Fourteen fillies have been declared for this afternoon’s Investec Oaks, the highlight of Investec Ladies’ Day, and Aidan O’Brien saddles an astonishing six of them. Admittedly, the master of Ballydoyle has issued a word of warning about Kissed’s participation if the ground is not suitable, but even five fillies makes for a monster team.
O’Brien has won the fillies’ Classic no less than three times with Shantoush (1998), Imagine (2001) and most recently Alexandrova (2006) but, on each of those occasions, they were the stable’s sole runners. In other words, every time he has saddled more than one runner in the race, he has failed to land the prize.
This doesn’t mean he cannot win today, it purely indicates he may not have one standout candidate. Now, there has been plenty of support for Maybe in recent weeks and the vibe from Ireland is that she has come on bundles from her slightly disappointing run in the QIPCO 1000 Guineas. In fact, I was lucky enough to watch her work in the flesh a couple of weeks ago and she sparkled.
Some pundits have expressed concerns about her handling the track, but that doesn’t cause me any worry as she works on a replica Epsom gallop at home. The niggling doubt I have is whether she’ll truly stay the 12 furlong trip as she’s so much speed and the Guineas was always her target rather than her seasonal pipe-opener.
O’Brien’s horse can improve bundles for their first run, as Power showed last week when bouncing back from Newmarket to win the Irish Guineas, but she can hardly be described as value at 11/4 with Coral. I’m sure she’ll go close, but she may be running on empty late on and, for that reason, I’m out.
John Gosden has rather surprisingly never won the Investec Oaks and Izzi Top’s third place finish 12 months ago is the closest he’s come in seven attempts so far. However, the Lord Lloyd-Webber owned THE FUGUE can change all that this afternoon on only her fourth racecourse start.
My selection finished fourth in the QIPCO 1000 Guineas on just her second run and endured a nightmare passage that day. She returned home having been badly struck into behind, but still reappeared quickly to run out an impressive winner of the Musidora at York. It wasn’t necessarily what she beat that day - Twirl may have been a non-stayer - it was how she emphatically put the race to bed in a few strides having travelled so well.
She is not 100% assured to stay the extra two furlongs of the Investec Oaks, but there is plenty to suggest she will and I’m prepared to take a chance at 3/1 with Paddy Power. I also certainly wouldn’t put those spread bettors amongst you off selling Maybe against her in a match bet at 0.
Vow is respected enormously and even though I’m sure she’ll confirm the Lingfield form with Colima, she’ll have to improve dramatically again to take a hand this afternoon. Kailani was impressive at Newmarket but encounters very different ground this afternoon, while Kissed is another who wants the heavens to open.
At a big price, I’m prepared to have a small each-way bet on SHIROCCO STAR, at a whopping 20/1 with Paddy Power. Hughie Morrison’s filly should have won at Newbury last time and exaggerated waiting tactics cost her dearly. She may lack the class of some of her rivals, but she’ll be staying on at the death and could make the frame.
However, my best bet of the afternoon is the Charlie Hills-trained BALTY BOYS in the Investec Surrey Stakes at 4.50pm. The seven-furlong Listed event looks sure to be run at a blistering pace and the Sir Alex Ferguson-owned three-year-old should dictate affairs from the front. He showed plenty of speed as a two-year-old, notably when beaten in a blanket finish to the Middle Park Stakes over six furlongs, and the fast ground also holds no fears. He has the most to fear from the John Gosden-trained likely favourite, Fallen For You, but I’m not sure she’ll handle the track and she didn’t look like a natural speedball at Lingfield last time.
The opening two races are pretty unappealing from a betting perspective and if forced to make a selection I’d probably throw a few quid each-way on Night Lily at a big price in the opener, while I can’t separate Gatewood and Resurge in the second.
WORTHADD won’t be much of a price in the Investec Diomed Stakes (2.50pm), but looks very hard to oppose. The former Italian-trained Sir Mark Prescott inmate brings genuine Group One form to the table and won’t have to be at his best to see off the likes of Side Glance and Marcret. At a bigger price, St Moritz can chase home my selection for the forecast.
Finally, DUNN’O’s jockey booking of Ryan Moore for the Investec Mile (3.25pm) caught my eye and Dandy Nicholls’s runner is back down to his last winning mark. He looks sure to put up a bold show from the front at a decent price and can go well. I’ll also be backing UNEX EL GRECO as he looks to have slipped to a very fair mark and seems to be stepping forward with each run.