The third English Classic of the season takes place on Friday in the form of the Group 1 Oaks, and we have a good day’s action in store at the iconic Epsom Downs racecourse. Won in the past by Fillies such as Enable, we are set for another interesting race here despite there being no stand-out performer. The rest of the day’s action is also competitive, and I have four selections across the card. Be sure to give me a follow @JakePriceRacing to keep up to date with all future articles – including my Derby preview.
14:00 – Woodcote EBF Stakes (Class 2) 2yo – 6f
Pinatubo is a short priced favourite in the opener on Epsom Oaks Day, and he clearly has huge potential having won a Wolverhampton Novice Stakes by three-and-a-quarter lengths earlier this month in the colours of Godolphin. With this being his first start on turf however, I am willing to take him on with a more experienced performer in Misty Grey. Third to Strong Power on debut at Lingfield, this Dark Angel Colt found the 5f trip too sharp – being left behind entering the final furlong before plugging on again near the finish. Upped to 6f at Ripon sixteen days later, Misty Grey was much better able to show his ability when bolting up by seven-lengths, eased down close to home. That performance suggests this two-year-old is very much above average, and if he can continue his improvement here, he can put his experience to good use and go close. Misty Grey made all when winning at Ripon, and it usually pays to race prominently at Epsom – so tactics should suit. Mark Johnston’s yard has been in fantastic form of late, operating at a 28% strike rate in the last seven days. Mark Johnston is in fact the leading trainer here at Epsom in the past five seasons, with our selection’s pilot Franny Norton third on the list of top Jockey’s at this unique track (again past five seasons) – boasting a 26% strike rate. With strong connections, a good performance, the highest ratings and experience under his belt; Misty Grey looks a fair price and should run well.
Misty Grey @ 3/1 3rd
15:45 – Wealth & Investment Handicap (Class 2) 4yo+ – 1m2f
The fourth race on the Oaks card is a Class 2 Handicap ran over 1m2f, and one of my strongest fancies of the day runs here in the form of Mountain Angel. This five-year-old comes into this as a course and distance winner, having won here at Epsom on seasonal reappearance 37 days ago. This full-brother to the 113 rated Fanciful Angel put in some good performances last season without winning, including when second to Dubai Horizon (107) at Sandown before beaten a Nose by Buzz (98) in another Class 2 Handicap at Newbury. His run first time out this season however was clearly a career best, winning by one-and-a-half lengths from a mark of 96. The form of this race has been working out well; the second Aquarium won at the Chester Festival, the fourth Mythical Madness won a Class 2 at Chelmsford, the fifth Lucius Tiberius was second at York’s Dante meeting, and the seventh Mildenberger has since ran well in Group company – finishing third to Communique at Newmarket before third to Stradivarius at York. Trainer Roger Varian has been in great form recently (21% strike rate) and teamed up with Mountain Angel’s Jockey Andrea Atzeni to win this race last year, as well as the 2014 renewal. On paper this doesn’t look like a deep Handicap, and he is only one of two horses to have won over this course and distance.
Mountain Angel @ 9/2 1st
16:30 – Investec Oaks (Group 1) (Fillies) 3yo – 1m4f
The third British classic of the season is the Oaks, ran over the same distance as the Derby – but limited to Fillies only. This year’s renewal looks a particularly tricky one considering there is a lot of talent but no real standout, however a star performer in the Trials for this race was undoubtedly Mehdaayih. This Filly ran three times as a two-year-old, with her best performance coming at Yarmouth when staying on strongly at the end of a mile, seeing off stablemate Fanny Logan and beating one of today’s rivals in Maqsad by four-and-a-half lengths. This John Gosden charge made her seasonal reappearance on the all-weather at Chelmsford last month, winning a match race by a massive fourteen-lengths under regular jockey Robert Havlin. Her next start came earlier this month at Chester, where she contested the Listed Cheshire Oaks. There was a bit of rain around that day to make the ground good to soft, however this daughter of Frankel destroyed her rivals to score by four-and-a-half lengths back to Manuela De Vega. This impressive performance from Mehdaayih is probably the smartest bit of form in the field, and she clearly showed that she will relish the 1m4f trip that day. Connections have decided to keep Robert Havlin aboard for this Group 1 and being drawn stall six is ideal. John Gosden has a very good record here at Epsom, with a 26% strike rate over the past five seasons – so our Filly clearly has the right team behind her. It’s also worth noting that connections paid for Mehdaayih to be supplemented into this race.
Looking at the rest of the contenders, Frankellina was a huge eye-catcher when only beaten a neck by Nausha in the Group 3 Musidora at York earlier this month, having got slowly away from the stalls. Assuming natural progression, this William Haggas Filly should run well with more experience under her belt. Lavenders Blue is another horse who has shown progression throughout her career, bolting up at Newmarket before finishing a narrow second to Queen Power at Newbury a couple of weeks ago. Pink Dogwood has been talked up a lot by the Aidan O’Brien team and will surely be on the premise, whilst Maqsad has some stamina doubts having shown a lot of speed on her two starts so far this season. Anapurna is the ride of Frankie Dettori for John Gosden, and she was also impressive when winning a trial for this race at Lingfield – but that form doesn’t look as strong as what Mehdaayih achieved at Chester.
Mehdaayih @ 3/1 7th
17:15 – Surrey Stakes (Listed) 3yo – 7f
The final race that I am going to preview on Oaks Day is the Listed Surrey Stakes, where Urban Icon lines up for Richard Hannon. This three-year-old has been highly tried since winning two 6f Novice Auction Stakes races last season, both times beating Even Keel (94) by three-and-a-half lengths. Connections started this son of Cityscape’s season at Newbury last month in the Group 3 Greenham Stakes, where the rain probably didn’t help his chances when finishing third to Mohaather. The form has been working out fairly well with the second Great Scot third in the Group 2 German 2000 Guineas, and the fourth placed horse Hello Youmzain first in the Group 2 Sandy Lane Stakes at Haydock on Saturday when lowering the colours of Calyx. Urban Icon’s next start came when tried at a mile in the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket – which probably tested his stamina. Despite the trip being against him, the Colt still ran a credible eighth – improving past Great Scot. He was in the main group that day (unlike the first, second and sixth), so you can probably upgrade his performance slightly. Back down to 7f here should help Urban Icon, who has shown that he is a speedy horse. With the ground going against him at Newbury, and a mile stretching him out at Newmarket, I don’t feel we have seen the best of this Richard Hannon horse so far this season – and I’d expect him to run very close now dropping down in class to Listed company over a trip which should suit.
Space Blues looks like a favourite worth taking on here having been well beaten by King Ottokar at Newbury before winning a Handicap at York over 7f from a mark of 93. That win sees him rated 103 now, but that still leaves 4lbs to find with our selection – who I feel has much more potential for improvement. Angel’s Hideaway will be fancied by many having ran well when fourth behind Hermosa in the 1000 Guineas, but she seemingly prefers a faster surface and could struggle to live up with the boys here. Happy Power is an interesting runner for King Power Racing, and track specialist Silvestre De Sousa takes the ride. I put him up in a Listed event at Haydock last time with the softer ground seemingly in his favour – but he could only manage third that day, and the ground is set to be Good at Epsom on Friday.
Urban Icon @ 9/2 2nd
Good luck! – Jake Price