There are Classic trials and Classic trials, but never before, I suggest, has there been a situation like that which leads into Friday’s Oaks, writes Tony Stafford.
I was about to trot out “Investec” as usual but checked and it’s now the Cazoo Oaks– yes, I wondered who they were too! There are 15 acceptors and it is possible to line up all bar one of them running in one of four races and all within a ten-day time-frame.
So there should be no excuse on whether the filly in question has trained on or indeed whether she will be fit. Only one of the 15 finished out of the first four – Martin Meade’s Technique, fancied for the Lingfield Oaks Trial but only seventh of eight behind the Archie Watson-trained 28-1 shot Sherbet Lemon.
Five of the eight that ran there, including runner-up Save A Forest, Ocean Road and Divinely reunite: the 1-2-3-4 that day are in the line-up.
There seemed only minimal evidence why the Aidan O’Brien filly Divinely should have attracted a gamble from an early last week’s 50-1 to one-fifth those odds, so a fraction of the 33-1 available about the first two home at Lingfield. But then she is a full-sister to Found, winner of a mere £5 million in prizemoney and a consistent improver throughout her three seasons’ racing.
Then again maybe a leaked whisper of a sensational Ballydoyle gallop might have had something to do with it. Anyway, the races in question in time order and in number of days before Friday start with the one-mile 1,000 Guineas (33) from which runner-up Saffron Beach and fourth home, the beaten Newmarket favourite Santa Barbara, come.
Three days later, the Cheshire Oaks at Chester, the race which first indicated Enable’s outstanding potential, revealed three more Oaks possibles and a more predictable outcome. The Mark Johnston filly Dubai Fountain, a daughter of Teofilo, beat Zeyaadah by a length with O’Brien’s La Joconde fourth in what was clearly a scouting mission for the girls back home.
Lingfield, which we dealt with above, was three days after Chester and the final link in the Classic chain came another four days on, so just over three weeks before the big race. The Musidora Stakes at York, run over slightly more than ten furlongs provided a surprise O’Brien winner in Snowfall, living up to the tradition of abrupt form progression from two to three for horses from that stable. The daughter of Deep Impact – do not worry, the dam is by Galileo – swamped the principals in that market leaving Noon Star, Teona and Mystery Angel to fill the places at a respectful distance.
The only outcast from those four tightly arranged and informative indeed series of races is Willow, the fifth and possibly on form the least feasible of the Coolmore contingent. She was third in a Naas Group 3 on Lingfield Oaks day and is, so far, winner of one race in five (a maiden), so normally just an also-ran.
But then you notice that the daughter of American Pharoah is out of Peeping Fawn who, at the time she ran in the 2007 Oaks, also just had one maiden victory from five career starts. She did not run at two but packed in five runs before the end of May, finishing a more than creditable third in the Irish 1,000 Guineas.
Despite that she was a 20-1 shot for Epsom, hardly surprising as she was stretching out from a mile to a mile and a half and only five days after her third behind the brilliant Finsceal Beo. In the event she easily outperformed the trio of other O’Brien candidates when a half-length second to Sir Henry Cecil’s Light Shift with the stable number one All My Loving four lengths back in third.
For the rest of the summer Peeping Fawn was supreme in winning four Group 1 races in succession, the Pretty Polly, readily from the previous year’s 1,000 Guineas heroine Speciosa; the Irish Oaks, emphatically turning around Epsom form with Light Shift; the Nassau at Goodwood and then the Yorkshire Oaks, wrapping up her 10-race, five-win career in 144 days.
So if Willow does turn up on Friday I wouldn’t put you off having as my friend Prince Pippy always says – and I’m sure he’s missing going racing as much as me – a chip each-way on her.
It’s a very different Oaks this year with no Gosden, Charlie Appleby or Wiliam Haggas runner, but Roger Varian is upholding the Newmarket challenge with three contenders along with Sir Michael Stoute, veteran of many Classic triumphs over the past 50 years and Hugo Palmer, a 2,000 Guineas winner with Galileo Gold (ironically not by Galileo, but with him as the broodmare sire) and now proud progenitor of two winners from his first crop including Listed winner Ebro River, hero of the National Stakes at Sandown for Palmer last week.
The Oaks would already have fallen to a Hugo Palmer filly had his Architecture not had the misfortune to be in the same age group as the amazing Minding, comfortable winner of the race five years ago. Architecture was an excellent second.
There are at least three names in addition to Martyn Meade that do not fall easily from the tongue in relation to Group 1 fillies’ races. The afore-mentioned Archie Watson’s filly Sherbet Lemon, despite her almost-unconsidered status as a 33-1 shot, did extremely well to hold off a quartet of challengers around Lingfield and that race has been a more promising indicator of events at Epsom than was the case in the early part of this Millennium. Still regarded as more of a two-year-old “get-‘em-out-and-run-‘em” trainer, there seems to be more of a measured approach these days. As Watson’s stable grows into its new coat, so Hollie Doyle keeps pace and more.
That prospect of a first Classic for her is almost too exciting to contemplate but virtually guaranteed to happen one day.
If Watson used to be that specialist trainer, George Boughey, with the help pf Amo Racing’s big-spending Kia Joorabchian, has smoothly stepped into his shoes. A former Hugo Palmer assistant, he has all the hallmarks of a future top five trainer.
The name Chapple-Hyam has been notable in Classic terms and Peter of that ilk trained two Derby winners, Dr Devious and Authorized. At the time of his training for Robert Sangster from his Manton stables, Chapple-Hyam was married to Jane, daughter of Sangster’s second wife, the former Susan Peacock.
In 1992 not only Dr Devious brought Derby success, but the outstanding miler Rodrigo De Triano won the 2,000 Guineas and Irish 2,000 Guineas.
Over the past decade while her former husband has been operating on a much smaller scale – though with little sign of diminished talent – Jane Chapple-Hyam has gradually shown her own skills as a handler. Starting in 2006 she had tremendous success with multiple stakes-winner Mull Of Killough, trained for some of the younger members of the Sangster family, headed up by Sam and his nephew Ned and now her step-brother Ben’s wife Lucy with James Wigan and Lucy’s son Olly own Saffron Beach.
Winner of her only two races at two, a maiden and then the Group 3 Oh So Sharp Stakes, both over seven furlongs at Newmarket, Jane has kept the daughter of New Bay to the same track this year.
She reappeared in the Nell Gwyn, finishing runner-up to Sacred and then comfortably left Sacred behind in sixth in the 1,000 Guineas, staying on strongly past Santa Barbara into second behind that filly’s stable-companion Mother Earth who did not let the Classic form down with her second to Coeursamba in the French 1,000.
There are plenty of potential stories, but save a Hollie win, Jane Chapple-Hyam winning a race for her step-nephew and step-sister-in-law would run it close. There are certainly worse 12-1 shots around to waste our money on.
It would be great if Love could turn out earlier in the afternoon in the Coronation Cup. We only saw her once after her two Classic wins, by almost five in the 1,000 and nine in the Oaks. That later five-length win in the Yorkshire Oaks seems so long ago. It would be nice to see her challenge the fast-improving Al Aasy for William Haggas and the French colt In Swoop who has carried on the good work this spring after that excellent second in the Arc last October.
As to the Derby, you tell me, although it is hard from here to look past the favourite Bolshoi Ballet who won the same two races that his sire Galileo did before his triumphant run in the Derby. In winning the Ballysax Stakes and then the Derrinstown Stud Stakes, Bolshoi Ballet has convinced Ryan Moore he is the most uncomplicated colt he has ever ridden. I believe him.