sometimes you see mares improve when this happens with the hormones in their system.
Advice: Crowley’s Law (8/1 each-way)
14:35 – Investec Wealth and Investment Stakes
Mark Johnston has three runners and all of them are close to the fore in the betting market. Usually his horses look magnificent in the paddock, so don’t be surprised by their good looks. Again his horses employ similar tactics, which keep races easy. Get out in front and try to make all.
Fire Fighting carries a 6lb penalty for his success at Redcar 11 days ago. Paul Mulrennan is in a rich vein of form and his form looks pretty solid with efforts behind the improving Collaboration, here at Epsom, and Trip To Paris. Running up to that standard should see him close again here.
Sennockian Star has course and distance form after winning the City and Suburban Stakes here in 2013. He won last time out at Chelmsford and stayed on well to beat Angelic Upstart He comes back onto the turf and is 1lb lower for that win due to his disappointing form on grass. He won the Doonside Cup at Ayr after Sky Hunter tested positive for a prohibited substance. The form looks really strong. Mutatis Mutandis (2nd) won the Nottinghamshire Oaks on Wednesday, Gabrial (3rd) won the Lincoln on the opening day of the flat season and Abseil (4th) is lightly raced and well fancied for the Mile later in the afternoon (15:45).
Master Of Finance the final Johnston runner has bumped into two good sorts in recent times – Mahsoob at York and Collaboration at Chester. Even for those two placed efforts he has gone up by 5lb to 96 in the handicap and he looks to be in the handicappers grip. Silvestre De Sousa is riding very well and is having lots of winners. He has ridden this horse twice, once to victory and once to the mentioned 2nd to Mahsoob last time out. However the race tactics for me will give the closers a chance.
There is a bit of each-way potential on two runners in this field. Firstly there is What About Carlo, who won over course and distance, back in June. With the pace likely to be set by the Johnston trio he should be able to be restrained in midfield before making a challenge late on. On recent form it may seems a strange pick however he is only 1lb higher than he was when winning here in June plus I’m hoping the first-time blinkers can eek out some sort of improvement. A further positive would be the jockey booking of Paul Hanagan, who in the last 14 days has been riding with a 25% strike rate.
The other runner I’m quite interested in is the Mick Channon trained Nancy From Nairobi. She only has one win to her name, which was a Class 5 Maiden. A positive about that is that Richard Hughes took the ride that day and is booked to ride her again here. Her two most recent efforts have been encouraging and suggested she can go well again. Her most recent effort was a 2nd to Burano at Lingfield (on turf) and despite being 1lb is one that should go well.
So overall, tactics could be crucial in this race. Two of the restrained horses can take advantage of the tempo expected to be set by the Johnston trio.
Advice: What About Carlo (12/1 each-way)
Nancy From Nairobi (9/1 each-way or 2/1 for a Top 3 Finish)
15:10 – Diomed Stakes
This is the second Group 3 race on the card this afternoon. Arod is a worthwhile favourite after his 3rd in the Lockinge Stakes 20 days ago. I personally feel you can upgrade his performance with how he ran. He was prominent throughout and stuck on well to finish where he did holding off the closers. His extra stamina kicked in there and the mile trip really seemed to suit him, so here he can go two places better and take home the prize money for Peter Chapple-Hyam. He has gone up 6lb for that effort but he does seem the class horse in this relatively weak contest. Going back a year he ran creditably in the Derby to finish 4th with Australia, Kingston Hill (St Leger winner) and Romsdal (2nd in St Leger) in front of him, therefore the form is strong plus course experience is something that can benefit a horse with the tracks undulations.
Custom Cut is a horse that has improved since moving to David O’Meara’s care. He could most likely be the main danger to the selection, despite giving 5lb in weight to his rivals. He has form over a few of these too and it may be hard for some of them to reverse it despite the weight pull. Shifting Power is the other threat. The Hannon horse beat Complicit last time out but on his seasonal reappearance was 3rd behind Custom Cut at Sandown. He’ll have to reverse that form here to have any chance of winning. His form looks solid enough with efforts behind French horse Charm Spirit, Kingman and last year’s 2000 Guineas winner Night Of Thunder. If there is a strong pace it is likely to suit him over most of the others.
