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Monday Musings: The Middle Distance Ranks Are Massing

Until Wednesday evening in Paris it was all plain sailing for Aidan O’Brien, writes Tony Stafford. He could pick his Group 1 spots for the rest of the year with his team of Classic colts and more plentiful top fillies and wait to see what presumably ineffectual opposition Europe’s other major stables would be able to throw at them.

But then along came Hurricane Lane, only third to lesser-fancied stable-companion Adayar in the Derby at Epsom but subsequently a workmanlike winner in the face of a good late challenge by English-trained Lone Eagle (Martin Meade) in the Irish Derby at The Curragh.

Neither run could have prepared us for the Frankel colt’s storming performance on Bastille Day (14 July) as he ripped away the home team’s barricades <couldn’t help myself> beating the Prix du Jockey Club also-rans with possibly more ease than St Mark’s Basilica had managed a month earlier.

Die-hard traditionalists have already been put in their place in France. In the old days the Jockey Club was 2400 metres (12 furlongs) in line with Epsom and The Curragh and was reduced to its present distance of 2100 metres in 2005.

That move coincided with the moving up to a mile and a half of the great Fête Nationale celebration race on a movable feast of an evening card at Longchamp. The Grand Prix de Paris, until the arrival of the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe in 1920, had been the most prestigious and valuable race in France and was run over 3000 metres (15 furlongs), and even 3100 metres for a shorter intervening period.

In 1987, though, it was reduced significantly in distance to 2000 metres (1m2f) and it was at that trip that Saumarez won the 1990 race prior to his victory in the Arc that October. Previously trained to place in the Dee Stakes at Chester by Henry Cecil, Saumarez made Nicolas Clement, who had recently taken over the stable when his father Miguel died, the youngest-ever trainer to win France’s greatest race.

It works for France because, as Hurricane Lane showed so eloquently, a horse could run in and even win either or both the Epsom and Irish Derby, or indeed the Jockey Club, and there would still be time to prepare him for the Grand Prix.

That is just what Charlie Appleby did with such skill and the most notable element of it was how much he had in hand of the William Haggas colt Alenquer whose form with Adayer in the Sandown Classic Trial over ten furlongs in the spring appeared to give him a collateral edge on Hurricane Lane.

Alenquer not only beat Adayer on the Esher slopes but afterwards comfortably won the King Edward VII Stakes at Royal Ascot. But he was put in his place as Hurricane Lane stormed <that verb again!> six lengths clear of Wordsworth, first home of the O’Brien trio. It looked at first appraisal a major improvement on The Curragh but closer inspection reveals that Wordsworth had been beaten slightly further in his home Classic.

So where does that leave Adayer? Well, according to a conversation Charlie Appleby had with a friend who visited his luxurious stables in Newmarket before racing on Saturday, Adayer is fancied to run a very strong race as he faces up to last year’s O’Brien Classic superstar, Love, in Saturday’s King George.

The filly has the edge in the market after her comeback win over an inadequate ten furlongs in the Prince Of Wales’s Stakes at Royal Ascot but Appleby, mindful that the weight-for-age scale favours three-year-olds, is by all accounts confident he will do so. Love concedes 8lb to the Derby hero while William Muir and Chris Grassick’s Coronation Cup hero Pyledriver gives him 11lb. Ascot is also the probable target for Lone Eagle.

Like O’Brien, Appleby is a modest man who often deflects praise to the people around him. Indeed as my friend left, Charlie said, “If you couldn’t train horses from here, where could you?”

Guesses that maybe St Mark’s Basilica might step up in distance on Saturday have been scuppered by his trainer’s single-mindedly pointing him towards the Juddmonte International. Those three days in York next month will also feature the next step towards the stars of Snowfall, following in the footprints of Love from a year ago by taking in the Yorkshire Oaks.

By the way, Jim, get my room ready! I’ll see how my first day back racing on Saturday at Ascot goes and then I might take the liberty of giving you a call. Where have I been? Too busy with all this Covid lark, mate, but I have been thinking of you!

