Aidan O’Brien in no rush to map out plans for Oaks victor Snowfall

Impressive Cazoo Oaks winner Snowfall has come out of the Classic in good order, according to trainer Aidan O’Brien.

The Deep Impact filly has improved dramatically this season following a two-year-old campaign which saw her win just one of her seven starts.

She was won each of her two outings this term though, landing the Musidora at York under a smart front-running ride from Ryan Moore, before teaming up to good effect with Frankie Dettori in the Oaks.

Snowfall won by 16 lengths at Epsom, registering the largest winning distance in the race’s long history.

“She’s been fine since the Oaks, everything seems to be good with her,” said O’Brien.

“She hasn’t obviously done much since Epsom as it wasn’t that long ago, but she seems to be in good form.

“The Irish Oaks is possible for her. We won’t decide for another bit, but it’s definitely possible for her.”

Snowfall also holds entries in the Coral-Eclipse at Sandown on July 3 and the King George VI And Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot on July 24.

Dettori full of praise for Derby hero Kirby

Frankie Dettori was delighted to receive Derby-winning jockey Adam Kirby’s thanks for his part in the unlikely sequence of events which resulted in Epsom glory on Adayar.

Kirby, who stormed to a four-and-a-half-length victory on the apparent Godolphin third-string, began Cazoo Derby week planning his challenge instead on the well-touted John Leeper.

He lost that ride to Dettori, however, after Aidan O’Brien decided to field just one of his six possible challengers for Saturday’s Classic – leaving stable jockey Ryan Moore to partner the ultimately unplaced favourite Bolshoi Ballet, and the Italian newly available.

John Leeper’s owner responded by swiftly snapping up Dettori. But Kirby was not left without a Derby mount for long as Godolphin trainer Charlie Appleby updated his bookings by switching him to Adayar, in place of dual champion jockey Oisin Murphy.

Adayar was the least-fancied of Appleby’s three contenders but proved the best of his generation at Epsom, becoming the first this century to win the great race from stall one – and ending an incredible week for Kirby on an undoubted career high with his first Classic at the age of 32.

As Dettori reflected on contrasting fortunes, having himself been beaten more than 20 lengths into ninth on John Leeper, he described the “great story” of the 2021 Derby.

Asked about the aftermath of Kirby and Adayar’s victory, on Racing TV’s Luck On Sunday, Dettori said: “He thanked me for taking him off John Leeper.

“I was partly responsible for him winning the Derby.”

Kirby spoke with an admirable combination of clarity and emotion following the race, having admitted beforehand that the disappointment of being taken off John Leeper had briefly been hard to take.

Dettori added: “Adam was shell-shocked yesterday. It was great to see his big smile, and I thought his interview was amazing…it nearly had me in tears.

“The Derby was run at a good pace, and the best won on the day.

“Adam gave him a fantastic ride – and the further they were going, the further away Adam was going.

“It’s a great story, great for Charlie, Godolphin, for everybody. I thought he was a good Derby winner.”

Dettori is confident John Leeper will have many better days ahead – but, in the immediate term at least, over a shorter trip.

“He’s quite a free-running sort, so I spent most of the race trying to get him settled,” he said.

“So I advised to bring him back to a mile and a quarter. He’s a good horse, but he wasn’t ready for this kind of test at the moment.

“It was very plain and obvious that he didn’t get home at all.”

Epsom’s two-day meeting was nonetheless another memorable success for Dettori, who broke new ground at the age of 50 by steering O’Brien’s Snowfall to Oaks victory on Friday by a record-breaking margin of 16 lengths.

Snowfall and Frankie Dettori were record-breaking winners in the Cazoo Oaks at Epsom
Snowfall and Frankie Dettori were record-breaking winners in the Cazoo Oaks at Epsom (John Walton/PA)

It was also his 21st win in a British Classic, equalling the historic achievement of Fred Archer – dating back 135 years.

“I’m very proud of it, of course – 30 years of being in the sport, and it’s a big number,” added Dettori.

“Snowfall was breathtaking. It goes without saying they went too fast the first bit.

“She travelled at ease, enjoyed the ground – and had everything beat at the three (furlong pole). It is very unusual for a Classic – they’re very hard to win, (but) I had the race won at Tattenham Corner.

