Epsom will come to life this afternoon as the famous Downs welcomes back racegoers for day one of the 2021 Derby Festival.
It’s the fillies’ that take top billing on Friday with the Cazoo Oaks at 4.30pm being the main event.
Can Aidan O’Brien win yet another renewal of the Fillies’ Classic or will there be an upset success? Log into MansionBet UK to watch all the Epsom action via live streaming and read below for our in-depth preview of The Oaks itself.
Selection: Dubai Fountain @
Next Best: Zeyaadah @
Ballydoyle Challenge is Strong
Aidan O’Brien bids for his fifth Oaks win in seven years. Santa Barbara is hot-favourite despite only managing fourth in the 1000 Guineas at Newmarket last time. That was just her second start, and a first of this year. She was not at home in the Rowley Mile dip and should have learned plenty from that experience. This trip threatens further improvement and there’s little doubting she can become a high-class filly.
Epsom’s demands are plenty however and, at the prices, she’s probably worth taking on given that lack of big-game experience is still a worry.
Recent history has certainly taught us that O’Brien’s perceived underdogs shouldn’t be discounted (Was in 2012 and Qualify in 2015).
Divinely finished behind three of these rivals (Sherbet Lemon, Save A Forest and Ocean Road) in last month’s Lingfield Oaks Trial. That messy race didn’t bring out the best in this Galileo filly and a career-best effort under Seamie Heffernan wouldn’t be a shock now. That said, the trio that beat her last time are trading at 28/1 and bigger for Oaks glory.
La Jonconde has plenty work to do on her Chester run last time, while Snowfall was perhaps allowed dictate matters from the front in the Musidora at York in a fashion that won’t be repeated now.
Trials May Get Re-Assessed
The aforementioned Sherbet Lemon was gutsy in winning that Lingfield Trial but that was on soft ground and it was something of a stop-start event. She can hold sway over runner-up Save A Forest again but the likes of Ocean Road and Divinely are not as easily dismissed. Hollie Doyle’s mount proved her desire won’t be lacking but this faster surface and a searching gallop are questions for them to answer.
So, too, the Musidora win of Snowfall at York is hard to accept at face value. Ryan Moore rode a waiting race in front at York and that almost certainly didn’t suit market leaders Noon Star (absent) here) and Teona, who were second and third respectively.
The latter sports a hood now under David Egan and does need to settle better, though a more honest pace will certainly help. Mystery Angel was fourth on the Knavesmire but has plenty against here. Teona seems best-placed to build significantly on that run.
Chester Form can Stand Up
The trial that should be leaned on then is the Cheshire Oaks, where DUBAI FOUNTAIN held off previously unbeaten Zeyaadah on the Roodee.
Both were having their first run back and both emerged with credit in the bank. Zeyaadah had won all three starts last year and gives Roger Varian a strong hand here (also runs Teona). She conceded first run at Chester and Jim Crowley’s mount finished the race off strongly to be within a length at the line, conceding 3lb to the winner.
She was, however, always held by Mark Johnston’s daughter of Teofilo and perhaps that 3lb swing is a contributing reason Dubai Fountain is twice the price here.
Franny Norton kicked for home early at Chester, around two-and-a-half-furlongs out, and his filly quickly moved clear of the field on the home bend. She saw out every yard of that 1m3½f journey at Chester and she, too, is very much the type to build on it on this grand stage.
Her Middleham trainer has never won The Oaks but he’s got a lively contender here and perhaps even the value shout at current odds.
Franny Norton may again attempt to get into pole position exiting Tattenham Corner and make his move. As with so many before from this stable, it will come as no great shock if Dubai Fountain proves durable and hard to peg back in that scenario.
*All odds correct at time of writing