The Yorkshire Oaks (3.40pm, York, Thursday) is often contested by fillies that ran in the Epsom Oaks and this year is no different, with the runner-up in this year’s Epsom Classic, Secret Gesture, joined by last year’s third, The Fugue.
Secret Gesture (10/1) proved no match for lesser-fancied stable companion Talent at Epsom, going down by 3¾ lengths, and was beaten threequarters of a length by Penelopa, when 5/4 favourite, in the Deutsches Stuten-Derby (German Oaks) at Dusseldorf earlier this month. She is clearly smart, but the main problem with her is that she has yet to race on going faster than good, so with the going at York currently good to firm and little, if any, rain in the forecast, she’s unlikely to have underfoot conditions to suit.
Rather unhelpfully, from a form point of view, Talent ran no race at all in the Irish Oaks at the Curragh in July on her only subsequent start. She could make no impression and dropped to the rear of the field with two furlongs to run, eventually finishing last of the seven runners, beaten 12 lengths by the winner Chicquita. In so doing, she finished behind Venus De Milo (3/1), Scintillula (14/1) and Riposte (6/1), who were second, four and fifth respectively, but she ran way below the form she’d shown at Epsom, making it difficult to draw any firm conclusions.
Venus De Milo, Scintillula and Riposte were separated by just a length at the Curragh, but there appears to be no reason why Venus De Milo shouldn’t confirm the form. Indeed, the daughter of Duke Of Marmalade proved her well-being when stretching clear to win the Give Thanks Stakes at Cork by 3½ lengths, at odds of 1/4, earlier this month and must have every chance of making it four wins from five starts.
The Fugue (9/4) made a promising return to action at Royal Ascot in June, when finishing third, beaten 3½ lengths, behind Al Kazeem in the Prince Of Wales’s Stakes, over a mile and a quarter. However, she finished last of the seven runners, beaten 12½ lengths, behind the same rival in the Eclipse, also over a mile and a quarter, the following month and now has something to prove. She’s never won over a mile and a half, but only went down by a neck to Shareta in this race last year, so shouldn’t fail through lack of stamina. However, there’s enough of a question about her to suggest that she doesn’t represent any great value at her current odds.
It’s interesting that Lady Cecil’s stable jockey Tom Queally prefers the 5-year-old mare Wild Coco (11/2) to younger stable companion Riposte, especially as the daughter of Shirocco has yet to compete at Group 1 level. She won over a mile and a half as a 3-year-old, but her more recent hat-trick of Pattern victories has come over a mile and three-quarters and beyond. There must be a doubt about her dropping back in distance at this level, particularly if the ground remains on the fast side of good.
The other older horses in the race, Emirates Queen (18/1) and Moment In Time (25/1), are closely matched on their running in the Lancashire Oaks at Haydock last month, in which they finished first and second, separated by just three-quarters of a length. However, while Emirates Queen again ran well when third, beaten 1¼ lengths in the Prix de Pomone at Deauville earlier this month – and has been supplemented for this race at a cost of £32,500 – Moment In Time could finish only tenth, beaten 11 lengths, in the Nassau Stakes at Goodwood. Luca Cumani’s filly is preferred once again, but whether she has the class to win remains to be seen.
A fascinating race is in prospect and, with the only Group 1 winner in the field, The Fugue, running below par last time, VENUS DE MILO looks by far the safest option. Our betting advice is to back Aidan O’Brien’s progressive filly to win at 3/1 with Bet365.