“When I got on the fence she took off. I could probably have squeezed another couple of lengths out of her if I’d pushed her out. It was an amazing performance.”

Dettori envisages an ambitious plan for Snowfall to try to follow in the hoofprints of Enable, whom he famously rode to Oaks success in 2017 and then victories against colts and her elders as a three-year-old – culminating in the first of her Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe wins.

He said: “I spoke to Aidan about it and I said ‘with all the allowances she will get in the future she will be very hard to beat’.

“Enable did it for three years in a row. Snowfall is just starting – but when you have a filly of this calibre you’ve got to go for the big races.

Victory in the 2017 Oaks was just the start of the Enable-Dettori story
Victory in the 2017 Oaks was just the start of the Enable-Dettori story (Adam Davy/PA)

“I’m sure they’re going to make a huge plan, and it goes without saying that the Arc de Triomphe at the end of the season – with the fillies’ allowance – will be a prime target.”

Before then, Dettori will focus next on his “favourite week” of the year, at Royal Ascot – including a string of prospective big-race chances for John and Thady Gosden, and American trainer Wesley Ward.

“In an hour’s time, I’ going to ride (Commonwealth Cup favourite) Campanelle (work) for Wesley,” he said on Sunday morning.

“So already, we’re gearing up to Royal Ascot.

“We’ll have a pretty big team for John Gosden. The only thing left to fill in is all those handicaps – but we’ll tackle them when we get the entries.

“Royal Ascot is my favourite week. I love it – it’s why we work so hard every morning, to get horses to Ascot

“Now the Derby and Oaks are gone, it’s full steam ahead for the Royal meeting.”

Snowfall storms to Oaks glory for O’Brien and Dettori

Snowfall stormed to a breathtaking victory for Aidan O’Brien and Frankie Dettori in the Cazoo Oaks at a wet Epsom.

Last month’s Musidora Stakes winner simply blew the opposition away in the final furlong to give Dettori a sixth Oaks triumph and O’Brien his ninth.

Sent off at 11-2, Snowfall had the race won before the furlong marker and crossed the line a record 16 lengths clear of the George Boughey-trained 50-1 chance Mystery Angel in second place.

Divinely (20-1), also trained by O’Brien, was a further length and three-quarters way in third, with Save A Forest (40-1) fourth and the O’Brien-trained 5-2 favourite Santa Barbara only fifth.

Mystery Angel was well away and stayed in the front rank throughout the race. Sherbet Lemon was alongside her in the early stages with La Joconde, Willow, Dubai Fountain and Saffron Beach on their heels.

The field moved over the stands side after turning Tattenham Corner, with Dettori able to steer a clear passage for Snowfall.

Hitting the front two furlongs out, the daughter of Deep Impact continued to put daylight between herself and her rivals to become one of the easiest Oaks winners ever seen.

O’Brien said: “We really thought she was a proper Group One filly last year, and she kept disappointing. Little things happened to her in races, and stuff like that.

“But she won the Musidora very impressively. You’re never sure, but she has a lot of class – when ground turns like that, you can sometimes get extreme distances.

“But Frankie gave her a very good ride – and she looks a very special filly, doesn’t she?”

It was Snowfall first and daylight second at Epsom
It was Snowfall first and daylight second at Epsom (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

He went on: “She disappointed a few times and had a few things happen to her in races – races didn’t work out for her.

“Usually when they show that class, it will come. She had a lot of experience and did very well over the winter physically. She’s a very good moving filly and always showed a lot of class.

“She was very impressive in York – you couldn’t ask her to do any more than she did and she came out of the race very well.

“We were a little bit worried about the ground today, but Frankie was very impressed with her – he said at all stages he was cantering.

“She’s a very exciting filly.”

Many firms promoted Snowfall to favouritism for the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe – and there looks to be every chance of that being a target in the autumn, with other big races along the way.

Frankie Dettori celebrates with Snowfall
Frankie Dettori celebrates with Snowfall (John Walton/PA)

Considering future plans, O’Brien said: “I was talking to Frankie afterwards and we were thinking of the Irish Oaks, but he said ‘don’t be afraid to take on the older horses with this filly and don’t be afraid to do it early if you want’.

“There’s every chance that she could end up in the Arc and that (King George) could be a possibility.