However short a price Love was on what was to prove her last run of 2020 after the easy wins in the 1,000 Guineas and Oaks, the latter by nine lengths, 4-9 will be looking a gift if that is available about Snowfall. Could be 1-5!

Many felt the exaggerated superiority, indeed a UK Classic record-winning margin of 16 lengths, could in part be ascribed to the very testing ground at Epsom. Just as many were predicting that on faster ground in Saturday’s Irish Oaks she might go for economy.

Leading two furlongs out under Ryan Moore, delighted to be riding her for only the second time – he was on board for the shock Musidora win at York on May 12 three weeks before Epsom and that Frankie Dettori benefit – she drew away by eight-and-a-half lengths in majestic style.

As we know, the Coolmore boys like all the boxes ticked and the opportunities covered, but I can categorically tell you that they did not expect her to win at York. Even when she did, the beaten horses’ connections were dreaming up reasons why you could not trust the result.

After all she was rated only a modest 90 on the back of her juvenile exploits, the most memorable apart from winning a small maiden race was the mix up when she wore the wrong colour hat when well behind in the Fillies’ Mile at Newmarket last autumn.

After the Epsom and Curragh regal processions there is only one place you would consider for a soft-ground loving but equally comfortable on quicker turf three-year-old filly of her status - the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe. It took me a while – having discarded my European Pattern Races 2021 book with hundreds of others in advance of a hoped-for downsizing move – to work out why she had not been one of the dozen O’Brien horses entered for the Arc.

Six older male horses – Mogul, Broome, Armory, Serpentine, Japan and Inisfree (where’s he been for 20 months?) – are supplemented by Love. The five three-year-olds are the colts St Mark’s Basilica, along with domestic Classic flops Bolshoi Ballet, High Definition and hard-working Van Gogh whose dance in four Classics (the UK and Irish Guineas, when third behind Mac Swiney, and French and Irish Derby) brought that one positive result.

That left room for one filly and, considering Santa Barbara took until last week to gain Grade 1 winning honours in the New York Oaks while four of her supposedly inferior female counterparts beat her to it, the evidence is there. They did indeed think she was far and away the best.

At least that was the case until 3.15 p.m. on the afternoon of May 12. The Arc closed at France Galop’s HQ around four-and-three-quarter hours earlier.  Now they have to wait until September 27 to get her in and pay a heavy penalty to do so.

In all, 101 horses made it. I am sure that date is writ large on the Racing Office wall and, if she enjoys another exhibition round back at the Yorkshire track she first consented to tell her trainer and owners how good she is, the supplementary entry will be made. Chances to win the race do not come along very often.

For all his and his owners’ successes in big races around Europe and in the US, the Arc has proved elusive. Two victories, with four-year-olds Dylan Thomas in 2007 and the brilliant filly Found five years ago, leave him still with a blank to fill. No Ballydoyle three-year-old has won the race since the days of Vincent O’Brien, who took the first of his two Arcs with Alleged in 1977. His second win, doubling up for Lester Piggott the year after followed Ballymoss in 1958, showed once again just how tough a race it is to win.

As mentioned, two O’Brien fillies are entered, Love and Santa Barbara. The latter might continue to make up for her earlier limitations in the Nassau Stakes next week but, as we know, a trio of Classic-winning alternatives, Joan Of Arc, Mother Earth and Empress Josephine, are equally qualified to step in and possibly pick up the Goodwood fillies’ Group 1.

Meanwhile Kevin Ryan has been exploiting the early juvenile Group contests in France with Atomic Force. Beaten first time out and gelded before a win in a small race at Hamilton, Ryan took him to Longchamp last month and he won Group 3 Prix du Bois nicely.

Returning yesterday for the Group 2 Prix Robert Papin, he started 2-1 on and bolted up. He will probably return for the Prix Morny at Deauville next month. Having watched that win the Sky Sports Racing team suggested the Nunthorpe might be an option given how much weight juveniles get from their elders. This year though that could be a hot race if newcomers on the Group 1 sprinting scene like Ed Walker’s Starman and Tim Easterby’s flying filly Winter Power turn up.

