Haggas hoping Sea Of Class can make it a special birthday in Yorkshire Oaks
Darley Yorkshire Oaks (Group 1) | 3yo+ | 1m4f | ITV/RUK
William Haggas's birthday often falls during York week, but he has never travelled north with a more obvious chance of a birthday winner in one of the showpiece events of his favourite meeting.
Haggas has the utmost respect for Prix de Diane winner Laurens and the six others his Irish Oaks winner Sea Of Class will face in what he believes is an outstanding renewal, but his filly is clear favourite still looks unexposed. Her narrow Curragh defeat of Epsom winner Forever Together hinted there was clearly better to come.
He has no regrets having side-stepped Epsom, despite an impressive Newbury trial success that had many ante-post punters pleading for her to run, and he and owners the Tsui family are reaping the rewards.
Haggas said: "I think it's going to be a marvellous race and I'm looking forward to it. Laurens is a really, really good filly and Magic Wand was very impressive on this sort of ground in the Ribblesdale.
"Coronet is a good four-year-old too, although she might want a bit more give. There's no Forever Together, but it couldn't be much stronger and it's great to be involved."
He added: "I was in no doubt that Epsom was going to be too early for her and so I have no regrets about missing it. She's still quite immature and looked it in the paddock at the Curragh. But she's in good shape and she's a tough filly.
"What everyone wants to know is 'how much did she have left?' James [Doyle] rode her very confidently and has said since that he was always going to get there, but my God it didn't look that way to me.
"It will be very special if she can win again."
Pros Beat the Oaks winner in the Irish equivalent and could have more to offer
Cons Not been tested under serious pressure
Beware of formidable filly Laurens
There has been nothing extravagant or flamboyant about any of Laurens' wins, and the aggregate winning margin for all five of them is less than a length, but last year's Fillies' Mile winner has developed into a formidable three-year-old, as she confirmed in the Prix de Diane.
Her win there – a first Classic success for Karl Burke, PJ McDonald and owner John Dance – was typical of her, as in a blanket finish she simply refused to lie down and inched home by a neck from Musis Amica, with three others pretty much upsides.
Burke insists that she does not stop in front, but just does enough. He said: "She doesn't do a lot when she hits the front, and that's perhaps why she's not got the credit she's due, but in many respects it's an asset. I just think though that over this trip you might see a different turn of foot again."
He added: "She's got a real high cruising speed and if she gets into that rhythm over that trip there won't be many that can travel like her. If she shows the same turn of foot she's shown over shorter trips it will take a very good one to go with her.
"You can never be 100 per cent certain they will stay until they actually do it, but she stays ten and a half furlongs really well and there's a stack of stamina on the dam's side. 'PJ' is adamant that she'll stay, and I'm not far behind him. I don't think it's going to be an issue and I couldn't be happier with her."
Pros Already a triple Group 1 winner, including in the French Oaks
Cons Unproven at trip and sire Siyouni has had only three winners over 1m4f plus, compared to 107 at up to a mile
Can Coronet go one better?
Coronet was no match for her stablemate Enable when a five-length second in last year's Yorkshire Oaks, and she has been banging her head against the wall ever since when tackling Group 1 company.
She was a convincing winner from Horseplay when dropped to Group 2 company for the Betfred Middleton Stakes at York's May meeting, but has suffered Group 1 defeats in the St Leger, the British Champions Fillies & Mares, the Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud and, most recently, Ascot's King George.
She has run well every time, however, and John Gosden believes her remote Ascot third behind Poet's Word and Crystal Ocean can be marked up.
He said: "Coronet ran well to be second to Enable a year ago but this will be different ground which should not bother her.
"She won the Middleton at the track in May before being just touched off in France. She got boxed in when running third behind two exceptional colts in the King George and had an easier race than we thought because of it."
Pros Very consistent and should run her race
Cons Has been found wanting at highest level and vulnerable to two Classic winning three-year-olds
O'Brien fires three to win fifth Yorkshire Oaks
Ribblesdale Stakes winner Magic Wand will be attempting to bounce back from a disappointing effort in the Irish Oaks last month as she heads Aidan O’Brien’s bid for a fifth Darley Yorkshire Oaks success.
Magic Wand was sent off odds-on favourite for the Curragh Classic in which she could manage only fifth place behind Sea Of Class, who reopposes.
O’Brien said: "We’re happy with Magic Wand. She was a bit under the weather in the Irish Oaks and like most of ours seemed to have been affected by the bug that was around the place at that time. She seems in good form now and we’re hoping for a better run."
The stable has won the York event with Alexandrova, Peeping Fawn, Tapestry and, most recently, Seventh Heaven two years ago.
The stable is also represented by Bye Bye Baby, who finished in front of Magic Wand in both the Investec Oaks and the Darley Irish Oaks, and Group 3 winner Flattering who was well beaten in the Lancashire Oaks and the Lillie Langtry Stakes on her last two starts.
"Bye Bye Baby is a good solid filly who gets the trip well, while Flattering also stays well. Both of them seem in good form," O’ Brien said.
Stepping up in grade
A four-time winner at Group 3 level and third in last year's Irish Oaks, Eziyra will be seeking to give trainer Dermot Weld a first win in the Group 1 event.
The daughter of Teofilo won the Ballyroan Stakes over this trip at Leopardstown two weeks ago on her first start of the season and speaking yesterday Weld said of William Buick's mount: "It was always the plan to concentrate on the second half of the season with Eziyra and we were very pleased with her performance at Leopardstown.
"She's been a very consistent filly and is in good form. This will be a major challenge for her in what looks a strong renewal of the race but I expect her to run very well."
Horseplay suited by step up in trip
Horseplay is held by Coronet strictly on their Middleton Stakes form, but she has been a tough winner of the Group 2 Lancashire Oaks since then and this is an obvious next step for her.
Andrew Balding said: "It's obviously a very strong Yorkshire Oaks, but Horseplay has done nothing wrong and we thought she deserved her chance. York suits her, and so will the extra two furlongs compared to the Middleton."
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