“She has plenty of pace, but she stayed the mile and a half well – as she goes up in trip the more impressive she’s becoming.”

Of Santa Barbara, O’Brien said: “Ryan (Moore) said she cantered into the race and then in that ground, she just emptied out on him.

“She’ll probably go back to a mile and a quarter next. She has loads of class. We thought that she would handle that ground, but in that ground, staying the trip was the worry with the pace she has.

“She’s a big, powerful, strong filly.”

‘ve won many Classics, but none as easy as this one

A jubilant Dettori – who won the 1000 Guineas for O’Brien earlier in the season with Mother Earth – said: “That was unbelievable.

“Obviously she made the running in the Musidora. I wanted a better position, but they went off way too fast – everybody was fighting to get in the first three, so I let them get on with it.

“Four out I had everything beat. I looked in front and they were all gone.

“I took my goggles down and thought ‘don’t be clever’ and I just cut through the middle – it was like a hot knife through butter.

“I knew I was at least eight lengths in front. It was quite remarkable because I pulled up by the stables and everybody else pulled up by the winning post!

“I’ve won many Classics, but none as easy as this one.”

Santa Barbara leads 14 fillies chasing Oaks glory

Ante-post favourite Santa Barbara is one of 14 fillies declared for the Cazoo Oaks at Epsom on Friday.

The Camelot filly made a big impression when winning on her racecourse debut at the Curragh in September and was a major gamble for last month’s 1000 Guineas at Newmarket amid reports of scintillating workouts on the Ballydoyle gallops.

Aidan O’Brien’s charge – who is the choice of Ryan Moore – had to make do with minor honours in fourth over the Rowley Mile, but is once again strongly fancied to claim Classic glory at the second attempt.

Santa Barbara is joined by four stable companions in Snowfall (Frankie Dettori), Divinely (Seamie Heffernan), Willow (Wayne Lordan) and La Joconde (William Buick). Snowfall earned her place with victory in the Musidora Stakes at York, while Lingfield Oaks Trial fourth Divinely has been the subject of significant market support this week.

Archie Watson’s Sherbet Lemon, Roger Varian’s Save A Forest and Hugo Palmer’s Ocean Road finished first, second and third at Lingfield and are all in contention once again.

Varian has a particularly strong hand, with Musidora Stakes third Teona and Cheshire Oaks runner-up Zeyaadah also declared.

Mark Johnston saddles Cheshire Oaks winner Dubai Fountain, while Saffron Beach is stepped up in trip by Jane Chapple-Hyam after finishing second in the 1000 Guineas.

The Martyn Meade-trained Technique and the supplemented Mystery Angel, trained by George Boughey, complete the field.

Mystery Angel galloping at Epsom last week
Mystery Angel galloping at Epsom last week (Adam Davy/PA)

Members of the Nick Bradley Racing syndicate that own Mystery Angel, who finished fourth in the Musidora, stumped up £22,500 to add her to the field earlier in the week and are hoping for a bold showing following a pleasing gallop at Epsom last week.

Bradley said: “It looks a stronger race than we’d have liked, but we are where we are.

“The track will suit and she appears to be in very good form – she’s in better form at home than she was going to York.

“She looks overpriced a little bit at the moment, I think. We’re hopeful of a good run.”

Noon Star misses Oaks

Noon Star has been ruled out of the Cazoo Oaks at Epsom because of a blood disorder.

Sir Michael Stoute’s charge had been as low as 10-1 for the fillies’ Classic after winning two of her four starts and finishing second in the Musidora Stakes at York last time out.

However, a setback means the daughter of Galileo, who is out of multiple Group One winner Midday, will not line up at Epsom on Friday.

A statement issued on behalf of Stoute read: “Noon Star will not now be running in the Cazoo Oaks on Friday, due to a blood disorder.”

Royal Ascot could be the next port of call for Noon Star, however, with the Group Two Ribblesdale Stakes on June 17 a possible target.

Owner Juddmonte tweeted: “Noon Star has had a temporary setback so will not run in the Oaks on Friday. All being well, she could head to the Ribblesdale Stakes at Royal Ascot.”

Aidan O’Brien is set to launch a five-pronged assault on the Oaks, headed by ante-post favourite Santa Barbara.

