The Oaks, this year run in memory of Sir Henry Cecil, may be overshadowed by the Derby but, with 17 fillies declared for the race, it promises to be a fascinating betting heat (4.00pm, Epsom, Friday).
Ballydoyle trainer Aidan O’Brien (pictured) has won the Oaks four times and holds a strong hand again this year with Marvellous, Palace and Dazzling. Marvellous (3/1) is the choice of O’Brien’s son, Joseph, and looks, by far, the pick of the trio. The daughter of Galileo was reportedly coughing after finishing only sixth of nine, beaten 4 lengths, in the Leopardstown 1,000 Guineas Trial in March, but left that form well behind when staying on well to beat Lightning Thunder by 3 lengths in the Irish 1,000 Guineas at the Curragh last month. Lightning Thunder had previously been beaten just a neck by Miss France in the 1,000 Guineas at Newmarket three weeks earlier, so the form is head and shoulders above anything else on offer.
Her nearest market rival, Taghrooda (4/1), was an impressive 6-length winner of the Pretty Polly Stakes, over 1 mile 2 furlongs, at Newmarket last month. By Sea The Stars, out of a Sadler’s Wells mare, she’s unbeaten in two starts and falls into the ‘could be anything’ category. However, the second at Newmarket, Jordan Princess, finished last of seven, beaten 17½ lengths, in the Height of Fashion Stakes at Goodwood on her next start and the third, Sound Reflection, finished 7¾ lengths behind Volume in the Swettenham Stud Fillies’ Trial at Newbury, so the form may not be as strong as it first appeared.
Outside the front pair, Tarfasha (8/1) is in the same ownership as Taghrooda and officially rated 6lb superior but, while she was a comfortable winner over 1 mile 2 furlongs on her reappearance at Naas last month, it’s debatable whether she has the class to figure at the highest level.
Of the other runners rated over 100 by the BHA, Ihtimal (9/1) is more exposed than most and appears held by Marvellous if a line through Lightning Thunder is to be believed, Marsh Daisy (14/1) and Amazing Maria (25/1) need to improve significantly on what they have achieved so far and Palace (20/1) and Dazzling (40/1) appear to be Aidan O’Brien’s second and third string respectively.
Madame Chiang (14/1) has won both starts, including the Tattersalls Musidora Stakes, over 1 mile 2½ furlongs, on her reappearance at York last month and may be open to significant improvement. However, it’s probably no coincidence that both wins have come on soft going so, with the going at Epsom currently good, she’ll need plenty of rain if she’s to have a winning chance, though more rain is forecast.
Volume (16/1) made all to win the Swettenham Stud Fillies’ Trial, over 1 mile 2 furlongs, at Newbury three weeks ago, after which Richard Hughes said that he thought her unlikely to handle the idiosyncrasies of Epsom. However, she reportedly worked well on a mock Epsom track last week so, although she has 18lb to find with Marvellous on official ratings, she could go well at generous odds.
The Oaks appears to be competitive, numerically, but MARVELLOUS appears well clear of her rivals, so our betting tips advice is to get stuck into Aidan O’Brien’s filly at the best price of 3/1 with Bet365, Betfred, Coral or Ladbrokes.