BILL ESDAILE PREVIEWS THE INVESTEC OAKS AND THE BEST OF THE OTHER RACES FROM EPSOM TODAY
LITTLE more than three months ago, trainer Jessica Harrington had hurdling's number one prize on her agenda as the now-retired AP McCoy unsuccessfully attempted to ride Jezki to back-to-back Champion Hurdle successes at Cheltenham.
Today the playing field is much different. Not confronted with timber obstacles, nor challenged by a string of Willie Mullins-trained powerhouses, Harrington’s JACK NAYLOR must negotiate Epsom's climbs, slides and bends to fend off Flat racing's top yards in this afternoon's premier fillies’ Classic, the Group One Investec Oaks (4.30pm).
Anybody who saw Jack Naylor swallow up the Curragh’s final furlong to finish a close fourth in the Irish 1,000 Guineas will have to agree with me that today's extended trip will bring about significant improvement. Her dam’s sire, Nashwan, was an effortless five length winner of the 1989 Epsom Derby, so the stamina box is ticked.
The likely decent ground is also right up her street as her three successes have all come on a sound surface.
You only have to look at the form of her Listed success at the Curragh last August to see why she has an excellent chance in this. She beat both Legatissimo and Together Forever, who she will face again today, despite giving them 5lb. She should be backed at 13/2 with Betway.
Her main rival is undoubtedly the aforementioned 1,000 Guineas winner Legatissimo. She’s been right at the top of my shortlist after coming from midfield to mow down Lucida in the final furlong of that race.
The jockey booking of Ryan Moore looks significant as Legatissimo’s owners also have the Aidan O’Brien-trained pair Diamondsandrubies and Together Forever in the race.
However, she is just 11/4 with Betway and Jack Naylor is simply better value.
The history books are against Legatissimo as well. She would be the first filly since Kazzia (2002) to land a Guineas/Oaks double and her draw in stall one has not housed an Oaks winner since Salsabil (1990).
A close third on my list is the Musidora Stakes runner up Together Forever. With the 4lb burden O’Brien’s filly carried in York’s Oaks trial now removed, she can reverse the form with John Gosden’s hopeful Star of Seville and battle it out with her Irish counterparts once again.
There are plenty of others in there with chances, like Crystal Zvezda, Lady Of Dubai and Jazzi Top, but the Irish fillies seem to be a notch above their British counterparts.
▪ Bill Esdaile’s Investec Oaks 1-2-3