The daughter of Derby hero Camelot was joint-favourite for the 1000 Guineas at Newmarket on just her second career start following reports of spectacular workouts on the Ballydoyle gallops.

Santa Barbara is favourite for the Oaks
Santa Barbara is favourite for the Oaks (PA)

Santa Barbara ultimately came up a little short over the Rowley Mile, but was only beaten a length and a quarter into fourth place and her trainer has not lost any faith in his exciting filly.

He said: “Santa Barbara is very well and this was always pencilled in to be her second run this year.

“We were delighted with her run in the Guineas and everything has gone well with her since. That was a big ask for her. She passed every test we put in front of her with flying colours and probably to ask for any other result wouldn’t have been right.

“We were always going to go into the Oaks not knowing if she stays a mile and a half – I suppose we’re going to find that out. She’s by Camelot, which is a big help, and we know she’s got a lot of class.

“She’s only had the two runs, which is not a lot going into the Oaks, but we’re excited and looking forward to seeing her run.”

Next in the betting is stablemate Snowfall – winner of the Musidora Stakes at York.

“We were delighted with her (Snowfall) in York and she’s come out of that very well. We think maybe going up in trip on better ground and maybe having a year under her belt to get stronger has all been a help to her,” O’Brien said.

“She’s always been a very good home worker and always worked like a filly that had loads of class.”

The trainer is also preparing to saddle market springer Divinely, as well as outsiders La Joconde and Willow, adding: “We always liked Divinely a lot. She’s a sister to Found who won a Group Three last year and has had the one run in Lingfield this year.

“Ryan said he was delighted with the run. He said they went very slow and that didn’t suit her, but he was really happy with her.

“Her homework has been very nice since and all her figures from her works have been coming out very high – that’s usually a very good sign.

“La Joconde is another filly we always thought more of than she showed. We think there’s plenty to come from her – she’s a very solid filly and we think that she has loads of quality.

“Willow is out of Peeping Fawn and has progressed with every run and will progress more. She’ll love the trip and if there is any ease in the ground, that won’t bother her. Physically she’s done very well as well.

“We just think and feel that they’re all bred to be Oaks fillies and it might be very wrong to stop them from taking their chance.”

Ocean Road on course for Oaks date at Epsom

Hugo Palmer’s Ocean Road is poised to take her chance in the Group One Cazoo Oaks at Epsom on Friday.

The three-year-old daughter of Australia was last seen finishing third behind Sherbet Lemon in the Listed Lingfield Oaks Trial in early May.

The Qatar Racing-owned bay was hindered by a slow start on that occasion and has subsequently undertaken some stalls practice with big-race rider Oisin Murphy.

“We’re all systems go for Epsom on Friday,” Palmer said.

“Oisin sat on her this morning and did a little bit of stalls work with her.

“She was too slowly away at Lingfield and ended up sitting last, it was all a bit of a mess on ground that was too soft for her.”

The Lingfield race was run on soft ground after a damp spring, but the Epsom turf is drying fast due to the current warm spell and Palmer is looking forward to seeing his filly run in more suitable conditions.

“We’ve always seen her as a good-moving filly that should be better on the top of the ground,” he explained.

“We just felt that on debut at Nottingham she got away with the ground, she wanted a bit quicker but she handles it, and the same also when she ran at Lingfield.

“She ended up on the worst bit of the track as well. She’s got a great turn of foot and loads of speed and we feel that the ground blunts her speed.

“We’re very hopeful that we will see her to much better effect on top of the ground.”

Ocean Road is currently a general 33-1 chance for the Classic and Palmer is mindful she will have to improve as swiftly as his high-class fillies Covert Love and Architecture did in their three-year-old seasons if she is to challenge for the prize.

“She’s going to have to show considerable improvement on what she’s done to date to win the Oaks, but I believe she has improved a huge amount at home,” he said.

“As we see year in, year out, these fillies can improve 20lb from one run to the next.

“My two best fillies that I’ve had prior to this were Covert Love and Architecture, over this trip, and they improved massively from this time of year.

“It can happen, but we’re obviously very conscious about the fact that it has to.”

Epsom begin watering for Derby Festival

Epsom clerk of the course Andrew Cooper has begun watering the track for this week’s Cazoo Derby Festival.

On Sunday the going was described as good across the course, but a warm afternoon and the decreasing likelihood of rain later in the week has caused Cooper to step in and begin irrigation.