- TS

Snowfall pours it on at the Curragh for Oaks double

Snowfall gave another blistering performance to became the 15th filly to complete the English/Irish Oaks double at the Curragh.

Aidan O’Brien’s filly had blitzed her rivals at Epsom to win by a record margin of 16 lengths and she produced a similar display on home soil in the Juddmonte-sponsored Irish equivalent.

Having scared off a lot of the opposition, Snowfall was the 2-7 favourite and she did not disappoint.

The early running was made by one of her three stablemates, La Joconde, in the eight-runner line-up, with Nicest and Willow close up.

Ryan Moore had Snowfall just off the pace until the field turned for home and it was not long before she made her move – and once she hit the front two furlongs out there was only going to be one outcome.

Snowfall opened up and was simply away and gone from the others, scoring by eight and a half lengths to provide O’Brien with a sixth triumph in the race.

Divinely was second to give the Ballydoyle handler a one-two. Nicest, trained by O’Brien’s son, Donnacha, was half a length away in third.

Snowfall was cut to 4-1 from 5-1 for the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe with Coral and 4-1 from 11-2 with Paddy Power.

O’Brien said: “She’s very smart and she has a lot of quality.

“We purposely let her down a little bit from Epsom because the season is going to roll on and it was soft ground at Epsom.

“The plan was to come here, go on to the Yorkshire Oaks and then she’d be ready for the autumn.

“I’m delighted with her and she’s done very well from Epsom physically, she’s got very big and strong.

“Ryan said she has a lot of speed. She goes very strong and she finishes out very well.

“We’ll go one race at a time now, the Yorkshire Oaks first.”

On her two-year-old form, O’Brien said: “She’s a filly that always had a lot of natural ability and we had to get her to relax a little bit so we didn’t worry too much about it as we were always concentrating on switching her off.

Snowfall looks a picture at the Curragh
Snowfall looks a picture at the Curragh (PA)

“Things went against her. Her first run was over five and a half furlongs in Navan and Mother Earth was second.

“Then she came back here to a maiden and Seamus (Heffernan) nearly fell off her. That’s why it took a few runs to win a maiden and it might have been a blessing in disguise as she became very mature and grown up from it mentally.

“Because she was busy early in the season it might have took its toll at the end of the season – even though she was perfect mentally, physically she had a good few runs.

“Herself and Mother Earth ran in the Fillies’ Mile and we were nearly siding with her over Mother Earth. That’s what we always thought of her.

“She’s a home-bred for the lads as well, she has some pedigree.

“We always thought fast ground was her thing and I was very worried in Epsom about her with that ground.”

Snowfall seeks Classic double in Irish Oaks

Snowfall bids for a second Classic in the Juddmonte Irish Oaks at the Curragh – with Aidan O’Brien pleased the public is seeing what he has long witnessed from her on the Ballydoyle gallops.

In seven runs as a juvenile, the daughter of Deep Impact managed just one victory – in a maiden at the Curragh – but O’Brien rated her highly enough to run her in four Group races, including two at the top level.

She finished out of the money in all of them, but it has been a completely different story this season.

On her reappearance at York in the Musidora, Snowfall made all of the running for a comfortable success – before Frankie Dettori took the ride in the Oaks, with Ryan Moore preferring Santa Barbara.

Of all Dettori’s many Group One successes, he has never ridden an easier winner than Snowfall – who came home 16 lengths clear.

“We were delighted with her at Epsom,” said O’Brien.

“She’s had a lovely run at York in the Musidora – and that set her up nicely for Epsom, obviously.

“Last year she was always showing a lot at home – that’s why she was running in all those good races – but obviously she has got stronger over the winter.

“Maybe she was a little bit weak or something last year, but we always liked what we saw at home.

“I know she’s been winning on soft ground, but we always thought that nice ground would suit her.”

