Defections could yield mild surprise in Epsom Oaks
Unlike Saturday's Epsom Derby (G1) for the colts, there's a general suspicion that Friday's Epsom Oaks (G1) does not contain the crème de la crème of the leading middle-distance three-year-old fillies in England and Ireland.
The defections of the well-supported Lah Ti Dar, Sea of Class, and Magical over the past fortnight certainly lessens the appeal of the 1 1/2-mile classic. Nonetheless, there is still money to be made in the nine-horse field and we're hoping to make up for standing against budding super filly Enable a year ago (though we did hit with saver tickets in the Exacta and Trifecta).
The race goes through the two juggernauts in European racing, Coolmore and Godolphin. Trainer Aidan O'Brien has five of the Oaks fillies, with his best shots arguably the Cheshire Oaks one-two Magic Wand and Forever Together. The current favorite overseas is Godolphin's Wild Illusion, the only prior Group 1 winner in the field having taken the Prix Marcel Boussac (G1) at Chantilly last fall.
I respect the above mentioned Coolmore pair, less so their three yard mates. Wild Illusion, on the other hand, seems a bet-against at a short price. While sure to improve off a fourth-place effort in the 1000 Guineas (G1) contested on faster ground, the form of the race has been mixed. The winner, Billesdon Brook, was a 66-1 shock result, while third-place Happily disappointed in last weekend's Irish 1000 Guineas. Runner-up Laurens made the form look better with a score in last weekend's Prix Saint-Alary (G1).
The general consensus is that this year's edition of the Musidora Stakes at York, long a productive trial for the Oaks, was no great shakes. However, at a price hovering in the upper single digits, I'll take a chance that the race's winner, GIVE AND TAKE (#5), continues to move forward off that run, especially given all the defections of more serious contenders.
The daughter of Cityscape has done little wrong, running first or second in all five starts. Though a well-beaten second to Wild Illusion in a maiden last summer, compared to that rival she's had the benefit of a couple runs at 1 1/4 miles already this term and is generally considered likely to stay the extra quarter-mile.
Trainer William Haggas has said the the prevailing soft conditions should work in the filly's favor, and her pedigree is pretty solid. Give and Take's dam, Grace and Glory, is a full sister to Irish Derby (G1) winner and confirmed stayer Fame and Glory (second to Sea the Stars in the 2009 Derby) as well as to the dam of classic winner Legatissimo, who ran second in the Oaks herself.
I will bet Give and Take each way and over Magic Wand and the maiden Forever Together in Exactas. I will also put in saver Exactas of Magic Wand and Forever Together over Give and Take.
The Oaks will be as Race 5 on the Epsom Downs card Friday, with a post time of 11:30 a.m. (EDT). The Coronation Cup (G1), featuring the star older horse Cracksman, will be run at 10:10 a.m.
Check this space Friday for thoughts on Saturday's Epsom Derby.