Trainer views plus pros and cons for the key runners in the fillies' Classic
Investec Oaks | Group 1 | 3yo fillies | 1m4f | ITV/RUK
The last time Godolphin won the Oaks was when Kazzia came up the stands’ side to grind out a win on soft ground in 2002, and the omens look good for a repeat performance which would give Charlie Appleby a landmark first Classic success.
Unlike Kazzia, who came to Epsom on the back of winning the 1,000 Guineas, Wild Illusion finished fourth on the Rowley Mile, but similarities persist in that both are out of German-bred mares, known for their preference of easy conditions.
Just like her predecessor, Wild Illusion has yet to race beyond a mile, but she has given every indication staying is her forte, both in her juvenile career and recent work at home on the Limekilns in Newmarket.
After accounting for the reopposing Give And Take on her debut at Yarmouth last August, William Buick's mount managed only third on her first Group outing at Chantilly the following month, but a switch to more positive tactics and the fitting of cheekpieces reaped bigger rewards on her return to France in the Group 1 Prix Marcel Boussac.
After accounting for the smart Polydream at Chantilly, the daughter of Dubawi spent the winter at Appleby's Dubai base at Al Marmoom Stables, returning with a solid effort in the 1,000 Guineas, when the good to firm ground was faster than ideal.
Appleby said: “I’ve always believed the Guineas is the best trial for Epsom, whether it be the Derby or Oaks, and that form is holding up well.
“I’ve always thought that stepping up in trip was going to be Wild Illusion’s forte, and while I’m not saying she’s soft-ground dependent, she’ll certainly appreciate a cut in the ground."
He added: “We were very pleased the way she ran at Newmarket and the way she came out of it. She got on the front end early in the race, and she didn’t stop. She did what we’d seen her do in the Marcel Boussac.
“She sets a good gallop and she maintains it well. It’s pleasing to see that she has progressed from two to three, and she’s bred to get the trip. A mile and a half is going to be her gig.”
Buick, who rides Wild Illusion for the first time in public, said: "Epsom will be a new experience for her but she handled Newmarket pretty well in the 1,000 Guineas and she won't mind the ground.
“She has plenty of big-race experience and she pleased me in her final workout last weekend."
Pros Ground in her favour and has plenty of experience of cambers from the Rowley Mile. Likely to be ridden positively and won't be stopping in the home straight
Cons May have to pick her way around a few O'Brien pacemakers to get a clear shot in the straight and would be a rare Classic winner sporting cheekpieces
Ballydoyle's nap hand
Magic Wand, winner of the Cheshire Oaks on her most recent start, leads Aidan O'Brien's five-strong team as he seeks a seventh win in the Oaks, which he last took with Minding two years ago.
Ryan Moore's mount went into the Chester race a maiden and ran out a three-and-a-half-length winner from stablemate Forever Together, who will be among her rivals on Friday.
O'Brien said: "Magic Wand had run only twice before she went to Chester and we were very pleased with her performance there. All has gone well with her since and we're happy with her.
"Ideally she'd prefer better ground, but she has run on testing ground. She's closely related to Chicquita, who won the Irish Oaks for us, and we've always liked her. She seems to be progressive."
Forever Together, who encountered traffic problems at Chester, goes into the race a maiden after three starts.
"She ran well at Chester, we've been happy with her since, and her pedigree suggests she should stay," O'Brien said of his son Donnacha's mount.
The Ballydoyle quintet includes two fillies who have winning form on slow ground – Bye Bye Baby, who made all to win the Group 3 Blue Wind Stakes on soft to heavy at the Curragh last month, and Lingfield Oaks Trial third Flattering, who previously won a maiden on soft to heavy at Cork.
O'Brien said: "Bye Bye Baby is tough and hardy. She goes on the ground and stays well. Flattering should get the trip and has shown she handles soft."
Wayne Lordan, who will be bidding for a second British Classic win, partners Bye Bye Baby, while last year's Derby-winning jockey Padraig Beggy rides Flattering.
It will be Beggy's first time back at Epsom since partnering Wings Of Eagles to that shock victory 12 months ago. The jockey's next three rides are due to come, remarkably, in the Oaks, Derby (on Zabriskie) and French Derby (Kenya).
