The Oaks at Epsom: Friday 1st June, 4:30pm, Epsom Downs, 1m 4f (1m 4f 6y) Investec Oaks (Group 1) (Fillies) (Class 1) (3yo)
The Oaks is the second oldest of the five Classic races having been run for the first time in 1779. The race is named after The Oaks, a country estate to the east of Epsom which was leased to the 12th Earl of Derby. The race was devised by the Earl and friends at a party in 1778 and the first winner, Bridget, was owned by the Earl.
The fastest winning time for The Oaks was recorded by Enable in 2017. Sun Princess won by 12 lenghts in 1983, which is the widest winning margin in the history of the race. Vespa in 1833, Jet Ski Lady in 1991 and Qualify in 2015 hold the record for winning at the biggest odds, with all three horses being returned at 50/1. Pretty Polly could be called a warm favourite when she won at odds of 8/100 in 1904, the shortest odds to win the race. In 1848, 26 runners competed which is the biggest field in the history of The Oaks, while the four runners who contested the 1799 and 1904 renewals ran in the smallest fields.
Many famous fillies have won the race down the years with my personal favourite being Ouija Board who was coincidentally owned by the 19th Earl of Derby. During her illustrious career she won The Oaks and the Irish Oaks in 2004 and very nearly became the first filly to win the Prix de L’arc de Triomphe in the same year, finishing second to Bago after she was boxed in and nudged by another horse when she eventually got out to make her challenge.
Look for horses who have had a prep race during the current season as all 12 of the last winners has run at least once during the current campaign. In fact all 12 had run within the last 33 days. All 12 winners had won at least once on the flat. To pare things down further, six winners has won at least twice. Twelve of the last 15 winners either won or were runner up in their previous start.
Previous course form at Epsom is not a factor in the race with many winners having their first run at the course. None of the last 12 winners had run at the course previously. However, winning form at distances approaching race distance is significant as 11 of the past 15 winners had previously won over 1 mile 2 furlongs or further before winning The Oaks.
Group form is of little consequence normally with just three of the last 12 winners having previously won a Group race. The exception being Minding who had won three Group 1’s, including the 1,000 Guineas before winning The Oaks in 2016.
The betting is not necessarily a good guide for choosing the winner with only four favourites winning any of the last 12 renewals. In fact if you fancy an outsider you could be in luck as five of the last 12 winners have won at odds of 20/1 or higher.
Aiden O’Brien saddles five of the nine runners in the field and of those my pick would be Bye Bye Baby. The Bay Filly has run eight times in her career and therefore has plenty of experience. The going at Epsom is currently Soft and there is still plenty of rain forecast which could see the ground deteriorate further.
Bye Bye Baby has won in Good to Soft, Soft and Soft to Heavy ground. Her last start saw her winning the Group 3 Blue Wind Stakes at The Curragh by 2 lengths. She was not headed in the race and stayed on well in the final furlong of the 1 mile 2 furlongs event. She has to prove that she stays over the race distance of 1 mile 4 furlongs which looks likely given her sire is Galileo and she is out of a Danehill Dancer mare. Her odds have been shortening recently from 16/1 to a best price of 6/1 on Thursday.
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