Hanson: O'Brien can make music again in Epsom Oaks
The Epsom Oaks in recent years has become the personal fiefdom of legendary trainers Aidan O'Brien and John Gosden. In the eight runnings of the fillies' classic since 2014, O'Brien has won five and Gosden three (O'Brien also won the Oaks on four prior occasions).
It's not surprising, then, that the current top four betting favorites in Friday's renewal, which can be watched and wagered on at TwinSpires.com, with a post time of 11:30 a.m. ET, are conditioned by those two.
The market leader for weeks has been #2 Emily Upjohn, who's won both starts this term for Gosden by a combined margin of 15 lengths. That includes the Musidora (G3) at York, generally one of the key Oaks preps.
The undefeated Emily Upjohn perhaps doesn't have to be the second coming of Enable, who won the Oaks for Gosden in 2017 en route to a decorated career. But a price hovering around even-money isn't all that enticing in a race where she'll be trying 1 1/2 miles for the first time and over one of the trickiest courses on the planet.
We'll take a chance instead on the O'Brien-trained #1 Concert Hall (8-1), who looks to emulate the Oaks success of her dam, Was, who captured the classic in 2012.
Was was a 20-1 chance when she defeated the Gosden-trained favorite The Fugue, though the latter proved a generally more successful runner on the track than Was, whose only career stakes win wound up being the Epsom showcase.
Concert Hall had a typically busy (by Coolmore standards) juvenile campaign, highlighted by a one-length score in the Weld Park (G3) over seven furlongs. While she didn't exactly show herself to be up to Group 1 standard last term, she was always likely to be more formidable beyond a mile.
Concert Hall made her return to action in the April 23 Salsabil S. at Navan, a 1 1/4-mile test in which she turned back a determined rival to win by a head. Dropping back in distance for the Irish 1000 Guineas (G1) on May 22, Concert Hall again showed a mile isn't quite her forte when finishing a modest third behind the runaway winner Homeless Songs. However, she was only a half-length behind stablemate and current Oaks third choice #10 Tuesday.
Reunited on Friday with Seamie Heffernan, who was aboard for the Weld Park victory, Concert Hall might have the tools to give this female family an Oaks encore at a nice price.