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Epsom Oaks Day tips – best bets for Friday’s seven-race card

Is Minding a good thing for the Epsom Oaks?


What are the best bets at Epsom on Friday?

The Oaks looked easy for 1000 Guineas winner Minding after Newmarket, but an odds-on defeat since leaves her with questions to answer. Here are my thoughts on the fillies’ classic and the remainder of the seven-race card at Epsom this afternoon.

14:00 Investec Woodcote Stakes (Listed), 6f
All bar one of the seven runners – rank outsider The Lady Hysteria – bring winning form to the table and it’s as much a case of working out which one has improved the most since than evaluating the actual form, which amounts to very little on paper. Take the Hugo Palmer-trained Hyperfocus for example. He won a nothing sort of race at Leicester on his debut but it was the style of his five-length success over Billy’s Boots (beaten again since) that marked him down as a potential class act. Reported to be pleasing his trainer at home, he may well be the answer to this tricky opener.

However, I just prefer the chances of the Ed Dunlop-trained TIBR at bet365’s 10/3. The form of his length beating of Poet’s Choice on his Lingfield debut does have a little more substance about it with the runner-up winning subsequently, and the winning time – he clocked just over half a second slower than the all-weather standard – also backs up the impression he is an above average sort. A 250,000 purchase, he has a Group 1 entry later in the season and his in-form trainer (five winners from his last 14 runners) has snapped up the services of Ryan Moore, who has a healthy 24% (24-100) strike rate on all the stable runners, rising to 28% for his juvenile rides.

The hat-trick seeking Sea Of Snow is respected most of the rest, though a win for any of the previous winners wouldn’t surprise.

14:35 Investec Wealth & Investment Handicap, 1m2f18y
Having sided with the Ed Dunlop-Ryan Moore combo in the first, it’s hard to resist their representative, DARK RED, in this class 2 handicap, especially as the gelding is seeking a four-timer after wins at Chelmsford, Chester and over track and trip on his penultimate start. He’s up another 5lb here and the handicapper is sure to catch up with him eventually, but he’s clearly improved for a gelding operation over the winter and for the step up to this trip, so his winning run might not be overnight just yet. The ground, which is expected to ride on the easy side of good, won’t inconvenience him either. He rates a solid favourite and Paddy Power’s 5/2 is standout, though it could be worth a scout around in the morning once the bookies’ price war begins in earnest.

Felix De Vega, whom the selection beat at Chester last time, has to be feared as he is weighted to turn the tables, while the 2014 winner What About Carlo is also respected with the ground in his favour.

15:10 Investec Diomed Stakes (Group 3), 1m114y
Decorated Knight did me a good turn when winning a Listed contest at Goodwood last time, but this is a tougher test and I have to desert him for AROD. He is hardly an original selection in that he is clear favourite – Betfair go a top price of 3/1 – but he has plenty going for him as the winner of last year’s renewal and the fact he is unrealised for that success, as well as a subsequent Group 2 victory at Ascot. He arguably bettered those performances when making Solow pull out all the stops in the Group 1 Sussex Stakes, going down my a mere half length, and he can be forgiven a couple of well beaten efforts in Australian Group 1 company at the end of last year. If the gallop reports can be believed, he’s come on a ton for his reappearance third at Ascot and, still relatively lightly-raced, he looks to have an outstanding chance of defending his crown.

He had two lengths to spare over the reopposing Custom Cut 12 months ago and he should again take care of that horse. A bigger danger might be Roger Varian’s Mindurownbusiness, who has proved a fine performer on the all-weather since joining current connections and has a 2-4 record on turf.

15:45 Investec Mile (Handicap), 1m 114y
I’ve already made a good case for a couple of Ed Dunlop-trained runners earlier on the card, so I’m almost loathe to put one up against his recent Lingfield winner Dutch Uncle here. However, the gelding is not the only last-time-out winner in the race and, while he perhaps deserves to be favourite at around the 11/2 mark, he has nothing in hand over Alcatraz, who finished less than a length behind him at Windsor in April when in need of the run.