Whatever happens it is likely to be a tactical race considering there is no out and out pacesetter. Complicit is a horse that lead two starts ago at Lingfield but that was only a moderate gallop and he was still beaten by Tryster. That form is hard to read considering how disappointing the Godolphin horse was on turf at Sandown eight days ago. However dropping down in trip could suit him and see him make a bold bid from the front to make all.
Advice: Arod (2/1 win)
15:45 – Investec Mile
Over the mile trip the draw isn’t deemed too important. The only time you would be looking at that would be when the ground comes up soft, which unless it rains won’t be the case.
Last year’s winner Abseil is back to defend his crown for Sir Michael Stoute. When winning this race he did it off 92 and today is 7lb higher. He sets a fair standard after finishing 4th behind Sennockian Star in a Class 1 Listed race Ayr and last time out he was 3rd behind Alfred Hutchinson in a Class 1 Listed Handicap at York. In all honesty a replication of that run could be good enough here however at the price I’m looking to take on. He was 3/1 overnight and some bookmakers are taking him on by putting him out to 7/2.
Gratzie has two course and distance wins to his name after completing a three-timer back in September. This is a step up in class considering one of those wins was a Class 3 but if he runs close to that run her shouldn’t be too far away. The fact he handles the track and has a good in-form jockey in Silvestre De Sousa suggests Mick Channon means business.
At a slightly bigger price is Regulation. He returns to the flat after a time jumping. Since his consecutive thirds on the all-weather he has won a handicap hurdle and was 2nd in one. He flat mark is 2lb lower than his last flat win, which was over on the all-weather at Dundalk when he was with Michael Halford in Ireland. His last two efforts on the flat had been positive. He could be ridden either way, as an hold-up horse and use his stamina to stay on late or he could use his position from stall two to get out quickly and use his stamina to put the rest in trouble. It’ll be interested to see, which tactic Adam Kirby employs, or has been told by Neil King.
God Willing always runs his race but doesn’t win too often. Zugzwang needs to put in a career best effort off 93, as he is 13lb higher since his win at Bath two starts ago; he’ll need more here. Imshivalla won a Class 5 handicap here in August 2013, so handles the track and he was 5th behind Collaboration at the start of his season here. He looks fairly treated and could go close here.
Advice: Gratzie (8/1 each-way)
Regulation (12/1 each-way)
16:30 – The Oaks
All eyes will be on 1000 Guineas winner Legatissimo and Ryan Moore to see if she can complete the Guineas/Oaks double. However she is drawn in stall one, which is a negative as no horse this century has won from there. The last Oaks winner to come from that stall was back in 1990 when Salsabil won to complete the 1000 Guineas/Oaks double – so if you believe in omens there is one. Looking at her pedigree the trip shouldn’t be too much of a problem and should relish the step up to 1m4f. She is the class horse in the race however I’m willing to give her a miss with draw and stamina question marks.
The two each-way picks would be Jack Naylor and Lady Of Dubai. Firstly lets look into Jack Naylor, who was 4th in the Irish 1000 Guineas 12 days ago behind Pleascach. For a seasonal reappearance that wasn’t a bad effort and she should improve for that race. She is nicely bred from Champs Elysees, who won over 1m4f, so the trip wouldn’t be a worry. Her dam was a half-sister to US champion turf mare Wandesta, who was also a 1m4f winner. Plenty to like on the pedigree, as there is on form. As a two-year-old she completed a three-timer and when winning the third race she beat Legatissimo. For me she holds the upper hand with lots to like. If she handles the track she should be in the frame come the finish.
At a bigger price is the Luca Cumani filly Lady Of Dubai. It was hard not to like her win in the Listed Fashion Stakes at Goodwood 15 days ago where she travelled strongly. Both tracks are similar, so should be fine going around Tattenham Corner. Another positive is that she is drawn high in stall 11. As a two-year-old she was 2nd in the Montrose Fillies Stakes at Newmarket. That race was won by Irish Rookie, who went on to finish 2nd in the French 1000 Guineas, which franks that form. Her pedigree is also a good one. She is a half-sister to a 1m4f winner in Got To Dream plus her dam is closely related to Roses For The Lady (a 1m5f winner), who is out of Leger winner Millenary. If she handles the step up to Group company is could run a big race of a 12lb higher mark for that Goodwood win.
