Tom Thurgood gives his verdict on each contender in the Investec Oaks plus reveals his each-way fancy in our runner-by-runner guide which includes vital galloping clues.
Which filly is set for Classic glory?
The Investec Oaks might only have eight runners – its smallest field for 16 years – yet quantity need not equate to quality as we look forward to a brilliant Classic double-header from Epsom on Saturday, live on Racing TV at 3.40pm.
Even this year’s outsiders boast some solid form and an ability that a superficial glance at their current odds might not suggest.
But who wins? We take a closer look at the contenders ahead of the Classic contest.
1. BAHRANI STAR
Sire: Sea The Stars. Trainer: Peter Chapple-Hyam. Official rating: 99. Odds: 40-1.
Bahrani Star is a big-priced outsider here, but she was similarly unfancied at 100-1 in the Ribblesdale last time before finishing fourth. Oisin Murphy takes the ride and on a superficial view of that Royal Ascot form, she looks overpriced.
She was dropped right out last time, yet those tactics perhaps had more style than substance because of a muddling pace and Andrea Atzeni made a smart move to grab the rail two furlongs out, which helped this filly run home. And was there great depth to the Ribblesdale behind the first three home?
Peter Chapple-Hyam reports his filly in good form and to have improved from Ascot.
Sire: Galileo. Trainer: Aidan O’Brien. Official rating: 104. Odds: 7-1.
Ennistymon showed some promise on debut from an unfavourable draw but, like most Galileo’s, has really improved aged three, idling in front for a winning start to the season and finishing with a rattle for second behind Frankly Darling in the Ribblesdale.
The field bunched up with four furlongs to run and this filly was not as well placed as the winner. She is expected to get much closer this time and looks too big at the prices in comparison to her Royal Ascot conqueror, but nevertheless is no certainty to reverse the form.
She looks a handy type who should handle the Epsom undulations.
3. FRANKLY DARLING
Sire: Frankel. Trainer: John Gosden. Official rating: 110. Odds: 2-1.
Unbeaten this season, Frankly Darling made a big impression on her return at Newcastle and really bounded clear with two furlongs to run.
That set her up nicely for the Ribblesdale and she ultimately won that race with ease. Yes, she was well-placed by her brilliant rider who is especially good at Ascot, but this filly did not settle for the first three furlongs yet eased into the lead and stormed clear once asked for her effort.
She was not ridden with anything like maximum pressure and had the race won some way out.
The feeling is she may have a tad more class than Ennistymon, but can she ruffle up Love? Frankly Darling has a turn of foot and the downhill run in the straight at Epsom appeals for her Classic chance, but she looks a leggy filly and her ability to act on the track needs to be fully proven.
4. GOLD WAND
Sire: Golden Horn. Trainer: Roger Varian. Official rating: 89. Odds: 14-1.
Gold Wand was well-backed in what proved an excellent Doncaster maiden at the end of last season. She came up short against the exciting Domino Darling but lost little in defeat after using early boot to assume a prominent position in a big field from a very wide draw.
She was much the best on her return, hitting the front with more than three furlongs to run but picked up smartly inside the final few furlongs. Gold Wand is exciting and should improve from Newbury having raced exuberantly on her reappearance.
She is interesting here, though more with view to the future and to see how she handles this exalted grade. Gold Wand will need to relax, too – she wore a hood down to the start and the trainer’s post-race comments stated she is a buzzy type.
Sire: Galileo. Trainer: Aidan O’Brien. Official rating: 116. Odds: 11-10.
Watch a full replay of the Qipco 1000 Guineas
Love is a short price but, as things stands, she is by far by the best filly in this race.
She is bred to thrive at three and excelled on her return in the Qipco 1,000 Guineas, while her pedigree hints - and her connections have suggested - that she will be fine going up half a mile in trip. Love also boasts the most experience here, which is no disadvantage.
Yet while she won impressively at Newmarket, that form has lost some of its gloss in recent weeks and with showers in the area, the prospect of ease in the ground at Epsom is a concern. Love is too tough and classy to be genuinely bogged down, yet conditions were quick for her Guineas triumph and she was a little flat on slow ground on her final start as a juvenile in the Fillies’ Mile.
Sire: Galileo. Trainer: Aidan O’Brien. Official rating: 100. Odds: 25-1.
This full sister to through stayers Capri and Cypress Creek shaped like stamina might be her forte as a juvenile (particularly second-time out at Limerick) and Passion has proved that this term.
She improved for her return in Listed company to finish third in the Ribblesdale, a career-best effort over the furthest she’s tackled. Even at Ascot she hit a flat spot though and looked outpaced – as she did on her return – and there are questions of speed and class against these rivals at this trip.
Sire: Frankel. Trainer: Roger Varian. Official rating: 103. Odds: 25-1.
This filly has shaped like she wants more of a test on all four of her starts to date and this step-up to a mile and half will suit.
Queen Daenerys should also handle Epsom given her return on the Rowley Miley undulations in the Pretty Polly and she looks a more compact type.
Unlike most of her rivals here, she has at least tackled Group One level courtesy of a respectable effort in the Fillies Mile last season, struggling to go the gallop and mostly eased from the two-furlong pole yet came home quite well under tentative handling late in the day.
She is an honest and likeable filly who keeps going, but she hasn’t yet shown the class required to genuinely shake up the market principals.
8. TIEMPO VUELA
Sire: Lope De Vega. Trainer: John Gosden. Official rating: -- Odds: 40-1.
We all know about John Gosden newcomers at Newcastle and this filly broke nicely, raced professionally and quickened clear in good style on racecourse debut last October.
Tiempo Vuela was favourite for the Pretty Polly on her return, a good Oaks trial in which her trainer boasts a good record. Yet she was drawn wide and raced too exuberantly with little cover, going backwards once feeling the pinch three furlongs from home and left to come home in her own time.
She clearly has something to prove now as the stable second-string and on this huge rise in class. Yet given the debut impression and the market expectations on her return, it wouldn’t be a big surprise if she performed better than the current odds suggest.
Love is the most likely winner given the achievements these fillies have displayed so far, bringing the best form into this race and the most experience.
She is also the standout Group One filly, having also landed top honours as a juvenile and this will be her fourth assignment at the top table. By comparison, Queen Daenerys is the only other rival here to have experienced top company.
Of course, that lack of top competition can’t be held against the likes of Frankly Darling, who is more lightly-raced but genuinely progressing. Yet the prospect of Love stepping up half a mile in trip should suit her and that could augur more improvement that can negate the potential forward progress of her rivals.
Love looks the right price, yet if the ground has some give you get the feeling this race becomes that bit more winnable. Frankly Darling is expected to go well but there looks no opportunity with her current price, while ENNISTYMON has attracted market support in recent days that makes her less appealing as a bet at this stage.
The Ballydoyle second-string is still available at 7-1 with Bet365 though, and that’s a half-decent each-way price for a filly that could have finished closer in the second-best form line coming into this race.Get your free Racing TV fleece - the latest in our range of high-class Racing TV merchandise! Click here for more details.
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