Monday 13 May 2019

Who are the Leading Contenders for the 2019 Epsom Oaks?

"Epsom Downs is home to The Oaks" by Framax97 (CC BY-SA 4.0)

The Oaks at Epsom Downs Racecourse is the second fillies' only Classic of the British Flat horse racing calendar.

Two trainers in particular, Aidan O'Brien and John Gosden, have dominated the 1m 4f test for three-year-olds on this undulating racetrack in recent years - winning six of the last seven renewals between them.

Ahead of this year's running of the Epsom Oaks on Friday, May 31, who are the leading contenders for Classic glory at the Surrey venue?

Pink Dogwood

If the betting on The Oaks is anything to go by, then favorite Pink Dogwood is the main O'Brien hope from his Ballydoyle stables. This filly is out of Epsom Derby winner Camelot and her sire won three Classics in all back in 2012, with 2000 Guineas success at Newmarket and later the Irish Derby at The Curragh.

Pink Dogwood's damsire, meanwhile, was the prolific stallion Shamardal who landed the French Derby. As thoroughbred pedigrees go, she has the ideal breeding to get the trip.

What has Pink Dogwood done on the track, though? She got a mile as a juvenile and was unlucky to finish fifth in the Group 1 Prix Marcel Boussac during Arc weekend at Longchamp in Paris last October.

Although swamped and short of room that day so she was unable to mount a challenge, Pink Dogwood has come out and won a Listed event at Navan on her return to action over 1m 2f under a hands and heels ride in ready fashion. There is clearly more to come from her and she looks sure to feature among many experts' Epsom Oaks betting tips as a result.


The leading British contender, meanwhile, looks to be Mehdaayih. Trained by Gosden, this daughter of the mighty Frankel could attempt this trip which is something her sire never tried in his glittering career, but she'll have to be supplemented by her owner.

Any worries about her lasting this distance can be quickly belayed by the fact that Frankel was out of Epsom and Irish Derby winner Galileo. Again, such a pedigree strongly suggests Mehdaayih will have the stamina to last a mile-and-a-half.

After winning her final start as a juvenile, she bolted up by 14 lengths on reappearance on an artificial surface before returning to turf with a visually impressive 4 1/2 lengths victory in the Cheshire Oaks.

That is a key trial for the Epsom equivalent because that race distance is just over 1m 3f, and the emphatic nature of both her wins this season means Mehdaayih commands the utmost respect.


Only the late, great Sir Henry Cecil has trained more winners of The Oaks in modern times than O'Brien, and another of his leading Irish raiders is the 1000 Guineas heroine Hermosa.

She was given a bold, enterprising ride on the front end by Wayne Lordan at Newmarket when landing that Classic on the Rowley Mile. Such is the curious world of equine thoroughbreds that Hermosa is Mehdaayih's aunt as she's by Galileo out of a Pivotal mare.

Unlike some of the other Epsom Oaks contenders, she had plenty of racing as a two-year-old but is clearly bred to come into her own this year. O'Brien is already talking up an English Classic double following her length victory over Lady Kaya.

There were no excuses for those in-behind Hermosa, but the difference between the Guineas and Oaks is four furlongs - half a mile. That greater stamina test will suit some that could take her on again at Epsom better.


Like Mehdaayih, the William Haggas trained Maqsad is related to Hermosa through Galileo who is her damsire. This filly is unbeaten in two starts as a three-year-old and has already stepped up to 1m 2f when taking the Pretty Polly Stakes at Newmarket by a decisive five lengths.

She does have juvenile form from Yarmouth to turnaround with her cousin, however, and both have clearly trained on. Maqsad had her Newmarket rivals well strung out behind her, but the same can be said of Mehdaayih. It makes choosing between them tough.

As Maqsad is available ante-post at bigger odds, she represents solid each-way value and The Oaks must come into consideration for her connections now. She does have lots of options in both France and the UK.

Wherever Maqsad lines up next, and that could include the French Oaks or the Ribblesdale Stakes at Royal Ascot, her progression this season certainly suggests she is a group calibre filly in the making.

Friday 10 May 2019

Enable Bidding for a History Arc Treble in 2019

Enable is looking to achieve what no horse in the history of the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe has been able to do when she lines up at Longchamp in Paris in October: three victories in the most prestigious flat race in Europe.

Eight horses have been able to land the Arc twice, with Treve and Enable being the most recent ones. Treve attempted the hat-trick in 2015 but she had to settle for fourth place on that occasion in the race that was won by Golden Horn.

Enable, who is a daughter of Nathaniel, dominated her three-year-old campaign on the track, winning the Oaks, Irish Oaks, King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes and Yorkshire Oaks before her opening success in the Arc.

Unfortunately for those connected to the horse and for racing fans, we did not see much of her in 2018 as an injury ruled her out for the opening three-quarters of the season. She made a return to the track at Kempton on the all-weather surface in the September Stakes where she scored by just over three lengths.

Enable Holds Sea of Class to Defend Arc Crown

In the 2018 Arc, Franke Dettori opted to make his drive for the winning line at the two-furlong pole and he was chased home by Sea of Class, who finished just a short-head behind her rival in what proved to be a thrilling finish to the 1m4f contest.

Enable could meet Sea of Class once again in the same race in October where the defending champion is 11/4 in the horse racing betting to make history by completing her hat-trick at Longchamp.

The reigning Arc winner did not stop at Longchamp for the season in 2018. A month later, she went across to the United States where she became the first horse to score in the Arc and a Breeders’ Cup race in the same year. Enable lined up in the Breeders’ Cup Turf and along with Magical, the pair went clear of the opposition from North America to fight it out between them at the finish. Dettori was just able to get to a little more from his horse to prevail by just under a length.

Enable Set to Run at Epsom in Coronation Cup

John Gosden’s mare is set to make her seasonal reappearance in the Coronation Cup at Epsom on May 31. If successful, it will be her eighth Group One success and will bring her unbeaten record up to 10 races.

The Prince of Wales’s Stakes at Royal Ascot is also likely to be on Enable’s radar this season but Gosden is unlikely to over-run his mare in what could be a lightly campaigned year to ensure she is fresh for her main target at the end of the year.

Challengers to Enable in the Arc this year are likely to come from Too Darn Hot, who is tipped to be the leading three-year-old in the UK this season, while 2018 Derby winner Masar could be a strong challenger on his return from injury.

The 2019 Arc takes place on October 6 in what will be the 98th running of the turf race this year.