Friday 31st May – Epsom Downs – 4:30pm – 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 lengths 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 had run at least once during the current campaign. In fact all 12 had run within the last 33 days. Eleven of the last 12 winners had won at least once on the Flat. The exception being Forever Together who won last year’s renewal on the back of two placed efforts from her three previous starts. To pare things down further, six winners had won at least twice. Thirteen 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 16 winners had previously won over 1 mile 2 furlongs or further before winning The Oaks.
Group form is of little consequence normally with just two 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 three favourites winning any of the last 12 renewals. In fact if you fancy an outsider you could be in luck as four of the last 12 winners have won at odds of 20/1 or higher.
Aiden O’Brien has won The Oaks four times in the last seven years and John Gosden has been successful twice during the same period. From a statistical perspective the best placed O’Brien runner is Pink Dogwood. John Gosden has two runners that fit well with the statistics, Mehdaayih and Anapurna.
None of the three have run in Good ground but Mehdaayih has won in Good to Firm and Good to Soft ground which indicates that she should act in the ground at Epsom. She won her trial at Chester when she won The Cheshire Oaks in easy fashion. She is the only one of my three fancied runners who has won on a tight turning track which is good experience when tackling Epsom for the first time.
The race distance at Chester was 1 mile 3½ furlongs proving that she stays the trip, an opinion strengthened by the fact that she quickened readily over the final furlong to win impressively by 4½ lengths showing a very impressive turn of foot in the process. She did not have an entry in The Oaks before her Chester win so the fact she was supplemented for the race shows that her owner and trainer think plenty about her chances in the race.
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