HERE have been more twist and turns in the build-up to the Investec Oaks (4.30pm) than the nine runners will face in this afternoon’s actual race.
Last week a setback ruled ante-post favourite Lah Ti Dar out of the contest and she was replaced at the head of the market by the Aidan O’Brien- trained Magical.
Unfortunately, she suffered a knock while cantering on Tuesday and joins Lah Ti Dar on the sidelines.
The unseasonably wet weather has also played a disruptive part in the build-up, with more than 20mm of rain hitting Epsom on Tuesday.
With isolated thunderstorms still very much in the air, the field will face soft ground this afternoon and as a result the well-fancied Sea Of Class was another notable absentee at Wednesday’s declaration stage.
So, that leaves just the nine runners and the obvious place to start is still with O’Brien who is responsible for five of them and has saddled two of the last three winners.
Ryan Moore had been linked with Magical but now rides Cheshire Oaks winner Magic Wand.
The lightly-raced daughter of Galileo seemed to relish the combination of better ground and step up in trip at Chester when she quickened up nicely from the front.
She is now just 4/1 with Coral and that seems plenty short enough considering the recent rain may not be ideal.
Stablemate Forever Together caught the eye when not getting the clearest of runs behind her on the Roodee and there is every chance she may reverse those placings.
However, she too is pretty short in the betting for one that has to step up dramatically again.
O’Brien’s other three runners are headed by Bye Bye Baby who will stay and handle the ground but doesn’t look quite good enough on paper.
I Can Fly has the scope to improve with the step up in trip, but the ground worries me with her too.
I’ve also got it in the back of my mind that O’Brien may not have the strength in his three-year-old filly department that we have become used to.
Apart from Happily finishing third in both the English and Irish 1000 Guineas, his fillies have yet to fire and I’m prepared to leave all of his five runners out of my 1-2-3.
The one standout filly in the race in my opinion is the Godolphin-owned WILD ILLUSION who looks worth supporting at 5/2 with Ladbrokes.
She rounded off her two-year-old campaign by winning the Group One Prix Marcel Boussac at Chantilly on soft ground.
That was an impressive performance and she stayed on really nicely that day, seemingly relishing the underfoot conditions.
The combination of fast ground and the one mile trip was always going to potentially catch her out on her reappearance in last month’s 1000 Guineas, but she ran well considering to finish fourth behind Billesdon Brook.
All the recent rain that has fallen looks ideal when you consider her family on the dam’s side all relished those conditions and I expect her to be pretty hard to beat here.
Looking at the remainder, I can see Clive Cox’s PERFECT CLARITY running extremely well despite her inexperience and the fact she is unproven on the ground.
She created a really nice impression when winning the Lingfield Oaks Trial in commanding fashion on only her second racecourse appearance and looks all about stamina.
Being a daughter of Nathaniel, there are grounds to be optimistic about her handling the conditions and she should go well.
William Haggas relies on Musidora winner Give And Take who won nicely at York but probably wouldn’t want too much more rain.
It would be no surprise to see her pick up a minor placing, but there may be better value in siding with the filly that finished behind her last time.
EJTYAH was third in the Musidora on only her second racecourse appearance and is entitled to step up again from that run.
Being a daughter of Frankel, she looks a really good staying type who should be suited by the underfoot conditions.
She looks the best each-way bet in the contest at around 20/1.
BILL ESDAILE’S INVESTEC OAKS 1-2-3
1 WILD ILLUSION
2 PERFECT CLARITY