Who will relish soft ground in the Oak Tree? Graeme Rodway has the answers
Wednesday: 2.25 Goodwood
Whispering Angel Oak Tree Stakes (Group 3) | 7f | 3yo+ fillies & mares | ITV/RTV
What a week of weather it has been on the South Downs. Goodwood is nestled among the hills and can sometimes have a microclimate of its own, but even by Goodwood’s standards it has been bizarre. Rain on Sunday, baking hot on Monday before an overnight deluge of 16mm turned the going to heavy, soft in places, for the start of the five-day fixture.
There is little rain forecast for Wednesday, so conditions might not be as bad as they were on the opening day, but Monday's overnight deluge wasn't forecast either. So who knows?
One thing is for sure: the ground will be on the soft side of good, so finding those who revel in such conditions could prove the key to solving this classy 15-runner Group 3 puzzle.
One measure I like to use when comparing a horse's ability to handle soft ground is to look at each individual runner and find those who have recorded a win, their highest Racing Post Rating and their highest Topspeed on soft or heavy ground.
Only three runners in this field tick all three boxes, Onassis, Last Empire and Helvezia, and Onassis looks the pick of them. She was successful over course and distance on heavy ground in October and went on to finish sixth in the Champions Sprint at Ascot a week later.
There are a few more who have ticks for two of the three categories and among them are Vadream and Bounce The Blues. Both should be well suited by these easy conditions.
Vadream achieved her highest RPR and Topspeed figures when third in the Jersey Stakes on soft ground at Royal Ascot last month but her only win came on Tapeta, while Bounce The Blues is a soft-ground winner who also recorded her highest Topspeed on the same ground.
Race analysis by Graeme Rodway
Conditions ideal for Fellowes pair
Charlie Fellowes is unable to split Vadream and Onassis in the wide-open Oak Tree Stakes, with conditions falling perfectly for the two fillies.
The trainer has not registered a Pattern-level success since last season, when Onassis snared a pair of Listed victories under her regular partner Hayley Turner.
She has run only twice so far this campaign but Fellowes believes she is now in the perfect position to return to her best after the rain hit Goodwood on Monday evening.
"I can't really split them if I'm honest," Fellowes said. "Both will like the ground conditions but Onassis will love it the most. She has a Listed course-and-distance success to her name on heavy ground last season.
"We can take positives from both her runs this year. She travelled extremely well at Ascot until just running out of petrol and improved on that at York despite dropping back to six on ground that was a little quick."
Vadream has not yet won this year but produced four promising runs, headlined by a excellent display when third in the Jersey Stakes, two lengths behind winner Creative Force.
Fellowes said: "Her best performance was certainly at Royal Ascot on soft ground over seven, which I think is her best trip. She's got almost a perfect draw in stall seven and she'd have a great chance."
On her next start, the daughter of Brazen Beau dropped back to six furlongs at York – in the same race as Onassis – and still ran with credit despite conditions being far from optimal.
Fellowes added: "She's is great form. We dropped her back to six last time and the ground was just a little livelier than we'd hoped it would be at York and she just got caught for speed."
What they say
John Quinn, trainer of Highfield Princess
She's very tough and her form is rock-solid, with the horse she beat at Royal Ascot going on to win the International Stakes. She's won on all ground so there's no fears in that regard.
Adam Ryan, assistant to Kevin Ryan, trainer of Last Empire
She's a good filly but very good when the conditions get testing. All the rain they've had recently would be ideal for her and she shapes as though seven furlongs should suit.
Clive Cox, trainer of Isabella Giles
She's got some great course form having won the Prestige on soft ground last season. From that point of view we're pleased to see the rain. She's not carrying a penalty here and we're very hopeful.
Reporting by Tom Ward
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