The headline writers have been gifted something of an open goal with Love this summer.
Love conquers all. All you need is Love. Love blossoms in the Guineas/Oaks. Love has O’Brien all a flutter. And so on.
They must be getting a little twitchy now, though, because if the filly keeps winning then plays on the word Love are going to start running dry. Perhaps starting on Thursday, when she is hot favourite for the Darley Yorkshire Oaks.
Feel the love for Love on Racing TV on Thursday
It was a similar story with another Aidan O’Brien-trained filly in Winter a few years ago. I’d never watched an episode of Game Of Thrones (and still haven’t) but even I’m now familiar with the fact that the words “Winter Is Coming” is the motto of House Stark, apparently one of the Great Houses of Westeros.
Just don’t ask me a supplementary question about House Stark because I might just have to revert to humming All You Need Is Love. Anyway, I digress. Here’s a guide to likely tactics on Thursday, plus a guide to each runner and where they might finish.
HOW THE RACE MIGHT BE RUN
Alpinista seemed to enjoy herself when bowling along in front at Salisbury last week and it will be no surprise if Ryan Tate again dictates. The problem is that the combination will find themselves on a slower surface against better opposition.
Manuela De Vega stays well and usually leads or races prominently, so expect her to be in the thick of things from early on. Likewise Frankly Darling, whose best effort came in the Ribblesdale when stalking the pace.
One Voice and Franconia are up in trip and likely to sit off the leaders, while you should not panic if Ryan Moore sits nearer last than first on Love in the opening half of the race. She swept home from off the pace in the Oaks.
Once the field swings for home and have half a mile to run, expect Ryan Moore to start pressing buttons on Love. She did not pick up immediately at Epsom but led two out before surging clear.
He may well leave it a longer this time, especially if O’Brien relays that he has left a bit to work on with the Arc very much in mind. To pinch a boxing analogy, Moore will be happy to win on points (perhaps by a length or two after leading a furlong out?) rather than deliver a another stunning knockout.
In short, don’t bank on another wide-margin success if you are betting on the winning distance.
1 MANUELA DE VEGA
Trainer: Ralph Beckett. __Official rating: 110. Timeform rating: 124. Odds: 12-1.__
Watch how Manuela De Vega won the Lancashire Oaks
Most of Lope De Vega’s progeny enjoy some give underfoot and she’s no exception, so her connections will be hoping the showers forecast on Wednesday night are prolonged ones. She ran well on several occasions last year without managing to get her head in front – including when fourth in the Oaks – but has already bagged two pattern races at Haydock this term. She made short work of inferior rivals in the mud in the Lancashire Oaks last time and, proven over further, is a strong stayer at the trip.
Trainer: Sir Mark Prescott. __Official rating: 105. Timeform rating: 115. Odds: 50-1.__
The distaff side of her pedigree has been a sustained success story for decades now and it’s great to see her keeping the family flag flying. She came up short in a couple of Group Three contests after making a winning debut last year but upped her game at Salisbury last week when making all for an emphatic success over 1m2f in Listed company. The quick ground favoured those ridden from the front on the day and the market leaders underperformed, but it could be the penny is dropping for her and she should relish moving up in trip.
Trainer: John Gosden. __Official rating: 108. Timeform rating: 118p. Odds: 9-1.__
Frankie Dettori told us more about "hot filly" Franconia at Newbury
She earned quotes of about 12-1 for the Oaks after winning a Listed prize in good style at Newbury (form has worked out well) on her return in mid-June but her connections never seemed receptive to the idea and she instead followed up in a similar race at this venue, albeit she had little to spare from a rival who did run at Epsom (and was thumped). Her pedigree points to her staying the trip and it will be interesting to see how she fares in these deeper waters.
4 FRANKLY DARLING
Trainer: John Gosden. __Official rating: 110. Timeform rating: 119p. Odds: 12-1.__
The third Frankel filly in this field (the others are Alpinista and Franconia) went off at just 7-4 for the Oaks, having previously won the Ribblesdale at Royal Ascot in comfortable fashion. The writing was on the wall for her a long way out at Epsom and she merely plugged on to finish third to Love, beaten ten lengths. It’s asking a lot for her to tun the tables but this flatter terrain may show her in a better light.
Trainer: Aidan O'Brien. __Official rating: 122. Timeform rating: 131p. Odds: 1-2.__
Aidan O'Brien talks about Love to Gary O'Brien
Her exploits as a two-year-old included landing the Group One Moyglare Stud Stakes and she is impossible to fault this year, easily winning the QIPCO 1000 Guineas before romping home in the Oaks last time. She is going to take plenty of stopping although she tackles older rivals for the first time and the softish ground will probably not be ideal. Also, she may not be at her peak as O’Brien has probably given her a bit of a holiday before building her back up for the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe.
6 ONE VOICE
Trainer: Jessica Harrington. __Official rating: 114. Timeform rating: 125p. Odds: 9-1.__
Watch analysis of the Nassau Stakes
She’s got a progressive profile and went down fighting when beaten a neck by Fancy Blue, the French Oaks winner, in the Nassau Stakes last time. The winner is a smart cookie and the pair pulled clear of the prolific Nazeef, so there’s nothing wrong with the form. She had previously looked an unlucky loser in Group Two company at The Curagh, when she got stuck on the rail. The trip should be within her compass and she should make sure this is no Love procession.
It is difficult to look beyond Love, for all that she may not be at her peak or the ground ideal. One Voice is an intriguing new rival for her to overcome, while it will be a case of the softer the better for Manuela De Vega, who will be hard to keep out of the frame.
Andy's predicted finishing order
2 One Voice
3 Manuela De Vega
4 Frankly Darling
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