The ground is described as good, good to firm in places for the two-day meeting which starts on Friday and hosts the Derby itself on Saturday – and only those areas which are slightly quicker will be targeted during the initial watering.

“At nine o’clock yesterday morning I’d have called the ground good,” said Cooper.

“Yesterday was a dry, sunny day here. Temperatures got up to about 20 degrees – and it was a lovely, sunny afternoon.

“We dried out a bit more – and as of nine o’clock this morning, if we were racing here today I’d call it good, good to firm in places.

“You’ve only got to look at the going reports up and down the country and see that a lot of the Flat courses are heading into that territory, so that’s not unexpected at all. It’s exactly where I’d have expected us to be, given the weather in the last week.”

Cooper’s team will apply an initial five millimetres of water to the drier parts of the track, with the forecast in the latter stages of the week the deciding factor as to whether further watering will be needed.

“We’re focusing today on those bits of the track that we would be calling good to firm, or the fast side of good, if we were racing here today,” he said.

“As far as the Derby course is concerned, it’s really only the first half a mile, from the Derby start to the mile start that walks a bit quicker than the last mile.

“We’ll be leaving the last mile, certainly for today, and we’ve decided we’ll put 5mm over that first half a mile.

“In our judgement, the time has come for us to step in and just start irrigation.

“In terms of the forecast, increasingly – this morning even – the shower risk at the end of the week is diminishing.

“There’s still a degree of uncertainty. But here and now, the risk of showers is diminishing – which is one of the considerations to us cracking on and doing some watering.”

Uncertain forecast leaves Epsom officials watching the skies

Epsom’s ground was described as good on Sunday after several drying days – but clerk of the course Andrew Cooper is wary of an uncertain forecast for possible showers closer to Cazoo Derby day.

If there were no further rain, before the start of the showpiece two-day meeting on Friday, Cooper would anticipate the need for some watering.

But updated weather forecasts from Wednesday onwards have put plans up in the air.

“We’ve been dry – the last rain we saw at Epsom was on Monday night of last week,” said Cooper.

“Temperatures have crept up a bit over that time – (but) I don’t think we’ve ever been warmer than about 22 degrees (yet).

“We’ve dried out, as anywhere would, and if we were racing today I’d call it good.

“It produced a GoingStick reading of 7.1 – which I think is bang on, historically, good ground at Epsom.”

The weather had appeared largely set fair for another week, but showers have popped up on the horizon.

“There is uncertainty as to the forecast for the week as a whole – particularly from Wednesday onwards,” added Cooper.

“It looks as if there isn’t any confidence at all, talking to meterologists. I don’t think they’re quite sure what’s going to happen, quite how widespread the showers are going to be at the end of the week, which part of the country.

“It’s unhelpful uncertainty.

Bolshoi Ballet is current market leader to give trainer Aidan O'Brien a ninth success in the Derby
Bolshoi Ballet is current market leader to give trainer Aidan O’Brien a ninth success in the Derby (Brian Lawless/PA)

“Going into this weekend, you’d have said it looked pretty settled – but that’s what happens, with the weather. We accept that, we’ve seen it before – it’s a sort of unhelpful forecast really.

“You’d far rather know you’re either going to see definite rain or none at all – in which case you’re that much more in control of things.”

Asked whether watering will be in order if the dry spell does persist, Cooper said: “The answer probably is yes – but quite when that will be, what volume etcetera it’s impossible to say at the moment.

“We certainly won’t be doing anything in the immediate future. We’ll sit tight, take stock of things early tomorrow, walk it again, look at the latest forecasts and formulate a bit of a plan going forward.

“I have a guiding principle that there’s parts of the course at Epsom you would water the day before but (other) parts that I’d like to give 48 hours to.

“One of the 48-hour parts of the course would be the downhill section – anything from the six (furlong) pole down to the road crossing into the home straight, basically experience has taught us you water that late at your peril.

“It just doesn’t quite settle as you’d like.

“So for Friday’s racing, that would take us back to Wednesday.”

Epsom will aim for a range of going no quicker than good to firm.

Cooper added: “If you’ve got a drying day, wherever you were at seven o’clock on Saturday morning, it will be something quite different at 4.30 that afternoon.