He may still do the business but at the odds I prefer the chances of the George Scott-trained FIELDSMAN at bet365’s 9/1. He was a dual winner when trained by Dunlop (ironically perhaps), including a race over 7f here, and impressed when making a winning start for current connections at Newmarket last month, his first start since a gelding operation. This is his first try over 1m but his style of running suggests that shouldn’t prove a problem and he’ll need to win today if he is make it into the Royal Hunt Cup, nominated as a possible target by his rookie trainer.

Of the rest, I’ve a healthy respect for top weight Instant Attraction, who is a rare winner at this track for North Yorkshire-based Jedd O’Keefe and was just touched off in the Thirsk Hunt Cup last time. He’ll have to defy a career-high mark to win, though.

16:30 Investec Oaks (Fillies’ Group 1), 1m4f10y
The fillies’ classic revolves around Aidan O’Brien’s impressive 1000 Guineas winner Minding and whether she will get this extra half mile and cope with a quick reappearance after a surprise odds-on defeat when trying to follow-up in the Irish equivalent just 12 days ago. As a daughter of Galileo, her pedigree is real positive to her chances of staying and her sire produced the 2012 Oaks winner Was, whose dam was best over 6f. However, she does have it prove and, having had a hard race at the Curragh, I’m inclined to take her on at around even money.

Neither of her two stablemates, Seventh Heaven and Somehow, can be ruled out after wins in the Lingfield Oaks Trial and Cheshire Oaks respectively last time,and it worth noting that the stable has won this race with 20/1 and 50/1 shots since 2012. Of the pair, I just prefer Seventh Heaven as her ability to handle an undulating track is proven and, at 25/1 with bet365, she’s twice the price of her better-fancied stablemate. She’s one for each-way backers.

Charlie Appleby’s Skiffle has been supplemented for this after winning a Listed contest at Goodwood last month, a route taken by the 2010 Oaks winner Snow Fairy. She is worth considering but Jim Bolger’s TURRET ROCKS makes even more appeal at a double-figure price (10/1 with Sky Bet). A dual winner at two, including a Group 2 at the St Leger meeting, she could only finish sixth behind Minding at Newmarket on her return to action. However, she looked in need of the run (was easy to back) and her pedigree suggests she will do far better now stepping up in distance. Bred along the same lines as last year’s winner Qualify and out of the same family of star mare Goldikova, she may well outstay Minding and, with her trainer sounding increasingly bullish about her chances in recent interviews, she can land the spoils.

17:15 Investec Surrey Stakes (Listed), 7f
Roger Varian’s Haalick is the best horse in the race according to the ratings and he’s perhaps unlucky not to be chasing a four-timer having not enjoyed the best of runs the last twice after winning in this company on the all-weather at Lingfield in March. However, he’s going to need plenty of luck in-running given his extreme hold-up style and with a 4lb penalty to boot, he’s opposable at a best-priced 7/4.

Let’s take him on with Mick Channon’s SCRUTINEER, a more backable 9/2 shot with bet365. A dual winner at two, he is proving a better three-year-old with a couple of placed efforts over this trip in Listed company, including a cracking second in the Free Handicap on his reappearance. He clearly appreciated the cut in the ground that day and, having found conditions a little too fast for his liking when returned to Newmarket last time, he will find today’s slower conditions ideal. The booking of Silvestre De Sousa, who has a 19% strike rate on the stable runners for a £1 level-stakes profit of £23.85 clinches the bet.

He is preferred to Raucous, who finished well behind the selection at the Craven meeting and wouldn’t want the ground as slow as this, and recent Haydock winner Calder Prince, who is taking a big jump up in class.

17:50 Investec Specialist Bank Handicap, 7f
A tricky handicap to close on and the Richard Fahey-trained STAMP HILL gets just a narrow vote at Coral’s 5/1. He has done all his winning over a furlong less but proved he was equally effective when finishing fifth (of 14) in a hot Haydock handicap last time and runs off the same mark here. Short Work and Storm Rising could prove the most troublesome of his rivals.

Fancy some free bets? Back a winner at 4/1 or bigger in any of the five races shown live on Channel 4 (2.00, 2.35, 3.10, 3.45 & 4.30) with bet365 and they will give you a free bet to the same stake (up to £50 per customer per race) on the next race shown live on Channel 4.

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