Only eight go to post on Saturday – and O’Brien provides half the field, with Willow, Divinely and La Joconde completing his team.

“Willow won a nice trial last time out and she’s in good form – we’ve been happy with her since Naas,” he said.

Aidan O’Brien supplies four of the eight runners in the Juddmonte Irish Oaks - including odds-on favourite Snowfall
Aidan O’Brien supplies four of the eight runners in the Juddmonte Irish Oaks – including odds-on favourite Snowfall (Nigel French/PA)

“Divinely had a lovely run around Epsom and a nice run at Ascot, and she seems to have been in good form since.

“La Joconde won her maiden last time out, and she seems to be in good form as well.”

Donnacha O’Brien’s Nicest is bred for the job, out of an Irish Oaks winner Chicquita, while Joseph O’Brien is represented by Mariesque.

Ger Lyons runs Party House, with Fozzy Stack’s Ahandfulofsummers completing the field.

Snowfall to face seven rivals in Irish Oaks

Snowfall will face seven rivals as she bids for a Classic double in the Juddmonte Irish Oaks at the Curragh.

Aidan O’Brien’s filly ended last season with just a maiden win to her name from seven starts, but has since improved beyond all recognition.

She reappeared in the Musidora at York, making all the running and scooting clear to win by almost four lengths.

In the Oaks at Epsom she was deserted by Ryan Moore in favour of Santa Barbara – but Frankie Dettori deputised, and the result never looked in doubt.

Snowfall breezed into contention before pulling a yawning 16 lengths clear of her pursuers, and is likely to take a great deal of beating again on Saturday.

O’Brien also runs Divinely, La Joconde and Willow – and arguably his stiffest opponents also come from within his own family.

His youngest son Donnacha runs Nicest, who put up a career-best effort last time out to be third in the Ribblesdale at Royal Ascot. Her dam Chicquita won the Irish Oaks in 2013, and she is by American Pharoah.

Donnacha’s elder brother Joseph O’Brien is responsible for Mariesque, a lightly-raced daughter of Lawman.

Ger Lyons’ Party House, another filly with just three runs behind her, and Fozzy Stack’s Ahandfulofsummers complete the field.

Snowfall on target for Oaks double at the Curragh

Snowfall will face a maximum of eight rivals as she bids for a Classic double in the Juddmonte Irish Oaks at the Curragh on Saturday.

Aidan O’Brien’s filly looked very impressive when winning the Musidora at York in May, but still headed to Epsom as the apparent Ballydoyle second-string.

Ridden by Frankie Dettori in the Cazoo Oaks, the daughter of Deep Impact turned it into a procession, winning by an astonishing 16 lengths.

She is set to be a prohibitive favourite this weekend.

O’Brien has also left in High Heels, Divinely, La Jaconde and Willow, the winner of an Oaks Trial last time out – meaning he has five of the nine possibles.

His youngest son Donnacha is responsible for the ante-post second-favourite, Nicest.

She is by American Pharoah out of an Irish Oaks winner in Chicquita so is certainly bred for the job.

Last time out she finished third in the Ribblesdale at Royal Ascot.

Joseph O’Brien has left in Mariesque.

Ger Lyons won the race last year with Even So and could run the supplemented Party House, beaten in two Listed races since winning on her debut.

Fozzy Stack’s maiden Ahandfulofsummers completes the list.

Monday Musings: Of Long Days and the Classic Generation

June 21st is upon us. The longest day was to be the freest day until the timid medical advisors to the UK government put the wind up them with fears that the D variant – the virus formerly known as Indian – would cause another surge in infections, writes Tony Stafford.

Well it has, averaging around 10,000 a day for the last week or so, but they are testing many, many more nowadays. Anyone prepared to go anywhere near a racecourse will have enjoyed the experience of things up their nose or aimed at their tonsils.

Since mine were removed in 1952, the year of the Queen’s ascent to the throne – rewarded with a nice ice cream <me, not the Queen> as I recall – I would only be eligible for the nose job, but apparently it’s very much an officialdom-rich environment.

