The past five renewals of the Darley Yorkshire Oaks have been won by short-priced favourites – four of them at 8-15 or shorter – but this month’s renewal has an open look with the bookmakers going 7-2 the field.
Emily Upjohn, Tuesday, Magical Lagoon and Alpinista are the ante-post market leaders but the quartet either having something to prove or are unlikely to run.
Oaks one-two Tuesday and Emily Upjohn have since fluffed their lines and, overall, the form could hardly be working out worse. The one glaring exception has been third-placed Nashwa, but she palpably did not get home at Epsom and it’s no coincidence her subsequent triumphs in the French Oaks and Nassau have been over ten furlongs.
Tuesday wasn’t seen to best advantage when a well-beaten fourth in the Irish Derby on her latest start, although it may also be that four Group One assignments in under two months have taken an edge off her. Meanwhile, Emily Upjohn ran lamentably in the King George last month when keen early on ands possibly resenting the faster ground. I could not have her on my mind after that.
Magical Lagoon is an intended runner, having shown a willing attitude to win the Ribblesdale and Irish Oaks on her past two starts. However, both of those races lacked depth and it’s puzzling how she is a best price of 4-1 when Toy, who made her dig deep at The Curragh last time, is available at 12-1.
Alpinista made it four Group One wins on the spin when landing the Grand Prix De Saint-Cloud last month and would have an outstanding chance if lining up. However, Sir Mark Prescott is a traditionalist and indicated after her latest success that the the Prix Vermeille would be her final stop before a crack at the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe.
Albaflora is in the same ownership as Alpinista and looks an obvious deputy after chasing home Snowfall in last year’s Yorkshire Oaks. The problem with entertaining her at 14-1 is that she disappointed on her return at Chester, in May, and has been absent since, almost certainly because of the fast ground that has prevailed for much of the summer. Keep her in mind for the Fillies & Mares Stakes on Champions Day.
Given doubts over those at the front of the market, I’m keen to get involved and the two who interest me are Lilac Road, who is a general 16-1, and La Petite Coco, chalked up at 7-1.
Lilac Road’s career has been one of steady progression for William Haggas, especially if you ignore her solitary runs on soft ground and the all-weather.
She did well to reel in Aristia given the way the Middleton Stakes unfolded at York’s Dante meeting in May and was a big eye-catcher when a staying-on third to Nashwa in the Nassau Stakes at Goodwood last week. But for meeting trouble in running, she would definitely have finished second at worst.
Not for the first time, Lilac Road was doing all her best work at the finish and, in keeping with her pedigree, there could be even more to come when she is stepped up to a mile and a half.
Maureen Haggas acknowledged a longer trip would be on the cards after the Nassau, saying: “She did not get the smoothest run through, which often happens at Goodwood. In the last 50 yards she flew – I am thrilled with her. Looking at that, I think we could step her up to 12 furlongs happily.
"And she is getting better as she has never been easy beforehand. We went down first and she wasn't too bad today. She is settling in her races and has galloped right to the line. I don't know what plans there might be. She is well worth keeping at this standard, and William will find something and talk to Jon and Julia and work out a plan."
I’d be amazed if the Yorkshire Oaks is not "the plan" given it’s a £500,000 contest, she’s had a light campaign and that she has won on her only previous visit to the course, where the stable love having runners. She's four times the price of Magical Lagoon, despite officially being rated 2lb superior to her.
The Haggas team also have Sea La Rosa entered, but she needed every yard when landing the Lillie Langtry over 1m 6f at Goodwood and the Irish St Leger looks a better fit for her.
My main bet will be on Lilac Road but I’m also going to have a saver on La Petite Coco because she has thrived for Paddy Twomey and picked up from where she left off last season by landing the Group One Pretty Polly Stakes at The Curragh, at the main expense of the Haggas-trained My Astra. Rosscarbery, a stablemate of the winner, was third past the post and has subsequently beaten Emily Dickinson in a Group Three at Leopardstown.
The one niggle is that all of La Petite Coco’s form has been on good ground or softer, although that is probably more by accident than design. There is no evidence to suggest she will not handle quicker conditions and Twomey has said that that the Yorkshire Oaks is on her agenda. She’s got a bunch of 1s against her name and on ratings has only a couple of pounds to find with Emily Upjohn and Tuesday. It wouldn’t be the biggest surprise if she ended up going off favourite.
One other to mention is Raclette, a Juddmonte-owned Frankel filly who won the Group Two Prix De Malleret at Longchamp last month. Andre Fabre, her trainer, indicated afterwards that would be supplemented for the Yorkshire Oaks, but she looked a tad fortunate to win that day and her overall form lacks depth.
How To Bet £20 ante-post on the Darley Yorkshire Oaks (at York on August 18)
£5 win and £5 each-way on Lilac Road at a general 16-1
£5 win on La Petite Coco at a general 7-1
Select any odd to add a bet