TRAINER Aidan O’Brien’s third string Qualify had punters scratching their heads and bookmakers rubbing their hands when she stormed home at 50/1 under Colm O’Donoghue to land the Investec Oaks by a short head from favourite Legatissimo.
The daughter of Fastnet Rock was the complete outsider in the field of 11 and arrived at Epsom having been a full 41 lengths behind Legatissimo in the 1,000 Guineas at Newmarket last month.
Although faring slightly better in the Irish equivalent two weeks ago, there was little to suggest she was about to land the biggest fillies’ Classic in the calendar.
But, given a brilliant ride by Ballydoyle stalwart O’Donoghue, who managed to avoid significant interference that severely hampered Together Forever along with Jack Naylor and most notably Diamondsandrubies, Qualify stayed on gamely to catch Legatissimo, who had looked a certain winner a furlong from home.
O’Donoghue, beaten just a head in the 2011 Derby on Treasure Beach, came with a late burst to nail the 5/2 favourite with 7/1 shot Lady Of Dubai two and a half lengths back in third.
It was a fifth Oaks for trainer O’Brien, who also bred the horse, but surprisingly Qualify isn’t Coolmore-owned, instead running in the colours of Mrs C C Regalado-Gonzalez.
The trainer wasn’t too surprised at the win, saying of Qualify after the race: “She was always very classy. It went a little bit wrong at Newmarket first time out [Qualify finished last], but Joseph [O’Brien] looked after her and she ran a nice race at the Curragh.
“We were really happy with her and knew stepping her up to a mile-and-a-quarter or a mile-and-a-half would bring out improvement and Colm gave her a masterful ride.”
The winning jockey, tasting British Classic success for the first time, added: “She’s always shown us a lot of pace and she’s a well-balanced filly. The thing was to get her to switch off and see if she’d get the trip, and she saw it out really well.”
Legatissimo, bidding to become the first horse to land the 1,000 Guineas-Oaks double since 2002, had every chance under Ryan Moore but needed the winning line a yard earlier.
The big disappointment was the 7/2 second favourite Crystal Zvezda. Richard Hughes’ mount ran far too keenly and subsequently had nothing in reserve for the business end of the race, finishing 10th.
It was Lady Of Dubai who was responsible for the barging match up the home straight, although there was little jockey Adam Kirby could have done to prevent it. Her trainer Luca Cumani said she was “delighted” with her performance.