Padraig Beggy in numbers since Derby victory
4 rides in Britain
0 rides at Epsom
5 rides in Group 1 races
Seamie Heffernan, who was successful on Was in 2012, teams up with I Can Fly, of whom O'Brien said: "She was a bit disappointing in the 1,000 Guineas but has been in good form since.
"She's never raced beyond a mile but she's out of a Montjeu mare and we've been very happy with her since Newmarket."
Magic Wand pros Decisive winner of Cheshire Oaks. With more improvement on the cards she can be a big player
Magic Wand cons Will she will cope with the slow ground?
Forever Together pros Appeared unlucky not to have run Magic Wand closer at Chester and must be shortlisted
Forever Together cons Goes into the race a maiden after three starts
Bye Bye Baby pros Plenty of experience and showed she handles slow ground by making all in a Group 3 at the Curragh last time. Highest rated of Ballydoyle quintet on official figures
Bye Bye Baby cons Solid performer but others might have more scope for improvement
Clarity Classic bid
Clive Cox has trained nine Group 1 winners but not a middle-distance filly as good as Perfect Clarity, who has a chance to deliver him a first victory in a Classic.
Most of Cox's best horses have been sprinters, but the trainer of Harry Angel has had only one other Oaks runner and Perfect Clarity is considered of a different calibre to Miracle Seeker, who finished 11th in the 2008 Classic.
Like Miracle Seeker, Perfect Clarity won the Lingfield Oaks Trial, but Cox's latest winner took the prize first time out on only her second start and first since August, quickening away from Cecchini to win by a length and a quarter.
Cox said: "She has plenty going for her. She was a strapping two-year-old but very immature mentally, so we ran her only once, when she won at Nottingham in August.
"She did well over the winter and I couldn't have been more pleased with the way she won at Lingfield, showing a real turn of foot. She has speed as well as stamina, which is always a quality exhibited by the better middle-distance horses, and was still a little green going to the start so there's hope she has more improvement to come.
"She handled the turns at Lingfield well enough so that's not a problem, especially as she also had a good look at Epsom when we took her to Breakfast With The Stars last week. I think she's proper each-way value."
In the 1990s Ramruma, Lady Carla and User Friendly emerged from the Lingfield trial. Look Here won the Oaks after finishing second to Miracle Seeker, while Midday and Secret Gesture underlined the value of the race with second places at Epsom.
Perfect Clarity has not been tested on soft ground and Cox said: "It's a territory we're hoping won't cause too many problems but that's theory, not fact. She did train very well in the spring on a softer surface so I'm hopeful she'll cope. She'll never have been asked to race off the bridle on it before.
"It would be very special to win a Classic. She's a nice filly and we're very pleased she's going there in great shape."
Pros Highly regarded Lingfield trial winner who is already proven at the trip
Cons Nineteen years since a Lingfield trial winner landed the Oaks
Trip uncertainty for Give And Take
Reservations about Give And Take's stamina expressed in the wake of her Musidora Stakes victory will be settled one way or another when the filly takes on a mile and a half for the first time.
At York trainer William Haggas said he was "not convinced" she would get the trip, but owner-breeder Nicholas Jones has no such doubts about a Cityscape filly whose dam is a sister to Fame And Glory, winner of the Gold Cup and Coronation Cup and who finished second in the Derby.
Never out of the first two in five starts, Give And Take had yet to race outside novice company before she lined up in York's Group 2 Oaks trial, in which she beat Dancing Brave Bear by a length, with Ejtyah third.
Haggas said: "The filly has come on from York. I'm sure she'll run a nice race. The trip is an unknown but hopefully the breeder will be right and she'll stay well. She copes with the soft. I'm not convinced she's better on it, but she copes with it."
Ejtyah finished two and a half lengths behind Give And Take at York on what was only her second start.
Trainer David Simcock said: "The mile and a half will be very much in her favour. It was a pleasing run in the Musidora, going there on her second start. She got a little bit lost but stayed on well.
"We were debating whether we should run but the openness of the race has forced our hand. We're sure she'll stay, the one thing we're not sure about is how she'll handle the soft ground. We've very little idea.
"This filly is smart in her own right and has never let us down. You'd like to think through natural progression she's going to improve. We have nothing to lose."
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