While the infections have risen, the numbers dying most emphatically have not, an average of ten a day for the last week when the “roadmap” was hastily and negatively redrawn. With massive numbers of older people fully vaccinated you wouldn’t expect many deaths, but the silly old advisors want it both ways.

As I’ve said numerous times, I won’t go until everyone is free to go everywhere. I contented myself with a Saturday night day-early Father’s Day celebration with my three 40-plus children and a selection of their issue. Lovely it was too.

So on to the summer and of course from tonight the days will shorten inexorably by three minutes for each of the next 182 and then the semi-cycle will start again the other way round. We’ve already had Royal Ascot and ten of the 12 spring/summer European Classic races – only Ireland’s Derby and Oaks remain in that part of the calendar, and then the St Legers in their various forms and degrees of credibility.

The Irish have won eight of the ten, Jim Bolger picking up the 2,000 Guineas with Poetic Flare and his domestic version with Mac Swiney. Poetic Flare’s demolition job in the St James’s Palace Stakes certainly puts him well ahead among the mile colts this year.

The two Classics decided so far and not to have been won by the Irish have been the Poule D’Essai des Pouliches (French 1,000) won by Coeursamba, trained by Jean-Claude Rouget, and  the Derby (Adayar, Charlie Appleby).

The remaining six have all been hoovered up by Aidan O’Brien and the Ballydoyle team and each of them boasts combinations of the increasingly complex Coolmore pedigrees.

Five individual horses have been involved in those all-important Classic victories, and four of them are fillies. I contend that St Mark’s Basilica, despite his workmanlike victory in the French 2,000 (Poulains) and a more comfortable Prix Du Jockey Club success, both under Ioritz Mendizabal, is vastly under-valued in official terms. He beat a big field in Chantilly and his female stable-companion Joan Of Arc (by Galileo, <really?!, Ed?>) was similarly too good for another large field of home fillies in yesterday’s French Oaks, the Prix de Diane. This time Coeursamba finished only 11th.

On Sunday Aidan relied on a single runner in a field of 17 and the 16 home defenders were no match for another Mendizabal mount who won by just over a length from the fast-finishing Fabre-trained and Godolphin-owned Philomene, a daughter of Dubawi.

That made it single-runner O’Brien challenges in three of the four French Classic races to be run so far – unplaced Van Gogh joined St Mark’s Basilica in the Jockey Club.  Therefore three wins and a close second (Mother Earth, ridden by Christophe Soumillon) in the French 1,000. That new-found minimalist approach also extended to Epsom and the Derby where Bolshoi Ballet, the favourite, was left as their only runner having been initially one of six expected to turn out.

Three of the four fillies in question improved markedly on juvenile form, the exception being 1,000 Guineas winner and then Pouliches runner-up Mother Earth, who had already earned her 111 rating for her second place in the Juvenile Fillies’ Turf race at Keeneland last November and remains on that figure despite her Classic exploits. She ran another game race in third in much the most testing ground she has faced in Friday’s Coronation Stakes at Ascot behind Andrew Balding’s Alcohol Free.

Joan Of Arc took a rating of 105 into the Irish 1,000 and was Ryan Moore’s choice for the race but Seamie Heffernan got up on the line that day aboard Empress Josephine (101) in a private duel between two Galileo fillies. She clearly improved on that yesterday while Emperor Josephine was assessed at 109 after her win.

But the biggest eye-opener was Snowfall, the 16-length Oaks winner at Epsom who went into her prep in the Musidora at York on an official mark of 90. That was upped to 108 after her Knavesmire romp but even so she was still believed by insiders to be second-best among a more normal Oaks quintet behind lightly-raced Santa Barbara, now beaten favourite in both this year’s fillies’ classics in the UK.

