The 2016 Investec Oaks at Epsom Downs Racecourse has attracted an initial entry of 61, two more than last year.
For the second year running, the world’s oldest (first run 1779) and most famous fillies’ Classic has closed in mid-April, as opposed to early March.
Run over the same 12 furlongs as the Investec Derby, the Investec Oaks takes place at Epsom Downs on Friday 3rd June, Ladies’ Day and the Group One race has a total prize fund of £450,000.
Ireland’s champion Flat trainer Aidan O’Brien won the Investec Oaks for the fifth time in 2015 with Qualify and is responsible for 16 entries this year, headed by Minding, favourite with Coral, official betting partner of the Investec Derby Festival.
Stakes at the Curragh followed by Newmarket’s Dubai Fillies’ Mile.
Another eye-catching contender from O’Brien’s contingent is Ballydoyle, named after his training yard, who defeated Minding when landing the Group TwoDebutante Stakes before finishing second to the same rival at the Curragh. She ended 2015 by taking the Group One Prix Marcel Boussac at Longchamp in October.
George Scott, starting his first full season as a trainer, has entered the unbeaten Cajoled. The daughter of High Chaparral made an eye-catching debut in a mile maiden on Polytrack at Kempton Park in December, picking up nicely to win by a length and a half.
Cajoled is owned and bred by the Niarchos family whose colours were carried by 2007 Investec Oaks heroine Light Shift, trained by the late Sir Henry Cecil. Scott spent two years as assistant trainer to Lady Cecil before embarking on his own training career.
Scott, who is based in Newmarket, said: “We have been really happy with Cajoled over the winter and made the decision after she won her maiden that we would wait for the turf.
“It is a bit of a speculative entry off a mark of 73, but she is well-bred and deserves an entry at this stage.
“I was expecting her to run very well at Kempton, although I was concerned that a mile would be a bit on the sharp side for her. For her to win first time up was a really good effort and I think she will be better as she steps up in trip.
“I am going to start her in a little handicap somewhere, hopefully win that and then squeeze in a trial before Epsom if we get that far.
“We are pretty realistic about it because she has got a hell of a long way to go to be in that bracket, but when you train for owner-breeders like the Niarchos family they are in the game to produce horses like her and we would kick ourselves further down the line if she wasn’t entered.”
Another interesting contender from Newmarket is Beautiful Morning (Luca Cumani) who defeated the colts on her debut in the Convivial Maiden at York in August before going on to finish a staying-on fifth behind Minding at Newmarket.
Britain’s champion Flat trainer John Gosden landed the 2014 Investec Oaks with star filly Taghrooda and has four entries this time around, headed by So Mi Dar. By Dubawi out of the top-class Dar Re Mi, she was an eye-catching maiden winner on her only start at Windsor in October.
Ralph Beckett has a tremendous record in the Investec Oaks, having saddled Look Here (2008) and Talent (2013) to success. His quintet of entries includes Andastra and Mountain Bell, who have both scored impressively in maiden company.
There are a total of 21 entries from Ireland. In addition to the battalion from Aidan O’Brien, Jim Bolger has a trio of entries headed by Prix Marcel Boussac runner-up Turret Rocks and Glamorous Approach, winner of the Listed Zetland Stakes at Newmarket.
This year sees The Queen celebrate her 90th birthday and she has an Investec Oaks entry in the William Haggas-trained Daphne, who made one appearance at Newbury last season. Her Majesty has won the Classic twice, thanks to Carrozza (1957) and Dunfermline (1977).
There are two entries from France in the Aga Khan’s unraced Eneryda (Mikel Delzangles) and The Juliet Rose (Nicholas Clement), a maiden winner at Saint-Cloud in November.
Kenny McPeek supplies a rare US-trained entry with Dothraki Queen. The daughter of Pure Prize has twice been placed in Grade One company at Keeneland and also holds an entry in the opening Classic of the season, the QIPCO 1,000 Guineas at Newmarket.