“I’ve always said our preparations are really to ensure we don’t run the Derby on ground quicker than good to firm – bearing in mind, it’s the fifth race of seven at 4.30 on the second day of a two-day meeting.

“What we’ve got to determine is what ground we should aim for on the Friday – as a starting point, you wouldn’t want to be going into racing on ground quicker than good to firm. That would just store up problems for the Saturday.

“So given the uncertainty of a showery forecast, the decision we have over the next 48 hours, is what do we need to do – if anything – to ensure Friday is run on safe, sensible, appropriate ground.

“That doesn’t mean it has to be good, doesn’t mean it has to be slow side of good – it just means that anything between good and good to firm is (fine).”

The early June weather is set to test Cooper a little this year, but it is an occupational hazard he is used to.

“This sort of forecast poses questions for us – but we’ve been there before,” he said.

Serpentine and Emmet McNamara were the big-race heroes on a
Serpentine and Emmet McNamara were the big-race heroes on a “surreal” 2020 Derby day at Epsom (Bill Selwyn/PA)

“It’s not unprecedented weather situation. Some years are very straightforward – but as with any race meeting, you have to work with the weather and you’re at the whim of it really.

“Our overriding aim will be to hope to produce the safe, consistent surfaces where horses can perform to the best of their abilities.”

Off the course, Cooper reports Epsom is all dressed up to welcome back a permitted crowd of up to 4,000 on Friday and Saturday – and he is confident the two Classics and Coronation Cup will deliver too.

He said: “Overall, things are coming together at the racecourse really well – we’re looking forward to welcoming a degree of crowd back to Derby day, after the very surreal one of last year.

“There’s a lot of activity (under way) – because a lot of the stuff on the hill comes later in the day, it almost looks like a normal Derby at the moment.

“With the hospitality marquees and other temporary structures that are in use there (already), it almost feels more normal than it is going to be.

“The crowds on the hill and the outer enclosures will always be the big thing that will be missed – but that’s just the way we have to do it at the moment.

“I think the races are coming together really well (too).

“It looks a fascinating Derby, Oaks and indeed Coronation Cup – I think they all look really good races to me at this stage.”

Santa Barbara part of strong Oaks team for O’Brien

Ante-post favourite Santa Barbara heads 15 fillies still in contention for Friday’s Cazoo Oaks at Epsom.

The Aidan O’Brien-trained runner will be on something of a retrieval mission in the 12-furlong Classic having finished only fourth as the joint-favourite in the 1000 Guineas at Newmarket earlier this month.

She could form part of a strong Ballydoyle challenge with impressive Musidora winner Snowfall also in the mix for O’Brien, along with Divinely, La Jaconde and Willow.

Snowfall (right) was impressive at York
Snowfall (right) was impressive at York (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Sir Michael Stoute’s Musidora runner-up Noon Star could renew rivalry with Snowfall, along with third-placed Teona from Roger Varian’s yard and the fourth, Mystery Angel, who has been supplemented at a cost of £22,500.

Saffron Beach finished second in the 1000 Guineas and is on course to step up in distance after pleasing Jane Chapple-Hyam in a gallop at Epsom on Monday.

Hollie Doyle is set for a first Oaks ride
Hollie Doyle is set for a first Oaks ride (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Lingfield Oaks Trial winner Sherbet Lemon, who is trained by Archie Watson, is set to be a first Oaks ride for Hollie Doyle, with Dubai Fountain and Zeyaadah, first and second in the Cheshire Oaks, also in contention for Mark Johnston and Varian respectively.

Varian has a third string in Lingfield second Save A Forest with Hugo Palmer’s third Ocean Road and the seventh, Technique from Martyn Meade’s team, completing the 15 possibles.

Sherbet Lemon out to do Apple Tree proud in Oaks

Sherbet Lemon will be Apple Tree Stud’s first Classic contender when she lines up for the Cazoo Oaks at Epsom.

A 28-1 winner of this month’s Listed Novibet Oaks Trial Fillies’ Stakes at Lingfield, Sherbet Lemon vastly outran those odds to win by three-quarters of a length under Paul Mulrennan.

That performance bolstered connections’ confidence in targeting the Oaks on June 4, a contest for which the grey is a general 33-1 chance.