It seems to me a master-stroke of fudging by the BHA to restrict Snowfall’s latest mark to 120, not merely because that is 2lb lower than Enable after her Oaks defeat of Rhododendron – what that champion did after Epsom has nothing to do with the assessment - and also 1lb less than Adayar.

The give-away for me is to suggest that Mystery Angel, rated 100 after her fourth (four lengths back) in the Musidora had only equalled her York mark. That ignored she made the running at Epsom in a much bigger field and still had the resources left to stay on and retain second 16 lengths behind the Frankie Dettori-ridden winner, finishing well ahead of a trio of considerably more highly-rated fillies.

If the medical advisors who keep us wearing masks and touching fists rather than shaking hands are timid, they have nothing on the BHA men who fear giving too high a rating to a Classic winner, even one who has set a record winning distance for any UK Classic in living memory and beyond.

Snowfall has made the first big statement that she might be a challenger to Love, her predecessor as an outstanding Oaks winner and star of the stable’s slightly disappointing Royal Ascot, as the season progresses. Love, dropping back two furlongs after a ten-month absence since the 2020 Yorkshire Oaks, made all to win the Group 1 Prince Of Wales’s Stakes.

A third female deserving of mention in that elite grouping must be the David Menuisier-trained four-year-old filly, Wonderful Tonight. She got first run on Broome to win Saturday’s Hardwicke Stakes in style despite its being her first appearance of the year. Her French-born Sussex-based trainer has the Arc, where she has a good chance of getting the soft ground she favours, as her main target.

Broome may not have won but earlier that afternoon his close relative by Australia, the two-year-old Point Lonsdale, won the Chesham Stakes, a race often reserved for the best of the earlier O’Brien juveniles. Ryan had a battle keeping him straight, first going right and as they got close home, more markedly left, but they had enough in hand to beat the Queen’s promising colt Reach For The Moon – Sea The Stars/ Gosdens / Dettori – by half a length.

We had wondered why she chose Saturday to make an appearance. That highly-encouraging performance and the good run later of her King’s Lynn in the Wokingham made it a bit more like Royal Ascot, even when viewed from Hackney Wick. Hopefully, Your Majesty, you and me (and many others besides) can be there for the whole five days in 2022.

The astonishing thing about all four female Coolmore Classic winners is that at no time did anyone at Ballydoyle, and certainly not the trainer nor the owners, believe any of them was within hailing distance of Santa Barbara. My guess from Epsom was that the favourite probably did not stay the mile and a half under the conditions and in the quirky way the race was run, up the stands side with all the direction changing that inevitably happens.

I’m looking forward to seeing her, in what still will be only her fourth race and with a highly-creditable close fourth to Mother Earth at Newmarket on her record, in a suitable race over ten furlongs. The Nassau would be nice, but maybe she won’t be the only one from her stable appearing in that Goodwood Group 1.

 

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 left in awe of simply stunning Snowfall

Even Frankie Dettori was blown away after Snowfall produced a performance of rare dominance in the Cazoo Oaks at Epsom.

It is fair to say the hugely popular Italian has been there, done it and got the T-shirt many times at this stage of his career, with this his 21st British Classic success – his first coming aboard Balanchine in this race some 27 years ago.

However, the 50-year-old was left struggling to recall a victory quite so emphatic after Snowfall devoured the rain-softened ground and left her toiling rivals trailing in her wake on the famous Downs – passing the post a staggering 16 lengths clear, a race record.

Frankie celebrates
Frankie celebrates (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

“That was unbelievable,” said Dettori. “I had everything beat coming down Tattenham Corner completely. I got to the fence and she took off.

“I don’t think I’ve ridden a more impressive Classic winner. It was like an Arazi moment – it was her and the rest.

“It was a bit like playing cowboys and Indians – I was the cowboy with the gun! It was just like that.”

“I don’t remember the last time I won a race by 16 lengths.”

Snowfall had earned her shot at Oaks glory with a front-running victory in the Musidora Stakes at York just over three weeks ago, but was passed over on the big day by Ryan Moore in favour of stablemate Santa Barbara.

