Twenty four hours before the top three-year old colts contest the 2016 Investec Derby, it is the turn of the fillies to strut their stuff across the Epsom Downs in the Investec Oaks.
Run over a distance of 1m 4f and 50yards of the unique and undulating track that is Epsom, the best young fillies from around the world will come together in a titanic tussle for the fillies’ Classic, which gets underway at 4.30pm on the Friday of the top-class fixture.
While Aidan O’Brien doesn’t quite enjoy the same level of dominance as he does in the Epsom Derby, the Ballydoyle maestro has still won the race four times since the turn of the century with Imagine, Alexandrova, Was, and most recently with shock winner Qualify twelve months ago; and he has solid claims of following up with the classy MINDING
) who could come into the race as the 1000 Guineas winner.
The Galileo filly could see her price contract much shorter than it is currently if she does win at Newmarket, but even if she were to fail in her Classic bid, the Ballydoyle runner should have faith retained in her, as she very much looks like a horse who could thrive over further.
Progressive as a juvenile, despite being beaten on her debut behind Tanaza at Leopardstown, she built markedly on that first run to reel off a good success over The Yellow Bus at Leopardstown.
Beaten by stablemate Ballydoyle at the Curragh on her first try in Pattern company, going down by two lengths in the Debutante Stakes, the Galileo filly reversed that form emphatically when beating the same rival and another stablemate in Alice Springs when cosily landing the Moyglare Stud Stake; and she followed up with an easy defeat of Nathra in the Dubai Fillies’ Mile on her final start last term.
Minding destroyed her field in the Dubai Fillies' Mile, and the top-drawer filly could land a rare Classic double is she wins the 1000 Guineas.
That was a performance out of the top-drawer, and the form has subsequently received a boost with Nathra winning the Nell Gwyn recently at Newmarket during the Craven meeting.
With two of her three wins coming on softer ground, the Galileo filly wouldn’t want the ground to become too quick at Epsom, but she has run well on quicker ground and shed her maiden tag on ground described as good-to-firm.
There may be a slight stamina doubt, with the Galileo filly being out of top sprinter Lillie Langtry. However there is hope that Aidan O’Brien’s charge will see out the longer trip of the Oaks, as there is stamina further down the line with the dam being out of Danehill Dancer, who has produced the likes of Mastercraftsman and Legatissimo.
(10/1, Sky Bet
) and Coolmore
(20/1, Paddy Power
), along with another Aidan O’Brien-trained filly in Even Song
) are next in the betting, and the first-named – the current second-favourite in the ante-post betting - may not prove the biggest threat to Minding in this race.
Although she was beaten by Minding on their last meeting, she has since beaten Turret Rocks
) in a Group One at Longchamp, when landing the Prix Marcel Boussac; but she doesn’t look an obvious Oaks type on breeding, and she may be better over shorter than the Oaks trip.
Coolmore meanwhile was readily swept aside by Nathra in the Nell Gwyn, and had previously finished almost seven lengths adrift of Minding in the Duabi Fillies’ Mile. On both of those efforts, she has a bit to find.
Aidan O'Brien could dominate the Classics this year.
Even Song though could thrive for the step up in trip, having won over one mile in a maiden at Leopardstown from Nudge, having finished third on debut at Dundalk.
The Mastercraftsman filly won comfortably when last seen, running out an easy three lengths’ winner over Dermot Weld’s charge; but it may be over further that we see the best of her.
She has plenty of stamina in her pedigree, given her dam Guantanamera is by Sadler’s Wells, and she could prove the pick of the remainder of the Aidan O’Brien challenge for this race.
) from the Ralph Beckett yard could prove to be the best of the home contingent, and the Kamsin filly was an impressive winner at Nottingham on her debut back in September, beating Norse Magic by three lengths comfortably.
She made all the running that day, and despite hitting what appeared to be a flat spot mid-race, she quickened up again to stay on strongly and gave the impression that she would be suited by further.
The German-bred filly would be representing a yard who has won this race twice in recent years with Look Here (2008) and Talent (2013), and the shrewd handler rarely overfazes his horses; an entry in this race suggests she is well regarded, and she looked potentially very smart in that Nottingham contest.
Ralph Beckett saddled Talent to win the 2013 Epsom Oaks, and the German-bred Andastra could give the trainer another big chance of Classic success.
She could be the one to give Minding most to think about, but the Aidan O’Brien-trained Galileo filly is taken to come out on top.