The Epsom Oaks has a very open look to it and with some of the fancied runners far from certain to turn up, it could be worth chancing this 25/1.
While the Derby looks clear cut – Golden Horn wins if he stays, surely – the fillies’ Classic has a far more open look to it.
The current betting has 1000 Guineas winner and David Wachman-trained Legatissimo as favourite, with quotes ranging from 3/1 to 4/1. The latter price would be tempting if only we knew she was going to be in the field. She’s partly owned by John Magnier and he has several other fillies in the race, including the likes of the Aidan O’Brien-trained pair Found and Diamondsandrubies, and it’s anyone’s guess which of his possibles will be deemed suitable for the unique demands of this race. Should she turn up I’d want to be on as she’s clearly high-class and her pedigree – she’s from the family of the Gold Cup winner Fame And Glory – gives her every chance of seeing out the one and a half mile trip at Epsom. But it would be foolish to take 4/1 now without a ‘with a run’ proviso.
The aforementioned Diamondsandrubies impressed when landing the Cheshire Oaks and, while the form is hard to weigh up, she did it in the style of a filly who was much the best in the race. Whether that makes her good enough to win the Oaks is another matter, but she is an intended runner, stays and showed a willing attitude, never backing off when struck by a rival’s whip. Light Shift was the last winner of the Chester race to go on to land the Oaks (2007) and odds of 13/2 (Paddy Power) on this filly doing likewise don’t look bad at all at this stage.
The Musidora Stakes is another tried and tested route to the Oaks, although only one filly, Dancing Rain in 2010, has done the double this millennium. This year’s York winner Star Of Seville shapes as though she will stay, pulling out more when challenged by runner-up Together Forever, who had won the Group 1 Fillies’ Mile at Newmarket last October. Both fillies are intended runners, but given the second was having her first run back and was conceding the winner 4lb, she looks the one to take out of the race at the general 8/1 on offer.
However, I’m going to take a punt on French raider AL NAAMAH at far more speculative odds of 25/1 (as short as 14/1 in a place). She has proved a disappointment so far given her five million guineas price tag (a European record) as a yearling, with a couple of defeats since winning on her debut at Chantilly last June. However, connections weren’t too despondent after she was turned over in a Group 3 when returned to Chantilly in September, putting it down to inexperience, and on her reappearance this season, when she was beaten a short neck by Little Nightingale.
Harry Herbert, racing advisor to Sheikh Joaan Al Thani, whose Al Shaqab Racing organisation owns her, said afterwards: “It was a very good run and a big improvement on her second run last year. It’s always a disappointment to be chinned on the line, especially with a filly like her. Gregory [Benoist, her jockey] was very impressed with her and said she needed it badly, and she was also in season today.”
Given that information, she looks worth chancing at current odds and especially as the 1m4f trip will ideally suit the daughter of Galileo, who is a strong influence for stamina and was the sire of 2009 Oaks winner Was, as well as numerous other top-class middle-distance performers. Trained by Andre Fabre, who won the Oaks back in the 90s with Intrepidity and has had very few runners in the race since, she has always had this race as her target, rather than the shorter Prix de Diane (French Oaks), and he can be relied upon to have her spot on at Epsom.
Of the rest, I’ve a healthy respect for Sir Michael Stoute’s Crystal Zvezda, who picked up really well to land the same Newbury race won by Eswarah before following up in the 2005 Oaks. John Gosden’s Jazzi Top is another to consider after her impressive success in the Pretty Polly Stakes, which has provided the last two Oaks winners, although connections reported afterwards that 1m2f may be her optimum trip.
Al Naamah each-way @ 25/1 bet365 (plus back Legatissimo once confirmed a runner)
All odds were correct at time of posting.