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Saturday, 19 January, 2019

Flying fillies out to prove sky's the limit in Yorkshire Oaks battle

Tom Kerr sets the scene for day two of the Ebor meeting

Sea Of Class (right): lightly raced filly looked top class in the Irish Oaks
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The day in a nutshell 

There is something special about a flying filly. Around the world – from America to Australia, Zenyatta to Winx – they, far more than the colts, are the horses who have captured the public imagination in recent years.

In Britain, few fillies have come closer to superstardom than the brilliant Enable, who last year won the Yorkshire Oaks, today's highlight, en route to landing the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe across the Channel, but a setback has ruled her out for most of this season.

That has left the stage clear for a new generation of fillies to come sweeping to prominence, with two of the most exciting heading the betting for today's Yorkshire Oaks (3.35): Sea Of Class and Laurens.

A May foal, Sea Of Class made her racecourse debut only this April – her sole defeat to date – but has swiftly made a name for herself, racking up a hat-trick culminating in her Irish Oaks victory at the Curragh last month.

Trained by William Haggas, she is so lightly raced there is good reason to believe there is more to come. That, combined with the fact her neck victory at the Curragh came under a masterful James Doyle ride (he did not use his whip once), offers the tantalising prospect that we have not even come close to exploring the extent of her talent.

Watch Sea Of Class winning the Irish Oaks

Laurens, with seven races and five wins under her belt, is by comparison a seasoned veteran. She is returning to British soil for her first competitive outing since finishing second in the 1,000 Guineas, having since picked up two Group 1s in France.

Coronet, a well-beaten second to Enable in this race last year, and Magic Wand, disappointing when favourite for the Irish Oaks but a dominant winner of the Ribblesdale before that, are two who could have a say, but you sense if the winner comes from outside the front two then the sport's search for its next talismanic filly goes on.

All-star Lowther cast

The opening Sky Bet Lowther Stakes (1.55) may prove a straight shootout between Britain and Ireland's pre-eminent training operations, John Gosden and Aidan O'Brien, and the sport's highest-profile jockeys, Frankie Dettori and Ryan Moore.

Gosden saddles Angel's Hideaway, a livewire filly ridden by livewire jockey Dettori. She had a troubled passage when second behind subsequent Group 1 winner Pretty Pollyanna and followed up by cruising to victory in a Group 3 at Ascot after which her trainer opined: "That was no fluke."

Fairyland, for O'Brien and ridden by Moore, won her first two starts before finishing third in the Albany at Royal Ascot, but she won the race on her side of the track and had Angel's Hideaway one behind her on that far side.

Flawless Jewel could be one to upset the front value, although quite what value should be ascribed to her free-wheeling 16-length win in an uncompetitive race at Pontefract last month is anyone's guess.

Hannon and Haggas dominance

Richard Hannon and William Haggas have between them won the last five runnings of the Goffs UK Premier Yearling Stakes (2.25) and, with three of the first four in the market, they appear to have every chance of keeping the top prize in this exclusive club.

He'Zanarab heads the betting for Hannon – who is bidding for a hat-trick in the race – following victory over course and distance last month and is partnered for the first time by Ryan Moore, while last year's winning trainer is also represented by Masaru, a four-length winner at Windsor in June.

Richard Hannon: three runners in Italy and one in France on Sunday

Hannon also has Big Baby Bull and Magical Wish in the mix but Haggas relies on just one, Fanaar, as he seeks to add to his three wins from 2013 to 2015.

With £147,540 going to the winner, a sum which will buy plenty of bottles of York's famously reasonably priced champagne, this has been a lucrative earner for the two trainers over the past five years.

Return of one-time Oaks favourite

Ante-post Oaks favourite Lah Ti Dar, who missed Epsom because of a setback, returns in the Listed British EBF & Sir Henry Cecil Galtres Stakes (4.15).

The Dubawi filly was unbeaten in two starts, including a Listed contest at Newmarket, and looked an exciting prospect in the spring before ill fortune intervened.

Owner Lord Lloyd-Webber has enjoyed some of his finest hours – at least in racing – on the Knavesmire, where he has won the Yorkshire Oaks with Dar Re Mi (2009) and The Fugue (2013).

A Listed victory might not compare to those but getting Lah Ti Dar back on track and notching a third successive win would be something to sing about.

She's a 14-1 shot for the St Leger, a similar price for the Fillies & Mares Stakes on British Champions Day, and a 25-1 poke for the Arc, so a shot at Classic and Group 1 glory would be firmly on the cards if she could do the business.

No ordinary handicapper

Move Swiftly sent plenty of punters home happy when landing the fillies' handicap that brought down the curtain on day one of Glorious Goodwood, and there's a good chance she can do so again in a similar race today.

On what had already been a good day for market leaders, Move Swiftly justified 9-2 favouritism by weaving her way through from a hopeless-looking position for an ultimately commanding victory.

It's another tough race, featuring in form rivals such as Victory Wave and Crossing The Line and the potentially well treated 2017 winner Lincoln Rocks in a field of 15, yet despite an 8lb hike in the handicap and a furlong drop in distance Move Swiftly looks sure to go off favourite again.

There's a strong suspicion she is no ordinary handicapper, and if William Haggas has not already celebrated his 58th birthday with a winner he will not have given up hope.


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The Lowther Stakes may prove a shootout between Britain and Ireland's pre-eminent training operations John Gosden and Aidan O'Brien
E.W. Terms
Sky bet