Roger Varian holds a strong hand in the bet365 Lancashire Oaks as he gets set to run both Group One-winner Eshaada and recent York scorer Believe In Love in Haydock’s feature on Saturday afternoon.
Eshaada was slightly underwhelming on her reappearance at Newbury, but has a British Champions Fillies & Mares Stakes on her record from, while Believe In Love is a triple Group Three winner and almost recorded her own Group One success when denied by the barest of margins at ParisLongchamp on Arc weekend.
The master of Carlburg Stables saddled both the second and third in the Merseyside Group Two 12 months ago, but believes he has a fine chance of going one better this time around and is expecting a bold showing from both his fillies.
“Eshaada definitely needed the run at Newbury, she was a bit rusty and that should have blown away the cobwebs,” said Varian.
“It was actually quite a nice run, she didn’t get the perfect passage and probably just needed it a little, but we were pleased on the day and she took a big step forward following that run.
“She’s training lovely at home and she will have a bit of juice in the ground on Saturday which is what she enjoys – a mile and a half on softish ground should be perfect conditions for her and we’re expecting her to run well.
“Believe In Love is in good form, she’s a nice filly in her own right and is a three-time Group Three winner. She’s Group One-placed having almost won the Prix de Royallieu at Longchamp last autumn and on her day is pretty smart. She goes to the race in good form and we hope both fillies will show up well.”
Sea La Rosa was a winner over course and distance in the Pinnacle Stakes and now makes the step up to Group Two level in search of a hat-trick for the bang-in-form William Haggas stable.
It was good ground when the daughter of Sea The Stars scored in May, but the Somerville Lodge handler is slightly worried that any rain in the area could be against the four-year-old this weekend.
“I’m a little concerned about the ground for her – I’m not sure she wants it very soft,” said Haggas.
“To counteract that she’s very genuine, so I hope she’ll run a good race.”
The reappearing Free Wind features heavily at the top of the markets and was a mightily impressive seven-length winner of the Park Hill Stakes in her final start last season, while Kawida was not disgraced in the Oaks behind Tuesday and a repeat of her best would put her firmly in the mix.
Hughie Morrison’s Stay Alert is now two from four having landed the Listed Abingdon Stakes at Newbury. Before that she chased home Nashwa at the same venue, beaten less than two lengths, in a piece of form that now stands up very well to scrutiny.
Although another to be concerned about the conditions at Haydock, her trainer is hopeful for a big performance from the daughter of Fastnet Rock as she moves up to a mile and a half and is even thinking of a tilt at a Classic later in the season.
“I’m very nervous about the ground always at Haydock – I’ve had too many nasty experiences there. If it is genuine soft ground, then that is great,” said Morrison.
“We will be pleased if it is soft. I think it is competitive enough and there is a strong group of older horses.
“The exciting thing she showed at Newbury was she had a turn of foot. She can only get better over time and she has had quite a busy year. Whatever she achieves now through the rest of the year is going to be great, but she will be serious next year.
“I just hope she turns up and the jockey gives her a good ride.
“Martyn Arbib (owner) is not getting any younger and he wants to have a go (at the St Leger). We can pretend and dream about it, can’t we?
“We don’t want to go to the well too many times with her. She is a lovely filly and we are very lucky to have her and it is great for Ben and Martyn to have something which is decent.
“Listed winners are very difficult to come by. We’ve had three of them this year and another that should have won – and they are all homebreds.”
Denis Coakley’s Nell Quickly rounds off the seven heading to post, ridden by David Probert.