Ante-Post Classic Tips – Tips for the Oaks and the Derby

Saturday tips for Longchamp on Arc Weekend. Through the card tips on day one.Saturday tips for Longchamp on Arc Weekend. Through the card tips on day one.

Jon Vine takes a look through the markets for the Epsom Oaks and the Epsom Darby and provides readers with his ante-post Classic tips.

The coronavirus pandemic has brought the world to a standstill. In Britain, no horse racing will take place until May at the earlier. Over in Ireland, it’s a slightly different picture, with racing taking place behind closed doors, for the time being.

This global catastrophe almost certainly means the first British Classic, the 1000 and 2000 Guineas will not take place in 2020. Trainers of the brightest flat prospects across the country will then have to turn their attentions to Epsom, and it’s possible that this year’s Derby and Oaks contenders will have to take part in these prestigious races without and sort of prep-run.

I’ll now take an optimistic look ahead to both the Oaks and the Derby to provide readers with my ante-post Classic tips. Let’s just keep our fingers crossed that racing is back up and running by June. Make sure you keep an eye on our news feed for any developments as they break.

Ante-Post Classic Tips – Oaks Tips

Whereas Pinatubo dominated the colt’s class of 2019, there wasn’t really a stand-out two-year-old filly in 2019. One of the best Classic Trials of last year saw Quadrilateral edge out Powerful Breeze and Love in the Fillies’ Mile at Newmarket. All three are clearly very talented. Of the three, I fancied Powerful Breeze most for the 1000 Guineas, but I don’t think either she, or Quadrilateral, are likely to shine over trips further than a mile.

Love, on the other hand, is a full sister to Flattering and Peach Tree, who ran in the ’18 and ’19 Oaks respectively. Both were well-beaten, but neither boasted the sort of two-year-old form their sister, Love brings to the table and she could be the leading Epsom Oaks tip from Aidan O’Brien’s stable.

Fancy Blue was a contender who drew my eye at the end of last season, but the fact Aidan has moved her onto son, Donnacha O’Brien’s yard makes me think she doesn’t have the star potential of some of her former stablemates. The more senior or Aidan’s sons, Joseph O’Brien will have high-hopes for New York Girl too, who kept on nicely to win a Grade Three last term and looks a strong stayer in the making.

Jessica Harrington enjoyed her most productive season with two-year-olds last term, with Cayenne Pepper, Alpine Star and Millisle handing Harrington prestigious prizes. Another of Harrington’s fillies who delivered on the big stage was ALBIGNA, and she makes it onto my list of ante-post Classic tips.

Having made it two-from-two in Group Two company during the summer, I was disappointed with the way Albigna faded out of contention when passed by Love in the Moyglare Stud Stakes. A change of tactic then followed at the Arc Festival, and Albigna seemed to relish being held-up in the Prix Marcel Boussac, powering through the line to secure her first Group One triumph.

Harrington then decided to take her chance in the Juvenile Fillies’ Turf at the Breeders’ Cup, where Shane Foley’s mount stayed on to finish fourth. We all know how hard it is for hold-up horses to make an impact in American turf races, so I think Albigna did really well to finish as close as she did to Sharing and Daahyeh.

Despite getting five runs under her belt, Albigna still ran keen at Longchamp and Santa Anita. Stepping up beyond a mile could really help this talented young filly settle, and there are clues in her breeding to suggest she could be a big player at Epsom. She’s a solid Epsom Oaks tip sitting on 25/1.

William Haggas trains two of the top three British contenders in the current Oaks betting. Domino Darling, a Golden Horn-filly who runs in the same colours as last year’s Epsom Queen Annapurna, came in for Classic support after winning on debut at Doncaster. I, however, was much more impressed with her stablemate, BORN WITH PRIDE.

William Haggas pitched his filly in at the deep-end on debut, running her in the Listed Montrose Fillies Stakes. Aidan O’Brien’s Peaceful topped the betting that day, having bolted up by seven lengths on her most recent start. Yet, despite the odds being against her, Born With Pride rose to the challenge magnificently, responding to pressure on bottomless ground to hold off the favourite from the front.

By Born To Sea – who sired Haggas’ former flag-bearer and Classic winner, Sea Of Grace – and out of the mare who produced Raheen House,  there’s no doubting Born With Pride is bred to reach a very high level as a middle-distance horse. She’ll be the second of my ante-post Classic tips in the Epsom Oaks.

2020 Epsom Oaks Tips

Mogul Leopardstown Stakes

Mogul bolts up to win the Future Champions Stakes at Leopardstown.

Ante-Post Classic Tips – Derby Tips

Pinatubo heads the Derby betting across the boards, despite the fact he doesn’t even hold an entry for this Classic. The cancellation of the 2000 Guineas could see Charlie Appleby aim his star colt at the Derby and Godolphin would have no problem stumping up the supplementary fee. Yet, nothing Pinatubo did during his spectacular 2019 campaign suggested he would be suited by trips further than a mile. He’s certainly one to leave well alone.

Kameko got the better of three Aidan O’Brien colts to win the Vertem Futurity Trophy last year, which was switched from Doncaster to the all-weather at Newcastle. Oisin Murphy gave Kameko an excellent ride that day to beat Innisfree and Year Of The Tiger, but the one I’m keen to take out of the race is MOGUL.

Aidan O’Brien immediately started this son of Galileo out over a mile when he made his debut, losing out to Jim Bolger’s Geometrical. A routine maiden triumph followed, before Mogul lived up to an extremely short price with a bloodless triumph in the Grade Two  Future Champions Juvenile Stakes at Leopardstown.

Donnacha O’Brien then tried to track Kameko’s move at Newcastle, but didn’t have the pace to reel in the leader. I have no doubt this powerful young horse will improve as he’s stepped up in trip, just like his full-brother, Japan did in 2019. The only thing that worries me slightly is that Japan needed a couple of runs to hit his stride last season. If O’Brien can get a run into Mogul before he turns up at Epsom, he could be the one to beat in the Epsom Derby.

Such is Aidan O’Brien’s record in the Derby, you simply have to back at least one of his runners. The other trainer to have experienced plenty of recent success in this most fabled of Classics is John Gosden, and his leading light in 2020 looks to be Waldkonig, who bolted up on his only start at Wolverhampton. I, however, preferred the look of ENEMY, and he’ll be the second of my Epsom Derby tips.

Oisin Murphy’s mount tackled an odds-on favourite on his first start at Ascot. Enemy jinked violently to his right upon leaving the stalls, handing his market rival a three-length head-start. Once he settled down, though, Enemy travelled kindly throughout the race, eventually getting the better of Law Of Peace by a neck.

The winner has hardly advertised the form of that run in two starts since, but Enemy was only just starting to get rolling in the final furlong of that race and Oisin Murphy was always confident he had his rival covered. Although he’s by former top sprinter Muhaarar, Enemy’s dam Prudenzia has produced many top middle-distance horses, including Irish Oaks winner Chicquita. I’d be disappointed if Enemy didn’t shape up into a Derby contender whenever the flat season commences in 2020.

2020 Epsom Derby Tips