Epsom Friday: Maqsad the top selection in Oaks; Marmelo for Coronation Cup upset

Profile Picture: Kellie Reilly

May 30th, 2019

The racing world's attention focuses this weekend on Epsom Downs for both the Derby (G1) and Oaks (G1), the latter of which is the feature on Friday. Fourteen fillies will line up in the 1 1/2-mile classic that has a scheduled post time of 11:30 a.m. (EDT). FREE Brisnet Past Performances for Epsom are available here Trainer Aidan O'Brien has won the Oaks seven times, including three of the past four. However, I'm not quite understanding (yet) the love for #11 Pink Dogwood (9-5), who brings a sparkling pedigree to the table but a record which, on paper, doesn't stand out. I'll let her beat me at short odds. John Gosden, who trained the magnificent Enable to win this two years ago, has a serious-looking pair in #9 Mehdaayih (5-2) and #1 Anapurna (6-1). Both relished soft ground when dominating their respective preps -- the Cheshire Oaks and Lingfield Oaks Trial. Mehdaayih in particular looked crazy good, if a bit erratic, approaching the wire. Both are daughters of Frankel with no apparent stamina issues. #6 Lavender's Blue (15-1) has less experience than the above three, but the daughter of Sea the Stars was just pipped in her stakes debut at Newbury and looks to have a bright future. She's a must-use for me in Exactas and Trifectas. The top selection is #8 MAQSAD (7-1), who looked potentially something special when treating her Pretty Polly Stakes foes with disdain at Newmarket last time. Though beaten in both juvenile starts, she's 2-for-2 this season with seemingly better to come. Although she's already handled 1 1/4 miles quite well, the extra two furlongs might be the only concern. Her sire Siyouni has not yet produced a leading middle-distance type, though he has been represented well by Laurens, who did stretch out to win last year's French Oaks (G1) over 1 5/16 miles. However, Maqsad descends from Aquarelliste, who won the French Oaks plus the Prix Vermeille (G1) and Prix Foy (G2) over a mile and half. She also ran second in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe (G1). Here's how I'll play the Oaks. Maqsad (#8) to WIN EXACTA: 8,9 with 1,6,8,9 TRIFECTA: 8,9 with 1,6,8,9 with 1,6,8,9 *** The 1 1/2-mile Coronation Cup (G1), at 10:30 a.m. Friday, has come up with an interesting field, headed by the 2018 St Leger (G1) one-two #4 Kew Gardens (2-1) and the filly #10 Lah Ti Dar (7-2). Kew Gardens was likely in need of a race when a distant second to returning rival #6 Morando (12-1) in the Ormonde (G3) at Chester, which was contested on heavy ground. He's become a much better performer after adopting a more relaxed, off-the-pace style, so don't place too much stock in his one bad run over this course and distance in the Derby last season. Lah Ti Dar was all out to win her season debut in the Middleton (G2) at York over a distance shorter than she prefers. However, the Dubawi miss has never offered great value and probably doesn't here either. #7 Old Persian (7-2) was outstayed by the above two in the St Leger, but has fared well over 12 furlongs winning the Dubai Sheema Classic (G1), Great Voltigeur (G2), and King Edward VII (G2). The pick for an upset is #5 MARMELO (20-1). Campaigned primarily as a stayer throughout his career, he's rarely been asked to face this class of horse. However, the multiple Group 2 winner and 2018 Melbourne Cup (G1) runner-up is genuinely consistent (13 times first or second in 17 starts) and exits a nice win in the 12-furlong John Porter (G3) at Newbury. The demanding Epsom course places an emphasis on stamina, which Marmelo has in spades. The one drawback is that his connections would like softer ground, and the conditions are expected to be good-to-firm for the fixture. Marmelo is perhaps not completely hopeless on dry ground, though, and at the price I'll still take a shot. Mehdaayih and Robert Havelin win the Cheshire Oaks (c) Alan Wright - focusonracing.com