Yorkshire Oaks: James Doyle ready to play another waiting game on Sea Of Class

By Andy Stephens@StevoGG
Thu 23 Aug 2018

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James Doyle will again try and pounce from off the pace aboard Sea Of Class in the Darley Yorkshire Oaks on Thursday, but may resist trying to replicate the stunning last-to-first victory he achieved on her in the Irish Oaks last month.

Doyle’s calm ride at the Curragh was undoubtedly a contender for best of the season as he bided his time in rear aboard the William Haggas-trained filly before sweeping through and collaring Forever Together, the Oaks heroine, to win by a neck without using the whip at any stage.

“I always thought I was going to get there,” the 30-year-old said. “I was a little bit conscious of the [mile and a half] distance but she’s got a devastating turn of foot, so I don’t think she’s one to be in the mix early. She likes to relax, chill out out in the early part of a race and then come home really good.

 Sea Of Class, right, collars Forever Together in the Irish Oaks. Pic: PA
Sea Of Class, right, collars Forever Together in the Irish Oaks. Pic: PA

“She showed what she could in Ireland and, being very lightly raced, I’ll be amazed if she has not improved since. She’s unexposed and if she keeps improving could be anything.

“I don’t think we have to sit last, that was the way it panned out at the Curragh. They can get away on the front end at York, so I will speak to William and we will come up with a plan.”

Sea Of Class, unraced as a two-year-old, has flicked her tail on occasions and Doyle said: “She’s a feisty one and got a bit of character about her, which I think a lot of these fillies have, but it’s no bad thing. She didn’t flick her tail at the Curragh and even when she’s done so before, she’s still won.”

It will be fascinating to see how long Doyle is prepared to delay his challenge because Laurens, a triple Group One winner who usually races near the head of affairs, has proved a formidable filly to subdue.

All five of her career wins have been by a neck or less, and JP McDonald, who has ridden her throughout her career, believes she will relish stepping up to a mile and a half for the first time.

He partnered Laurens in a workout a couple of weeks ago and said: “I’ve been half-wishing my life away ever since because she felt as good as she’s ever been. You could go through your whole career and not find a horse like her. She’s a once-in-a-lifetime filly. The exciting and scary thing is that she’s still improving, still getting stronger.

 Laurens is seeking a fourth Group One triumph
Laurens is seeking a fourth Group One triumph

“I’m itching to ride her over a mile and a half because if she improves again for stepping up in trip then she could be an absolute monster. We always thought she would have no problem staying and I have no doubts in my mind, whatsoever, after the way she won the French Oaks.”

The 36-year-old added: “Most of them [the opposition] have all run over the distance, whereas my filly is still unexposed over that trip. None of us have a crystal ball and she might not get home, but I would be shocked if that was the case. The dam’s side of her pedigree is all stamina.”

McDonald believes her narrow triumphs reflect her running style. “She only seems to do what she has to do, and at home it’s the same,” he said ahead of a race that forms another leg in the Qipco British Champions Series. “You drop her in and she goes past horses as if they are not there and then, once she’s gets passed, she’s like ‘I’m here now, I’ve done it’. It’s just her style. She loves running and wants to please you.

“If you keep squeezing, she keeps lengthening and I’ve never got to the bottom of her. The only day I was glad to see the line coming was in the Fillies’ Mile because we were very wary about stepping her up in trip as a two-year-old as she was such a big filly. We knew the last furlong was going to be tough for her because, physically, she wasn’t quite there. Mentally, she always has been.”

Tactically, the former National Hunt jockey, who guided Hot Weld to victory in the 2007 Scottish Grand National, will keep things simple. “She loves to get out on the front end and York will suit her down to the ground,” he said. “I tried to restrain her a little bit in the French Oaks and she wasn’t having any of it. She wanted me to drop my hands and let her do her thing.

“She’s got such a big stride and that’s why we let her do her thing because if you take that stride away then you are slitting her throat. That’s how she puts horses in trouble - the majority have to take two strides to her one. She doesn’t have to lead but she can cruise along at a high speed and then lengthen off it.”

Burke added: “I never get tired of talking about her. William Haggas’ (Sea Of Class) is a very good filly so I’m not surprised she’s favourite, but Laurens’ style of winning maybe leaves everyone to think that is all she is.

“We think there’s a bit more in the tank and we’ll find out here. You would tend to think if they stay a mile at two – don’t forget she’s a Fillies’ Mile winner – they should be able to stay a mile and a half at three.

Watch how Coronet chased home Enable in last year's Yorkshire Oaks

Coronet chased home her stablemate, Enable, in the Yorkshire Oaks 12 months ago and attempts to go one better. She finished third behind Poet’s Word and Crystal Ocean in the QIPCO-sponsored King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot last month.

Frankie Dettori takes the ride and told his Labrokes blog: “I love the filly and she loves York. This race was always the target. There are a couple of very good three-year-old fillies in the race such as Laurens and Sea Of Class, so it is quite tough, but Coronet won’t run a quiet race.”

Horseplay and Eziyra also had the misfortune to bump into Enable last year. The former finished fourth behind her in the Investec Oaks, while the latter was when third to her in the Irish Oaks and has since won each of her three subsequent races.

The Andrew Balding-trained Horseplay won the bet365 Group 2 Lancashire Oaks at Haydock on her latest start and Oisin Murphy, who takes the ride, is hopeful of another bold show. He said: “When I won a maiden on her at Nottingham I told Andrew that she was a Group filly and thought the world of her, so the fact she’s really come good now is brilliant.

“That was a career best last time in the Lancashire Oaks and what we’ve always hoped for. She hits the line and tries hard and, while she’s going to have to improve again, she will be suited by the flat track, nice ground and decent pace. I’m sure she has a Group 1 in her.”

Aidan O’Brien is represented by Magic Wand, the easy Ribblesdale winner at Royal Ascot, plus Bye Bye Baby and Flattering.

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