Hot favourite Minding headlines 24 acceptors for the fillies’ Classic, the £450,000 Group One Investec Oaks (4.30pm), at Epsom Downs on the first day of the Investec Derby Festival, Investec Ladies’ Day, Friday, 3rd June.
The daughter of Galileo is the favourite with Coral, official betting partner of the Investec Derby Festival, following an easy three and a half-length victory in the QIPCO 1000 Guineas at Newmarket on 1st May. Kazzia in 2002 is the latest of 47 fillies to win both Classics.
Minding’s trainer Aidan O’Brien accounts for 10 confirmations in total, with other notables including the Group One scorer Ballydoyle, who was runner-up to her stablemate at Newmarket, and Chester scorer Somehow.
Jim Bolger is responsible for the two other Irish-trained acceptors in Turret Rocks and Siamsaiocht. Turret Rocks captured the Group Two May Hill Stakes at Doncaster in September and was not disgraced behind Minding on her reappearance at Newmarket, finishing sixth.
Four Investec Oaks contenders take each other on in the Listed Height Of Fashion Stakes at Goodwood on Thursday, 19th May. Snow Fairy captured the 10-furlong contest in 2010 before going on to win over two furlongs further at Epsom Downs.
Charlie Hills saddles the Hamdan Al Maktoum-owned filly Zaakhir. The daughter of Raven’s Pass is defending an unbeaten record, having captured a mile maiden at Kempton Park in November.
Hills said: “We were expecting a good run from Zaakhir when she won at Kempton and she has been in good form this spring.
“She will have to win on Thursday or otherwise she won’t be going for the Investec Oaks.”
The line-up also features is another unbeaten filly in Cajoled (George Scott), who captured a handicap at Nottingham last time out, The Black Princess (John Gosden) and September Stars (Ralph Beckett).
Newmarket-based George Scott revealed: “When we entered Cajoled for the Investec Oaks she was a maiden winner and since then she won nicely at Nottingham so it would have been unfair to take her out.
“She goes for the Height Of Fashion Stakes and from there a decision will be made. In my heart of hearts, I think she might be more of Sandringham Stakes (run over a mile at Royal Ascot) filly at this stage but [this race] will tell us more.
“It is an acid test and I am pretty realistic about how much she has got to improve to step into that grade, but I have been delighted with her since Nottingham. I had left plenty to work on as I wanted the race to bring her on.
“I think a mile and a quarter will suit her well. She is a High Chaparral filly out of Kingmambo mare and there is no reason why she should not get it but beyond that I would not be sure. If she can show the turn of foot she showed at Nottingham, albeit at a lesser grade, over a mile and quarter then there is every chance she will be quite effective at that level.”
Ralph Beckett, with two Investec Oaks winners already to his name, has also confirmed Diamonds Pour Moi, who was runner-up in the Listed Cheshire Oaks, and Mountain Bell, third in the Listed Lingfield Park Oaks Trial.
Other eye-catching acceptors include Group Three Musidora Stakes runner-up Fireglow (Mark Johnston), plus Beautiful Morning (Luca Cumani) and Architecture (Hugo Palmer), who were second in trials at Newbury and Lingfield Park respectively.
Six-day confirmations for the Investec Oaks take place on Saturday, 28th May, when there is also a £30,000 supplementary entry stage. The Investec Oaks is the second race in the Fillies & Mares division of the QIPCO British Champions Series.
15 go forward in Queen Elizabeth II Coronation Cup (Sponsored By Investec)
The £400,000 Group One Queen Elizabeth II Coronation Cup (Sponsored By Investec) has 15 horses going forward, headed by Postponed (Roger Varian).
Postponed is the favourite with Coral for the mile and a half contest, having won last season’s Group One King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot when trained by Luca Cumani. The five-year-old, now with Roger Varian, has been in top form this year, taking the Group One Dubai Sheema Classic at Meydan on 26th March in great style from two Japanese horses.
The strongest challenge to Postponed could come from the four-year-old fillies Found (Aidan O’Brien) and Simple Verse (Ralph Beckett).
Found, who got the better of Golden Horn in the 2015 Breeders’ Cup Turf in America, confirmed her well-being with a Group Three success at the Curragh earlier this month.
Simple Verse, winner of the final Classic, the St Leger, and QIPCO British Champions Fillies’ & Mares’ Stakes in 2015, was an encouraging second on her reappearance in the Group Two Jockey Club Stakes at Newmarket on 30th April.
In addition to Found, Ireland’s champion Flat trainer Aidan O’Brien could be represented by Highland Reel, a Group One winner in Hong Kong and the USA last season and fourth in the 2016 Dubai Sheema Classic, and recent Group Three scorer Bondi Beach, who was the head runner-up in the St Leger.
There are two French entries going forward, headed by the Aga Khan’s Vazirabad (Alain de Royer Dupre), successful on his last six starts, including the 2015 Prix Royal-Oak. The other remaining French contender is Siljan’s Saga (Jean-Pierre Gauvin), runner-up to Vazirabad in the Group One Prix Royal-Oak.
Other notable contenders still engaged include Arabian Queen (David Elsworth), shock winner of last season’s Group One Juddmonte International at York, and German Group One winner Second Step (Luca Cumani).
The Queen Elizabeth II Coronation Cup (Sponsored By Investec) takes place at 3.10pm on Saturday, 4th June, Investec Derby Day and is part of the Middle Distance division of the QIPCO British Champions Series. There is a £25,000 supplementary entry stage on Monday, 30th May, when there the five-day confirmation stage also takes place.
40 for ‘Investec Corporate Banking ‘Dash’
>A maximum field looks guaranteed for the £100,000 Investec Corporate Banking ‘Dash’, a handicap run over five furlongs at Epsom Downs on Investec Derby Day, Saturday, 4th June, with 40 horses still remaining.
Duke Of Firenze (David Griffiths) landed a competitive handicap at York’s Dante meeting and heads the market with Coral, while the contest could also see the first five horses from last year line up once again – Desert Law, Monsieur Joe (both Paul Midgely), Boom The Groom (Tony Carroll), Steps (Roger Varian) and Seeking Magic (Clive Cox).
The maximum permitted field for the Investec Corporate Banking ‘Dash’, which takes place over the fastest five furlongs in the world, is 20.