Just as he did when steering another Aidan O’Brien-trained supposed second-string to success in the in the 1000 Guineas at Newmarket last month in Mother Earth, Dettori proved a more than able deputy.

Ridden with the utmost confidence, the 11-2 winner moved ominously into contention before finding a gear very few possess to put the race to bed in a matter of strides.

It is a measure of just how impressed Dettori was with this display of raw power that he was moved to make comparisons with the brilliant mare Enable, whose victory in the 2017 Oaks launched one of the great careers that included 11 Group One triumphs.

He added: “The two question marks today were the ground and the distance, but she proved me wrong.

“The ground might have exaggerated the winning margin, but there was only one winner from the start.

“Enable was a superstar. She went on to win the King George and the Irish Oaks and the Arc (as a three-year-old).

“I wouldn’t put it past this filly – she’s that good.”

Flashback to 1994 and Frankie winning the Oaks with Balanchine
Flashback to 1994 and Frankie winning the Oaks with Balanchine (Sean Dempsey/PA)

Dettori’s appearances in the saddle might be relatively fleeting these days, but this victory provided yet more evidence that when it comes to the big occasion, he has no peers.

“Racing has been good to me. The Oaks was my first Classic however many years ago and I’m still talking to you, riding in the big races on the good horses, so I’ll take it – I’m very happy,” he said.

“I’ve equalled Fred Archer’s record (of Classics) with 21. I’m only nine behind Lester (Piggott) – I’m on my way!

“This season I think I’ve had seven winners including two Classics, a Chester Cup and a Group Three at Haydock.

“I ride for John (Gosden) and unfortunately we didn’t have any Classic runners this year and I was able to jump on a couple of the Coolmore team’s.

“I’m very lucky.”

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.”

All eyes on Santa Barbara as O’Brien filly goes for Oaks gold

Aidan O’Brien is confident Santa Barbara has not yet reached the ceiling of her ability ahead of her second tilt at Classic glory in the Cazoo Oaks at Epsom.

A half-sister to a pair of Breeders’ Cup winners in Iridessa and Order Of Australia, the daughter of Camelot made a big impression when winning on her racecourse debut at the Curragh in September.

Few could have envisaged at that stage she would go off joint-favourite for the 1000 Guineas at Newmarket on just her second career start, but unusually bullish reports of blistering workouts on the Ballydoyle gallops in the spring saw her price collapse.

Santa Barbara’s supporters were ultimately left counting their losses after the first fillies’ Classic of the season over the Rowley Mile, but she emerged with plenty of credit in finishing fourth and O’Brien has certainly not lost the faith.

O’Brien said: “Santa Barbara is very well. She came out of Newmarket like I hoped she would and everything has gone well since then with her.

“We trained her for Newmarket like it was her first run of the season and we had to be careful. This time we got to train her for a Classic.

“She did very well in Newmarket for a filly only having her second run. She was always very special in her work.

“She ran a big race and showed what she can do. When the ground is quick at Newmarket, it just makes it a little bit more tricky for horses with not a lot of experience. We were delighted with the way she travelled and she showed us the class that she shows us at home.

“It is a risk going into a Classic on only your second run, from a very easy run on softish ground at the Curragh to then go to Newmarket on fast ground. We were really delighted the way she came out of it.

“The Guineas is the Guineas, but you would imagine normal, natural improvement will come. She hasn’t shown us anything in her work to suggest otherwise.”

Snowfall (right) winning the Musidora Stakes at York
Snowfall (right) winning the Musidora Stakes at York (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Santa Barbara is just one of five runners for O’Brien, who has already won the Oaks on eight occasions.

Snowfall is another leading contender, having made a successful start to her campaign with a front-running victory in the Musidora Stakes at York. With Ryan Moore siding with Santa Barbara, Frankie Dettori comes in for the ride.

O’Brien added: “Snowfall is good. We always thought the world of her last year, which is why we campaigned her in such good races.

“She was probably a little bit weak, but she’s bred to be a Classic filly and is bred like a filly that could get the trip.