Former leading National Hunt jockey Robert ‘Choc’ Thornton manages the Apple Tree racing and stud operation for owner Paul Dunkley, and reports Sherbet Lemon in fine form for her Classic tilt.

“She’s very well, and we’re really looking forward to next Friday,” he said.

“She’s done some work – she did a gallop on Friday and she’s absolutely fine.

“It’s just a case of keeping her ticking over for the big day.”

Hollie Doyle, stable jockey to trainer Archie Watson, rode Sherbet Lemon to her maiden success at Newcastle in February and is lined up to take the ride again after missing the filly’s last two runs because of commitments for her retained owner Imad Alsagar.

May has been unusually damp, but Thornton is not concerned by the prospect of testing conditions following the filly’s performances on Newcastle’s all-weather track, good ground at Wetherby and soft at Lingfield.

“She stays and she seems quite versatile,” he said.

“She won on the all-weather at Newcastle, and it was quick ground at Wetherby when she was fourth.

“She got no run at all, and I was actually very pleased with the way she ran that day – because she stayed on really well, and we know there were traffic problems.

Sherbet Lemon and Paul Mulrennan on their way to winning the Novibet Oaks Trial Fillies’ Stakes at Lingfield
Sherbet Lemon and Paul Mulrennan on their way to winning the Novibet Oaks Trial Fillies’ Stakes at Lingfield (John Walton/PA)

“Then at the Oaks trial, the Listed race at Lingfield, she was fantastic.

“She travelled on soft ground, and Lingfield is undulating and possibly as close as you can get to Epsom away from Epsom.”

Thornton’s only worry is the possibility that the Oaks may be run at an unsuitably fast pace from the off, with his filly more suited to a late burst of speed.

“We’d hope we have a good each-way chance – if she could finish fourth or fifth then she’d have run very well,” he said.

“My only slight concern is the possibility that we haven’t got the tactical speed early – in Group Ones they go a good gallop.

“We wouldn’t want her in top gear all the way, so we may have to sit and suffer at some stage early on just to find her rhythm and find her gear, and then she should be staying on at the end.”

Apple Tree is based close to Stow-on-the-Wold in Gloucestershire, and Sherbet Lemon’s Lingfield win was its first at Listed level.

Sherbet Lemon booked her Classic ticket with her Lingfield success
Sherbet Lemon booked her Classic ticket with her Lingfield success (John Walton/PA)

For that success she is rewarded with the all-important ‘black type’, a marker of class that will prove valuable when she eventually joins the stud’s band of broodmares.

“I thought to myself the other day that she’s done her job already,” said Thornton, who announced his retirement in 2015 following a highly-successful riding career.

“If they all won a maiden and then a Listed race and black type, your job’s done.

“Anything she does now is a bonus, so hopefully we can sit back and enjoy it.”

Sherbet Lemon will not be rushed to the breeding sheds, however.

Thornton said: “There are plenty of options for her to go at throughout the rest of the season – win, lose or draw.

“If she’s not up to that Group One class, there’s a good programme and there are French races as well.

“You’d have to give her a go as a four-year-old. I’m looking a long way ahead, but she’s still quite raw – and I think there’s a bit more to come.”

Pyledriver on course for Coronation Cup bid

William Muir and Chris Grassick’s Pyledriver is primed to bid for Group One glory in the Coronation Cup at Epsom next week.

The colt was seen for the first time this season when finishing second behind Sir Ron Priestley in the Group Two Jockey Club Stakes at Newmarket on May 1, a race intended to prepare him for his long-term Epsom target.

The Coronation Cup has been on Pyledriver’s agenda since his successful three-year-old campaign, during which he enjoyed two Group Two triumphs in the King Edward VII Stakes at Royal Ascot and Great Voltigeur at York.

A Group One victory is now the chief goal for Muir, who trains in partnership Grassick and reports the stable star in fine fettle.

“Everything’s gone to plan – his work’s been great,” he said.

“He’s on target to go where we’ve said – right from day one, we’ve said that was his target, so he’ll go to Epsom a week on Friday.”

Muir was pleased with Pyledriver’s Jockey Club Stakes performance.

“He’s definitely where we want him – he was a horse that we were never going to take too much out of in his first race or really get stuck into him,” added the Lambourn trainer.