Crystal Zvezda is currently the second favourite. She won nicely in the Haras De Bouquetot Fillies Trial Stakes. She is another that on pedigree should stay the trip. Star Of Sevilla and Together Forever were the front two in the Musidora at York. Preference here would be for the latter, who was 2nd that day with Star Of Seville grimly hanging on to win by a head. The Aidan O’Brien filly looked more of a stayer that day and I think she can reverse that form here. Diamondsandrubies won the Cheshire Oaks very nicely and was bought down the middle of the track to win at Chester by 6l. Personally the form of that race may not be the strongest but the style of her win was quite impressive. However for this others are preferred.
Advice: Jack Naylor (15/2 each-way)
Lady Of Dubai (11/1 each-way)
17:15 – Surrey Stakes
Aces heads the market for Charlie Hills and he steps down from two efforts in Group company. The trainer has been a little out of form and this is another favourite I’m willing to swerve. Today he is back down in trip, which should benefit, after finishing five of seven at Newmarket over a mile where he found no extra in the closing stages. However it is more advantageous to be drawn low over this trip here at Epsom and from stall nine may find it difficult.
Mister Universe for the Mark Johnston yard is the one that I’m happy to put forward. As a two-year-old he was three of five in the Stonehenge Stakes at Salisbury behind Elm Park, who is a Derby contender and possibly St Leger horse for the end of the season. He won under Silvestre De Sousa two starts ago at Ascot beating Sir Michael Stoute’s Capel Path, which doesn’t look too bad. He wasn’t disgraced at Goodwood when 5th behind Enlace, who disappointed back on the all-weather at Chelmsford on Wednesday night. The only worry would be if he wanted to go hard to try and make all. A few of these could stalk him and catch him close home.
Realtra is one that could outrun his price and possibly the best of the rest. He was a very good 3rd behind the talented Sperry at York over a mile last time out and the drop back to 7f is something that should see him go close off a mark of 98. Secret Brief tried to make all over a mile at Sandown eight days ago but was reeled in by Consort, who now heads to the St James’s Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot. He was a useful two-year-old and after two attempts at further comes back down to his optimal trip. Mubtaghaa makes his seasonal reappearance and is likely to need the run while Ballymore Castle races at this trip for the second time and may be more suited to 6f.
Advice: Mister Universe (11/2 each-way)
17:50 – Investec Specialist Bank Stakes
Make It Up shouldn’t be dismissed too easily off the shortlist after winning his maiden here last July. His final race last season saw him finish seven of eight in the Tattersall Stakes at Newmarket, which was won by Maftool. His two wins have been Goodwood and here, two of the more testing and undulating tracks. For those purposes alone he should go well and his mark is 2lb for that effort in Group company last time out. A slight concern would be his 253 day absence and whether he’ll need the run.
Simon Crisford turned to training and has had a few winners so far. Al Bandar returns to 7f after his two runs this season have been at a mile. The form of the Ripon race doesn’t look particularly strong but if running close to the Doncaster 3rd he won’t be too far away. Returning to this 7f trip will suit but he looks vulnerable as favourite.
At an each-way price is the Ed Dunlop trained Fieldsman. He won here last September, which saw him go up 7lb in the handicap. The 2nd and 5th horses won next time out suggesting it was a good standard of race. His second start in a maiden he was 3rd to Dutch Connection, who has been running in Group company in recent times suggests he could be one at a price to take the favourite on with. His seasonal reappearance was over a mile at headquarters but he disappointed finishing sixth of seven. He has been dropped 2lb by the handicapper and off his mark of 90 could take the winning of this trappy Class 2 event.
Goring and Ticks The Boxes are the other two worth mentioning. Goring won a Class 5 race at Beverley just over a mile on his seasonal reappearance. On his next start this season he was a good 2nd to Mutarakez at Haydock in the Silver Bowel Stakes. He is a horse on an upward curve and connections have found a reasonable opportunity for him to win again here. Ticks The Boxes was 2nd on his first attempt at this trip at Haydock for which he has gone up 1lb. However some of his two-year-old looks quite strong, especially when beating Snow Cloud and his 3rd to Mattmu. If there is market support then he would be one to go well.
Advice: Make It Up (9/2 each-way)
Fieldsman (8/1 each-way)