“She wintered very well and Ryan was delighted with her at York.”

Divinely, Willow and La Joconde complete the Ballydoyle quintet. Divinely only finished fourth in the Lingfield Oaks Trial, but has been a significant market mover this week.

“Divinely had a lovely run in Lingfield, probably a lot better than it looked. Ryan was over the moon with her. They went slow, which didn’t suit, but Ryan was delighted with her. Since then all the numbers on her work have been very good.

“All her figures from her works have been coming out very high – that’s usually a very good sign.

“Willow ran in Naas and we think she has progressed nicely. She progressed a lot from the first to Naas and we think she has progressed again.

“We always thought La Joconde was better than she has showed on the track. She hasn’t won her maiden yet, but has always worked a lot better than a maiden.

Snowfall dominates for Musidora victory

Snowfall led her rivals a merry dance to provide Aidan O’Brien with his first victory in the Tattersalls Musidora Stakes at York.

The daughter of Japanese superstar Deep Impact managed just one win in seven outings as a juvenile last season, albeit her final two outings were at Group One level in the Moyglare Stud Stakes and the Fillies’ Mile.

She was a generous-looking 14-1 shot on her reappearance, with the market dominated by the impeccably-bred pair of Noon Star – a daughter of Derby winner Galileo and top-class racemare Midday – and Sea The Stars filly Teona.

However, Ryan Moore navigated Snowfall to the lead from an early stage – and having dictated affairs for much of the extended 10-furlong Group Three contest, she passed the post with three and three-quarter lengths in hand.

Noon Star filled the runner-up spot, with Teona doing well to finish as close as she did in third after pulling fiercely for her head for much of the race.

Bookmaker response was immediate, with Snowfall’s odds slashed for the Cazoo Oaks.

O’Brien said: “We always thought the world of her last year, but things just didn’t work for her.

“On pedigree she was always going to be suited by a step up in trip, (and) Ryan gave her a lovely ride.

“It’s a beautiful pedigree, and we always thought a race like that would suit.

“I would think the Oaks will be the plan, but we’ll all have a chat.

“Things just didn’t work out for her last season – hopefully she goes on and has a good year.”

Kevin Buckley, owners Coolmore’s UK representative, said: “Aidan has always thought a lot of her, and we were fairly hopeful with the step up in trip. Her pedigree suggested that would be to her liking, and those thoughts were vindicated.

“It’s the first time we’ve won the Musidora. We’ve hit the crossbar twice, with Together Forever (2015) and Twirl (2012).

“We were definitely thinking a mile and a half would suit. She’s out of a full-sister to Found by Deep Impact, so there’s everything there to suggest the distance of the Oaks won’t be a problem.

“She showed a really good attitude.”

Teddy Grimthorpe, racing manager for Noon Star’s owners Juddmonte, said: “Obviously the lack of pace was not ideal, to say the least – she’s a filly who does stay and will stay.

“We’ll get her back, make sure she’s ok, make sure Michael (trainer Sir Michael Stoute) and the family are happy – and then we’ll take it from there.

“I don’t think there’s any need for any precipitous decisions at the moment.

“These are trials. This is what they are there for – they are sent to try us.”

Teona’s trainer Roger Varian described himself as more frustrated than disappointed.

He said: “It was a messy race. Unfortunately she reared up in the gates, missed the break – and that meant after 50 yards you sort of knew how the race would be run.

“It’s slightly unsatisfying, but I’ve lost no faith in the filly – I think she’s very nice. Everything that could go wrong today did, but on a positive note she’s had a day out and will come on for the run. She’s been fresh all day today and hopefully she’ll be more professional next time.

“She’s got loads of talent, and I haven’t lost faith because the race was run at a crawl. If we’d broken better maybe we could have done something about it.

“It’s frustrating more than disappointing – judge her more next time. I’ll speak to the owner about the Oaks, but I wouldn’t be discouraged on what happened today. We live to fight another day.”