“You do take more out of them than you realise. But he’s right where I want him now, and he’s in great shape.”

This month’s downpours are likely to leave Epsom softer than usual for the Derby meeting, but Muir’s colt has form in testing conditions.

“The ground’s not a problem,” he said.

“He’s versatile and he can go on any ground you want.”

Saffron Beach primed for Oaks test following Epsom gallop

Jane Chapple-Hyam believes Saffron Beach will see out the Cazoo Oaks trip after her 1000 Guineas runner-up enjoyed a spin around Epsom on Monday.

Having taken time to decide their next target, Saffron Beach’s owners have opted to step up to a mile and a half rather than go for either the Irish 1,000 Guineas or the Coronation Stakes.

Big-race pilot Adam Kirby was on board as Saffron Beach enjoyed a racecourse workout with a companion.

“She was nice and relaxed. She was on the right lead and you would have to be happy with that. Getting her relaxed was the main thing,” said Chapple-Hyam.

“She gets her neck down low and stretches out and I was pleased to see that. It was very important she was on the correct lead leg, as when they turn into the straight, there is a camber and it takes them down to the far rail and you have to be aware of that.

“She did it on soft ground in the Oh So Sharp, but I’d imagine we have got a couple of more days of bad rain, then it should start drying out.

“I think she will get the trip, as does Adam. Her exercise rider thinks she will get it and her owners think she will get it. We are all in the same boat.”

Chapple-Hyam feels connections did the right thing in biding their time before committing to a race.

She said: “I think the owners were right to look at all the trials and not rush a decision, then they made their decision on Friday, so I’m pleased that we sat and waited.

“Like anything, you sleep on it and wake up in the morning and think different. Well they had a good week’s sleep on it, and I think they have made the right decision.

“She has put on six kilograms and I’m thrilled with that as coming here today would tighten her up a little bit, so that has got to be good.

“Her character, when she gets on a racetrack, she is just bold and strong and she just runs to the line. She was well worth the wait as she wasn’t rushed as a two-year-old to run.

“She has only had four runs under her belt, so she is lightly raced coming into this. She has got a good mind and good legs.

Saffron Beach was impressive in the Oh So Sharp Stakes
Saffron Beach was impressive in the Oh So Sharp Stakes (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

“It was important to come here today to see how she took the travelling as she has only ever travelled three miles up the road for each of her races so far, which have all been at the Rowley Mile.”

Kirby said: “We went a mile and she seemed to handle the track. We went a sensible pace without doing too much. When we turned in, she got into gear and lengthened all the way to the line.

“The trip is an obvious thing in that we are stepping up half a mile, but I know for a fact she will get a mile and a quarter well, so it is fingers crossed about the last two furlongs – it is as simple as that really.”

Mystery Angel has been a star for George Boughey, winning the Pretty Polly at Newmarket before a fair fourth in the Musidora, but she would need to be supplemented on May 29 if she is to line up in the Oaks.

The daughter of Kodi Bear also gained some track experience on Monday.

Mystery Angel seemed to handle Epsom well
Mystery Angel seemed to handle Epsom well (Adam Davy/PA)

“I think the main thing we will be looking at is the opposition and see how many go there. It looks open enough at the moment,” said Boughey.

“The question mark is whether she gets the mile and a half. I think if the ground is like it is today we wouldn’t be running, but the forecast looks good and if it comes quicker – her best performance was on quick ground – in an open year, we would probably like to give it a go.

“It is certainly not decision made yet. I will speak to Nick (Bradley, syndicate manager) later and we will see how she comes out of it. We would like to give it a go if she is well and the ground comes a bit quicker.”

Hugo Palmer’s Lingfield Oaks Trial third Ocean Road was another to have a spin, under champion jockey Oisin Murphy.

Ocean Road was another to gain some experience of Epsom
Ocean Road was another to gain some experience of Epsom (Adam Davy/PA)

“She ran at Lingfield and she was balanced there. She has handled the hill well here,” said Palmer.

“She just took a little look at the road crossing and Oisin just had to give her a squeeze into Tattenham Corner, but she has run to the line and every yard she has gone, the better she has gone, which is great.

“It is very soft ground here today and I think she would be better on better ground, but she has relished that. She seems to me to be doing what three-year-old fillies can do at this time of year, which is improve very rapidly.”